New York, NY —
Earth Day celebrations will not be taking place at the New York State Capitol. Events originally slated for Wednesday were canceled by Gov. David Paterson. Paterson told environmental groups that he’s sorry he’s had to close parks, and make other unpopular budget decisions, but he says the state is out of money.
Paterson has authorized only bare-bones spending since lawmakers missed the April 1 budget deadline. He’s held back a planned pay raise for state workers, delayed construction projects, and curtailed the state’s Earth Day events. They were to have included programs on bicycle commuting, recycling, and tree planting.
In a speech to environmental groups to commemorate Earth Day, Paterson apologized for the cancellations. He also said it pained him to raid the state’s environmental protection fund, put off key land preservation purchases, and close down 55 parks and historic sites. But he told the groups he has no choice.
“I recognize the frustration and the outrage you feel at some of the decisions that I’ve had to make,” said Paterson. “They were made to save our state from going into bankruptcy.”
Advocacy groups say the governor is taking the wrong tack, and that the environment needs to be protected in both good and bad economic times.
“The governor needs to recognize that the constituents of the state really want to see progress made on issues like climate change. They do not want to see the state parks shuttered, and they insist that our drinking water supplies be protected and monitored by state agencies,” said Rob Moore, with Environmental Advocates.
Moore says the governor has been starving those agencies, and that staffing is at a 25-year low.
The Paterson administration did go ahead with one Earth Day activity as planned. The Department of Environmental Conservation collected unused pharmaceuticals, saying that throwing away or flushing the pills could harm drinking water, and that they would dispose of them properly.