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With plans still unclear, some thoughts on the Adirondack Museum

June 28, 2008
Lake Placid News
We still look forward to seeing the Adirondack Museum build a branch in downtown Lake Placid, and we were disappointed to hear the news that museum officials have called a halt to the project.

We fervently hope it isn’t permanently derailed. Its many benefits to Lake Placid, the museum itself and the Adirondacks in general are obvious.

The museum board and director were not available Wednesday to answer questions about what this “suspension” means. The press release they issued Wednesday morning was troublingly vague, committing to nothing more than “the goal of projecting the museum’s presence beyond Blue Mountain Lake” and to bringing its exhibits and programs to the Tri-Lakes, including a partnership with the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

We were encouraged, however, by James Brooks, the museum’s lawyer in this matter, who made it sound like the project is on hold rather than being reconsidered entirely. Mr. Brooks said the museum does not plan to sell the Main Street property, the site of the former Church of the Nazarene, and isn’t looking at any other sites.

Some of the stated reasons for the project’s suspension are beyond the control of anyone here, like the rising cost of construction materials and difficulty in getting investors to back the project. Other obstacles, however, were laid in the museum’s path by local people who focused too much on themselves and not enough on the common good.

Brooks said the stall is to ride out a series of lawsuits filed by the West family, who live seasonally behind the Nazarene church site.

We think these lawsuits are beyond frivolous — the museum’s tower would have no more impact on the Wests’ backyard view than the current church — and we were glad when Thomas West told us he intends to drop the suits against the museum and two state agencies. He may, however, appeal one suit a judge dismissed against the Lake Placid-North Elba Joint Review Board. We urge him to let it go.

Not that the JRB is blameless. Another thing that drove up the cost of this project was the JRB members’ nine-month debate over the museum’s aesthetics. They did a disservice to the community by assigning themselves as architectural gurus, and we hope the museum’s possible pullout serves as a wake-up call to them. We hope they will give less weight to their personal aesthetic judgments in future reviews.

Meanwhile, we urge museum officials to ride out the current economic storm and stay the course, but we also offer this suggestion: People are primarily interested in the fact that there is an Adirondack Museum in Lake Placid; what it looks like is less important. We understand the marketing importance of a unique, recognizable design, but we’d rather have a toned-down museum than no museum at all.

Just a thought.



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