Dan Hust | Democrat
SENATOR DEAN SKELOS, left, the Senate Majority Leader, enjoyed breakfast at Blanche's Diner in Mongaup Valley on Friday with fellow Republican Sen. John Bonacic, center, and Chapin Estate developer Steve Dubrovsky.
Majority Leader visits county
By Dan Hust
MONGAUP VALLEY He’s the New York State Senator from District 9.
He’s a 60-year-old Republican from Rockville Centre.
He’s the Majority Leader of the Senate and the state’s acting lieutenant governor (Democratic Governor David Paterson has yet to name one, so Skelos occupies the position by way of the State Constitution).
Dean Skelos is also NYS Senator John Bonacic’s good friend.
“I’m very happy he’s the majority leader!” remarked Bonacic over breakfast at Blanche’s Diner in Mongaup Valley Friday.
Bonacic was leading Skelos and his wife Gail on a tour of the area Thursday and Friday, starting with Bethel Woods and ending with the Concord.
Concord owner Louis Cappelli wasn’t at Friday’s breakfast, but Bethel Woods founder Alan Gerry and Chapin Estate developer Steve Dubrovsky joined those at the table, which already included Sullivan County Visitors Association President Roberta Byron-Lockwood and Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development President Tim McCausland.
Talk was varied and ranged from the important like widening 17B from Bethel Woods to Monticello to handle increased traffic to the personal like the Skeloses’ longtime summer home in the Catskill Mountain community of Shandaken.
Primarily, Skelos was here to gain some insight into local issues and projects, a strategic part of his recent ascension to helming the Senate. (However, Republicans will have to campaign very hard this election season to hang on to or expand their current one-seat majority.)
Bonacic acknowledged he, too, had good reason for having Skelos visit for despite what you have heard, there’s money in Albany.
“I’m going to lobby hard for a piece of that [pie] for our region,” said Bonacic, who’s built a popular reputation for funneling state funds to area organizations and municipalities.
Skelos and his wife were favorably impressed with the area, having last visited when Grossinger’s and the Concord were in full swing.
“I know how great it was and can be again,” said Skelos.
Part of that development includes the stops on Skelos’ itinerary those two days. But what about issues that have yet to appear locally, like gas wells and legalized gambling?
“Gas drilling is strictly regulated by the DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation],” remarked Skelos. “So the protections will be there.… It’s a real economic opportunity for the area.”
“We have strengthened the muscle of the DEC for monitoring and enforcement purposes for gas drilling,” added Bonacic, who said he’s “all for” domestic energy, especially in a state with a good track record for safely extracting natural resources. “And we have put legislation in to empower the towns.”
As for gambling (the Concord will feature video lottery terminals run by the state Lottery Commission, not the full slots and game tables seen in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut), Skelos felt it is inevitable.
“The reality is, all our neighboring states have it,” he acknowledged. “... I think that’s the reality of where we’re headed, as well.”
“When our state and national economy are doing poorly and revenues fall, we always look at legalized gaming,” added Bonacic.
But, he said, there have been no substantive discussions on the matter yet, and even if there are, he would advocate for a statewide vote to see how citizens want to handle the issue.
In the meantime, he’s happy Skelos got a firsthand look at Sullivan County even the parts that are struggling.
“When you have a visual of the problems of an area,” Bonacic explained, “the message resonates so much more.”