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From Laundry to Hotdogs: NY Vendors Want Long-term Budget Fix

October 16, 2013

NEW YORK - With lawmakers rushing to craft another short-term fix for the national budget, New York vendors who rely on parks and other national attractions being open say a longer-term solution is needed.

Bradford Hill, president of Evelyn Hill Inc., says his family-owned gift shops and food stands at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are among hundreds of thousands nationwide that rely on federal facilities such as the nation's more than 400 national parks to be open for business.

In Hill's view, you can't run a long-term business on short-term fixes.

"I think everyone is sort of disgusted with what's been happening," he said. "Congress needs to get their act together and have a normal budget. It's not just our business; it's our suppliers that have lost business - from the laundry service to buying hot dogs."

Hill said he hopes Congress can aim for a full fiscal year when it passes a budget. Late Tuesday, however, lawmakers still were trying to find enough votes to pass a stopgap budget measure.

Oliver Spellman, acting northeast regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, said it's great that New York found money to reopen the Statue of Liberty on a temporary basis, but that still leaves Ellis Island closed - and many more national parks across the state and nation.

"Forty-three other parks along the East Coast; there's nine others in the city," he said. "There are 390-plus parks around the country that are not open. We need all the parks open for the American people. Congress and the administration need to come together with a long-term budget plan."

While the House has passed a measure to reimburse federal employees for the pay they've lost during the shutdown, Hill said, there's no way businesses such as his can make up for the days lost.

"We're, of course, not part of that, and we're out that money," he said. "Being closed 11 days was devastating to us. Our employees lost $140,000 in wages. We had to lay off our entire staff of 110 employees - and it was hard on them and their families."

The National Parks Conservation Association noted that Congress already has cut the national parks' budget by 13 percent for the past three years running. The group believes restoring that funding should be part of the budget discussions.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY