Sen. Gillibrand tours Olympic Center, Lake Placid Olympic Museum

State Olympic Regional Development Authority CEO Mike Pratt gives Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) a tour of the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid Wednesday, Aug. 30. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

LAKE PLACID — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) paid a visit to the Olympic Center and Lake Placid Olympic Museum on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

“It’s (the Olympic Games) part of our legacy, it’s part of New York’s history, it’s part of Lake Placid’s history and it’s something that makes athletes really proud about how much sacrifice athletes make to win these competitions and what it takes to compete on the world stage,” Gillibrand said after the tour. “It’s very inspiring and a very proud part of our history.”

During her time at the venue, Gillibrand was shown the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena by state Olympic Regional Development Authority CEO and President Mike Pratt, who operated a Zamboni in that rink at the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, and ORDA board president Joe Martens. An Albany native, Gillibrand was a teenager during the 1980 Winter Olympics. She remembered her parents traveled north to Lake Placid to watch the events, including the “Miracle on Ice” game between the U.S. and Soviet Union hockey teams.

“I remember them calling home every night and telling us exactly what they witnessed that day and how cold it was and whether it was snowing, and I didn’t know anything about the hockey game (the Miracle on Ice) until my parents came back and said ‘We won, we won’ and told us all about it,” Gillibrand said.

“It’s kind of the running joke in Lake Placid — there were 8,500 people in here for the game but 30,000 people say they were here,” Martens said.

Gillibrand remembered that her parents brought back pins and hats for herself and her siblings. Later, as she got a personal tour of the museum led by Collections Manager Julia Herman, Gillibrand got a close look at just under 800 Olympic pins.

“It was kind of my labor of love during the installation process,” Herman said during the tour. “We had laser grids — very precise work.”

The museum, which is managed by ORDA, opened in December following a 21-month-long renovation.

“This Olympic Center’s just stunning, but I think it’s appropriate. … What we focused on was real infrastructure that made a difference to the staff, to the programs and then directly to the customers,” Pratt said.

Addressing ORDA’s status as a government-funded organization, Gillibrand pointed out the ways in which ORDA puts New York on the world stage.

“I think it’s (ORDA) essential for the economy,” Gillibrand said. “It’s also essential for our competitiveness — not only for economic growth in the region but also certainly for Olympic competition. … This facility is training this generation’s athletes and next generation’s athletes. We also host a bunch of different world games here, which keeps it alive and in the center of the athletic community worldwide.”

Gillibrand’s visit was “exciting” for Pratt, who said that ORDA is “used to being a host.”

“We hosted over 1.1 million visitors last year,” he said. “The majority were at the three ski areas. … We work very closely with any of the professional tourism agencies with the different properties and hotels and we have a great staff that runs operations and welcomes the guests and tries to not only put on events but make the experience beneficial and turn our customers into our salespeople.”

“This Olympic Center’s in a great spot,” Pratt added about the recent renovations.

Gillibrand described the ways in which the Rebuild Rural America Act, which she introduced in the Senate on June 22, would benefit Lake Placid and ORDA facilities.

“It’s 50 billion dollars. It can be used by regions, cities, counties to create economic growth in whatever way is best for that county and that region,” she said. “Here, we are great at hosting huge competitions — athletic competitions in the summer and in the winter we have every winter sport here. … So, for our rural development application, we would probably look at ways to enhance those opportunities and other types of job creation in the area. We have maker spaces here, we have small business incubators here, we do a lot to create growth in lots of industries, and so that money can be used for any of it.”

Last month, Gillibrand paid a visit to Lake Placid to promote the bill, with is co-sponsored by Sens. Tina Smith and Dick Durbin. Her “hope” is to include the bill in the Farm Bill, which will be negotiated in Congress over the next six months.

Migrant crisis

Gillibrand also spoke about the recent influx of migrants into New York City.

The Associated Press reported on Aug. 9 that almost 100,000 migrants in need of shelter have arrived in New York City since the spring of 2022. New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently argued that the rest of the state should share the responsibility of sheltering migrants. Gov. Kathy Hochul, in response, said the city’s right to shelter mandate does not apply to the rest of the state. The city mandate, which was established in 1981, requires the city to provide same-night shelter to homeless families with children who arrive at a shelter before 10 p.m. It also requires that single adults must be provided shelter within one day of arriving at a shelter. This mandate applies to unhoused migrants, as well.

“This is an agreement that does not apply to the state’s other 57 counties, which is one of the reasons we cannot and will not force other parts of our state to shelter migrants, nor are we going to be asking these migrants to move to other parts of the state against their will,” Hochul said in a livestreamed address on Aug. 24.

Gillibrand voiced support for both Adams and Hochul.

“Both the mayor and the governor have been working very hard to do everything they can to deal with this humanitarian crisis,” Gillibrand said. “We’ve had over 70,000 migrants come through New York state in the last several months and that’s a huge burden on any community that’s trying to help that many people in one go. It’s not easy to have that many beds available, to have that many resources for shelters, for healthcare, for education for kids who want to be in school in September. So what the governor’s been doing is trying to actually apply a whole-state approach to helping the mayor deal with how many migrants have come into New York City, specifically.”

Gillibrand said that her focus during the migrant crisis is on work visas, which she believes could be a solution to the glut of migrants to New York City.

“We have 200,000 open jobs right now in New York state,” she said. “We are desperate for workers. If you talk to any hotel owner in Lake Placid, if you talk to any restaurant in Lake Placid, you talk to any agriculture, any type of farm, any type of dairy, all of them need workers. … I’ve pushed the WH to allow for an expedited work visa for this group of people that have come over the several months. Now, there’s problems with the law. The law requires 180 days to wait. That’s six months. That’s too long to wait. If people can work as soon as they arrive, they can earn their own money, they can pay for their own food and shelter, and it wouldn’t be such a burden on taxpayers and a burden on cities like New York. So, I’m hoping we can get emergency work visas.”

Gillibrand said that she intends to “work across the aisle” and find Republican sponsors for emergency work visa legislation.

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