New York landowners are under siege by moneyed special interests who would just as soon see them disappear. The choices facing them are stark indeed.
Several years have now passed since New York State put a moratorium on natural gas development and harvesting. It’s a seizing of the property rights of its taxpaying citizens – New York landowners. We are left with the burden of being taxed at the same rate, but our property has been devaluing by more than half with no refund or mitigation in sight. It’s as if we didn’t exist as far as the state government is concerned.
The Governor’s inability to break free of special interest forces that pull at all sides leads him to push critical decision making down to a lower level. New York is the sad story of a state isolating itself from the rest of a nation and a governor who acts like a third world dictator pacifying its back slapping aristocrats. The frenzy among the latter to gain control of our mineral rights continues to this day in the well-financed efforts of Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and its affiliates (Catskill Mountainkeeper, et al).
New York Landowners Headed Toward Becoming Third World?
Yes, the wealthiest New Yorkers have accomplished what no other state would even consider by reducing upstate to the level of a third world country by forcing hardship onto generational land. We keepers of that land can no longer afford to pay the taxes and are being literally brought to our knees to beg forgiveness from our ancestors. We’ve done everything we can, but manipulation by way of misinformation combined with a lack of backbone and competence on the part of our subordinate public servants has resulted in our state government falling prey to a well orchestrated and sophisticated scam.
History is colorful and full of repeated opportunity to scam others. The ponzi scheme, used to extort money from everyone, from the simple layman to the most sophisticated aristocrat, never grows old it seems. The dream of easy money by use and abuse of power is also part of our history, as recent examples of crony capitalism (think Solyndra) have demonstrated.
What happens when you put money power and history together? You repeat history by creating the conditions typical of all those third world countries where civil wars have erupted over the effective theft of the land rights of indigenous populations.
Wealthy special interests connected with the NRDC seize mineral rights by devaluing them and then purchasing them for huge future gains by selling the land back to the state for values that are three times reality. It’s a continuing scam, as the funds secured from the inflated sales are then reinvested in more land purchased on the cheap because the NRDC has destroyed the mineral value.
This is the basic M.O. of the key players; the manner by which they gift indigenous land to for their own using the State of New York as the money launderer. Someday, when all is revealed, history will show a very sad abuse of power and money, driven by creating and then exploiting unjustified fears. It’s all reminiscent of an Albert Abrams magic box.
Abrams (1863–1924) was an American doctor, well known during his life for inventing machines which he claimed could diagnose and cure almost any disease. Those claims were challenged from the outset, but he got away with it for a long time (with support from people such as Upton Sinclair) until, towards the end of his life his claims were conclusively demonstrated to be both false and intentionally deceptive. That will happen here, too, as fracking continues to prove itself and the scam is exposed for what it is by someone with enough influence to dig into it.
The Stark Choices Facing New York Landowners
Meanwhile, the generational land slips away. This leaves landowners facing stark choices but they do have some options beyond giving the land away to supposed conservation organizations.
The first defensive action for purposes of paying our taxes and hanging onto our land is to timber it extensively, almost to the point of clear cutting. Demand for pine is up, hardwood saw prices are up, firewood is in high demand and, for those trees that are too small for firewood, a new market has emerged, hops poles thanks to the demand for local hops to apply local brewers, some of whom are fracking opponents, by the way, so there’s a certain poetic justice involved in clear cutting on their behalf, however indirectly.
When all has been harvested there are still stone walls to sell. Our last remaining historic stone walls, hand built by those who settled and tamed our area have real value to Long Island residents who want to decorate their suburban yards with them, so we should sell them. There are plenty of buyers. Photographs will have to replace these tangible landmarks that now enhance our precious “viewscape.”
Unfortunately, when the trees and walls are sold and the tax man comes knocking again, many owners without staying power will succumb to the constant phone calls to sell their minerals. But, now they’ll sell at steep discount, perhaps as little as a third of the offers just a few years ago, with the purchaser saying “you and I both know your land in New York will never see a lease in your life time and my offer will only go down over time.”
When the minerals have been sold, the land value is now halved in real terms. Nonetheless, when the tax man calls again, the taxes on the land, land that is almost barren of its once lush forest and border stone walls, are still the same, leaving no option but to sell wholesale to some wealthy individual or conservation group or subdivide the property, piecemeal fashion, into spaghetti lots with road frontage and, therefore, low development costs. These lots are affordable to slightly less wealthy buyers who want a piece of the country.
Thus, will the landscape, about which fractivists have worried so much, be destroyed by their own obstructionist activity, as innocent landowners either fall prey to the scam of the century or, in desperation to hang onto family land, sell it off piece by piece.
The danger of industry destroying the area pales in comparison to what so called environmentalists are doing everyday to destroy the future of upstate New York by frustrating natural gas development that would actually save farms and open space without first depopulating it. All along, however, they are serving as pawns in an elaborate plan to further the special interests of the friends of influence and power they helped put in office.
Many readers, no doubt, will discount this as just the paranoid ravings of some disenchanted greedy landowner gifted at exaggerating. But, landowners who have experienced what’s happening will know otherwise. Owning the land and being responsible for it and the taxes one must pay to keep it, provides a much different perspective than the one from Manhattan. Those of us who are upstate landowners are under siege by special interests who couldn’t possibly care less about the middle class indigenous population.
I am, indeed, tempted to suggest all landowners should, in protest over the way our government has treated Upstate, clearcut our land, creating our own short-term boom economy. Think of all the jobs we could create and the satisfaction we’d gain from having our story told. That’s no way to treat the land we love, though, so we keep fighting for elusive justice from a state seemingly determined to destroy our villages in order to save them. Such is life in Upstate New York.
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