Monday, May 31, 2010

Victory! All state parks and historic sites to open!

Dear Friend of New York's Parks & Trails -

Victory! A deal has been reached to keep all state parks and historic sites open this year. This would NEVER have happened without the outpouring of public support from parks enthusiasts like you over the last several months.

Hundreds of thousands of park lovers made their voices heard in Albany and around the state. Clearly, New Yorkers are passionate about their parks and this passion has been transformed into a strong, vibrant grassroots constituency that will be with us for years to come.

Closing parks in a budget crunch always seemed counter-productive to us -- state parks annually contribute almost $2 billion to state and local economies.

But there is another reason why we must continue to support our state parks, a reason that does not receive as much attention as it should: parks are our common ground, our communal space, our way of enabling New Yorkers of every age, income, and background to enjoy the natural world that is our common heritage.

Parks & Trails New York has been fighting for this vision for a long time, and we will continue to fight for it with your help and support.

I invite you to read the Spring 2010 edition of our GreenSpace newsletter now available on-line. Although it went to press before this year's parks struggle was resolved, it celebrates the emergence of an invigorated voice for parks that will be essential in the future.

After you look through it, if you're not a member already, please consider supporting our work by becoming a member today.

And be sure to visit one of New York's incredible state parks this Memorial Day weekend to see just how great the victory is that has been achieved!


Robin Dropkin
Executive Director
Parks & Trails New York

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NYCON CEO featured on NPR's All Things Considered: Focus on Albany

NPR story, Amid Red Ink, Tax-Exempts Asked To Add To Coffers, features NYCON CEO Doug Sauer.

State and local governments, eager to close their budget gaps, are increasingly going after charities and other tax-exempt groups. Government officials are proposing new fees on nonprofits to help pay for services. They're also challenging the exemptions these groups get from sales and property taxes.

In Concord, Mass., for example, the Board of Selectmen sent a letter to the town's nonprofits earlier this year. It said that local property taxes were so high they were driving residents away. The board asked the town's private schools, hospitals, charities and churches if they could start paying their fair share.

"I guess we're just hoping that in times where people are economically really stretched, that to the extent that they're able, they can contribute," says board member Virginia McIntyre.

But the initial response was not what the board had hoped. One arts group offered to contribute $1,000 to the town, but most of the nonprofits responded — politely — that they contributed to Concord in many nonmonetary ways.

'A Slippery Slope'

Kathi Anderson is executive director of the Walden Woods Project in Concord. It preserves property including Walden Pond, made famous by Henry David Thoreau — who, she notes, went to jail rather than pay a tax he opposed.

"The land that is now protected is a wonderful resource, not only for people who live in the community, but for people who visit the community," Anderson says.

She says she feels the town's pain but that her group is hurting financially, too. She says it would be hard-pressed to come up with the $89,000 Concord says the Walden Woods Project would owe if it weren't tax-exempt. Even a "donation" to the town would send the wrong message, Anderson says.

"This is a slippery slope because if indeed a donation is made, then it implies that one supports the notion of having charities essentially pay taxes," Anderson says.

And that would fly in the face of the long-time relationship between government and charity — the idea that nonprofits fill a valuable community role and should be exempt from tax.

But increasingly that relationship is being challenged. Boston wants its universities, hospitals and nonprofits to pay 25 percent of what they'd owe if they weren't tax-exempt. Philadelphia is talking to its universities about similar payments. Kansas and Hawaii considered repealing tax exemptions for nonprofits as part of their budget debates. And Minneapolis has imposed a "streetlight fee" on nonprofits to help pay for electricity and bulbs.

Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits, says these moves couldn't come at a worse time.

"Corporate donations are down significantly. Individual giving is down. Foundation giving is down substantially," even though demand for charitable services is up, he says. Delaney says adding more costs will only hurt taxpayers in the long run because there's high demand for the types of services — such as health care and food pantries — that many nonprofits provide.

"When we can't [provide them], then there's greater needs in the community. And when the needs get so severe, then we're going to find people demanding that government step in. That is going to cost a whole lot more," he says.

Albany's Experience

But Frank Commisso, a council member in Albany, N.Y., says cities like his have little choice. More than half of Albany's property is tax-exempt because the city is home to so many state offices, hospitals and universities. But he says these institutions still rely on city services. Read more and listen to the story here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Facing Money Troubles, Nylink Network To Phase Out Over Next Year

Merger not feasible but will find new service providers for members
Norman Oder -- Library Journal, 5/18/2010
•Impact of changed business relationship with OCLC
•18-member staff to lose jobs
•Unclear which organizations will take over services
As with several other networks that lost revenue in response to a changed business relationship with OCLC, Nylink, a nonprofit membership organization serving libraries in New York, is facing severe money troubles. Rather than merge into a large consortia—LYRASIS, formed last year, has grown to cover 33 states—Nylink will phase out its operations over the next 12 months.

Because the 37-year-old Nylink is part of the State University of New York and not an independent organization, it cannot be part of a merger. “However, we will be working with our members and with other organizations capable of providing similar services to absorb some of our functions,” Nylink said in an FAQ.

Financial challenges
Nylink—which serves some 500 libraries of various types, library systems and groups, museums, and cultural heritage organizations— has been funded through revenues and, while it is not in a deficit situation, it’s depleting its reserves.

“Unfortunately, the revenue just isn’t there any longer, and we have no choice but to wind down operations,” said W. David Penniman, Executive Director of Nylink. A change in the network business relationship with OCLC, effective July 1, 2009, meant that regional networks could no longer take their longstanding share of monies paid for OCLC services.

Nylink’s 18-member staff will continue to serve members while being provided outplacement support. Read more here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Slate Valley Museum Executive Director

The Slate Valley Museum, a successful, growing and dynamic professional museum in Upstate New York on the Vermont border, seeks innovative Executive Director for immediate full-time, year-round opening. Established in 1995, the museum interprets the history of the region’s slate industry with emphases on geology, immigration, and industrial history and technology. The Executive Director reports to the Slate Valley Museum Board of Trustees and works closely with the board in strategic planning and governance. Leading a small paid staff and volunteers, the Executive Director is responsible for: financial management and fundraising; collections care and management; exhibitions, public programs; professional staffing and volunteer recruitment; audience development and communications; regional and community collaborations; and professional museum standards fulfillment. Minimum requirements are: a degree in a related field with proven experience in museum operations; background in financial management; successful history of grant writing, reporting and project management; ability to recruit, train, and inspire qualified staff and volunteers; excellent writing and public presentation skills. Desired qualities include: high energy; self-motivation; creativity and resourcefulness; sociability; and an appreciation for small town, rural community life.
Salary and Compensation: low $40’s, commensurate with experience, plus health insurance. Please mail cover letter, resume, a brief writing sample and a list of three references to David P. Bridges, President, Slate Valley Museum Foundation, 17 Water Street, Granville, NY, 12832 by June 15, 2010. Successful candidates will be asked to submit a portfolio illustrating their work prior to interview. The Slate Valley Museum Foundation is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Visit for more information about the museum. You may contact as well.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Gov wants to extend power incentives for NY businesses including nonprofits

The Legislative Gazette reported that Gov. David A. Paterson is urging the Legislature to extend and reform the state's Power for Jobs and Energy Cost Savings Benefit programs to secure long-term funding for businesses and nonprofits before the programs expire on May 15.

Paterson wants to replace the two programs with a New York Power Authority program called Energize New York that would provide fixed-priced, long-term power contracts to existing and new qualifying businesses and institutions that agree to maintain minimum levels of employment or make investments in New York. Paterson sent his Energize New York reform plan to the Legislature in March.

"I am opposed to any further enabling legislation that does not make this a permanent program. … We need long-term decisions in the interest of promoting economic growth and to do that [we] need a program that's not going to be a political can that gets kicked down the road," Paterson said at a press conference last week.

The Power for Jobs program was established in 1997 to provide energy incentives to businesses and not-for-profits retaining or creating jobs in New York. Paterson had made reforming the program a priority in his State of the State address in January. "We cannot afford to let this critical job creating program lapse," said Paterson. Read more here.