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My View: Providing the public with the full story

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    Sean E. Sawyer
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    Jeff Anzevino
  • Frederic Edwin Church, Our Banner in the Sky, 1861, OL.1976.29, Collection Olana State Historic Site.

August 13, 2018 01:36 pm Updated: August 13, 2018 03:07 pm

 

We are writing to provide the public with the full story about the telecommunications tower proposed by Eger Communications on Blue Hill in the Town of Livingston. If constructed, the 190-foot tower would dominate views from Olana State Historic Site integral to the visitor experience and the enjoyment of area residents and schoolchildren who also come to this National Historic Landmark.

For nearly a decade, Scenic Hudson and The Olana Partnership have sought to meet amicably with Eger to perform a Section 106 Historic Review, as defined by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The National Park Service and New York State Historic Preservation Office have also requested this review, whose purpose is not to dismiss a project out-of-hand but to work cooperatively in an open, public process to assess cultural and historic impacts.

In 2013 and again in 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that such a review is required in this case. Eger Communications has refused to participate. This is especially troubling, given that outside telecommunications consultants have assessed the proposed tower and determined that other designs could meet functional needs while greatly reducing the impact on Olana. Minimizing visual impact is essential to Olana as a major economic engine for our region. The Olana Partnership’s 2018 economic impact study found that Olana’s 170,000 annual visitors support 210 jobs and contribute $9.3 million to the local economy. In other words, safeguarding Olana directly benefits our local communities.

Recently, Eger Communications has appealed directly to the White House, members of Congress and other elected officials to push the FCC to quickly approve the project. In their letter, they cite the necessity of upgrading emergency response infrastructure as a critical reason for fast-tracking the project—even going so far as to label the FCC as obstructionist and its policy as part of the “red tape in the cesspool of Washington bureaucrats not doing their jobs.”

We disagree strongly with this position. The FCC has done their job by faithfully upholding the law as defined in the National Historic Preservation Act, which is designed to ensure that a fair, public process is in place to protect America’s irreplaceable historic resources. Upgrading our emergency response infrastructure is, of course, a high priority—one that could have been expedited a decade ago had Eger Communications simply agreed to this legally required historic review process.

Scenic Hudson and The Olana Partnership stand ready to meet with the appropriate government agencies and Eger Communications to expeditiously perform this necessary review in a constructive manner. We believe that this approach will meet our public safety needs while minimizing the impact on Olana. We also believe that this is the neighborly and patriotic approach to ensuring that all voices within our community are heard.

Jeffrey Anzevino, AICP, is director of Land Use Advocacy for the environmental organization Scenic Hudson. Based in Poughkeepsie, Scenic Hudson helps citizens and communities preserve land and farms and create parks where people experience the outdoors and enjoy the Hudson River. Its focus is on strengthening and maximizing benefits all can enjoy from the region’s great assets—beautiful open spaces, working farms, and vibrant cities and town centers. The group has conserved about 2,000 acres of land that contribute to vistas from Olana.

Sean Sawyer is the Washburn and Susan Oberwager President for The Olana Partnership. A private not-for-profit education corporation, The Olana Partnership works cooperatively with New York State to support the restoration, development and interpretation of Olana, the most important artist’s home, studio and designed landscape in the United States. Olana’s 250-acre artist-designed landscape with a Persian-inspired house at its summit embraces unrivaled panoramic views of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains that were fundamental to Church’s art and that of his fellow Hudson River School artists.