taconic-150x150-4560814An abandoned service area on the Taconic State Parkway in Dutchess County has been reopened, at taxpayer expense, as a government-run “Taste NY” store and farmers’ market. This conveniently created an election-year photo op for Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose administration initiated Taste NY as a promotional vehicle for New York agricultural products.

It’s been years since any services, including rest rooms, were available to drivers on the scenic Taconic.  But compared to its northern segment in Columbia County, the parkway in lower Dutchess, between  I-84 and Route 52 exits, gets fairly heavy use from daily commuters as well as weekenders.  

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with promoting local farm products. However, the small building and parking lot in the parkway’s median strip at Todd Hill presumably has commercial value; after all, if it didn’t, why bother to open the Taste NY shop? So why wasn’t this site offered to private-sector operators? Isn’t there anyone out there who might have paid the state at least a small monthly rent for the opportunity to sell coffee, snacks and sundries to drivers on the parkway?  For that matter, what would have been wrong with inviting local farmers to create a selffunded consortium to promote their products at the site?

cuomo-taconic-150x150-2197113The general rule of thumb for any state property with commercial value should be to sell or lease the property to the highest bidder. That, after all, is what is already done with space in its service area buildings on the Thruway.

The photo at the top of this post shows the Todd Hill building (which dates back to the 1940s and is thus deemed “historic” in this news release) as it appeared for many years until recently. After an unspecified state investment, the photo at right shows how it looks now.

PS — An official news release from Cuomo’s office, emailed but not yet posted, includes these tidbits:

The construction project to make the Taste NY Market a reality at Todd Hill was the result of a interagency effort between NYSDOT and OGS. The interior of the building was completely renovated by OGS and NYSDOT, including the upgrade of heating/cooling and electrical services, new LED lighting and permeable pavement, while also displays highlighting the agricultural heritage of the region through photos and an informational kiosk.

In addition, NYSDOT is currently working to more than double the number of spaces at the park and ride lot adjacent to the Taste NY Market at Todd Hill. When the project is complete in September, the new lot will have 66 spaces, compared to the 28 spaces in the former lot. It will also include electric charging stations.

Note: there’s no hint of the taxpayer expense involved in the renovation, much less the opportunity cost of operating this site as a government-funded marketing venue for farmers instead of leasing it to the private sector for operation as a convenient pit stop for motorists. 

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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