The "Greater Good" Sickness

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I read an interesting but disturbing story at the online version of my local newspaper: Book Revisits Lost Village's Tale. What an intriguing title! The story is fascinating. New York history is thrilling, and I'm always ready to hear a new story about it.

The lost village of Delta, very much like the lost city of Atlantis, currently lies beneath the water, its history eroded away by the strong tides of time.

Myth and legend have developed around the two regions, and while Atlantis is said to sit thousands of leagues under the sea, traces of Delta lie at the bottom of a popular recreational reservoir. A new book to be released Monday, "The Lost Village of Delta” by Mary J. Centro, explores the saga of the lost village.

Wow, a sunken village here in Upstate! Unfortunately, the story continues on in horror. I read in shock the following:

In 1903, the state of New York approved the construction of several reservoirs to support the Barge Canal. After selecting the village of Delta as a reservoir site, construction on the dam began in November 1908. Just four years later, the entire village of Delta was submerged, and the lake created above the lost village was duly named Lake Delta.

Apparently, Delta, NY, was a prospering little town. The population of 250 (a good size for 1903) was undergoing a boom in construction. People were investing in their future there. But the "state" had "chosen" them for the wonderful honor of "sacrificing" their future and their property for the Barge Canal reservoir. The greater good, and all that, you know. (See The Worst Trip of My Life).

Also terribly shocking was the nonchalant attitude of the author of the news article.

The state compensated the townspeople for their property. Many buildings were removed or relocated. The 250 or so residents dispersed into surrounding areas.

“This was their world,” said Centro, and they lost it all. But it was with the sacrifice of the village that the lake was born. Lake Delta is home to many permanent and seasonal homes and to Delta Lake State Park, which has one of the area’s most popular beaches.

“The lake is such a delight,” Centro said, “and brings a lot of joy to a lot of people.”

I don't know about you, but I find this terribly disturbing. It is supposed to be a serious thing to take property from landowners. Couldn't the state have chosen a non-populated area? Why were these people forced from their homes? And why is no one mourning?

The villagers didn't "sacrifice" anything-- it was taken from them!

The book looks good, and I'm looking forward to reading it. But this part of New York's history is not a celebration, it's a blemish. And with NYRI, the Kelo Decision trend, and towns across the state forcing "development" upon citizens, this is something we would do well to remember, and learn not to repeat.

7 remarks
Laurie said...

Entire villages were bought/taken by the state and are now underwater in the Hudson Valley, too, when the drinking water reservoirs for New York City were built. There's at least one song written about it, but I can't remember who wrote it offhand.

10:36 PM  
Mrs Mecomber said...

aMAZing. Why do they take the villages?!

11:00 PM  
Mrs. W said...

The state has even taken neighborhoods. My great-grandparents' home in New York City was part of a neighborhood take-over to create a highway. The home that he built with his very hands--the home my grandmother grew up in--was demolished (windows, furniture and everything back in those days... the 1940s) and a road was built.

It's been happening forever. Everywhere. It's the price of "progress."

7:24 PM  
Mrs Mecomber said...

Hey, Mrs. W, thanks for dropping by.

The Constitution forbids the confiscation of private property unless there are pretty good reasons (highways necessary for the entire public, etc). Property is under NO CIRCUMSTANCES supposed to be taken if a developer wants it, which is what is happening today. We are seeing private businesses using the government to go after private landowners. There's a case in Freeport, TX, that got very little attention, but it was the Bushes and their pals who bullied some private property owners. Then there's the Kelo decision, and of course the local windmills and NYRI. There's a difference between legally claiming land and reimbursing the owner constitutionally, and the confiscation of land for special interests. It has not been happening forever, not in this country. It has, however, been happening since FDR, and getting more tyrannical as time rolls on.

Of concern is the nonchalant attitude of the general public. There is no outcry against this tyranny. This does not bode well for our nation...

7:47 PM  
Mrs. W said...

Oh, I agree. It's wrong--SO wrong. I'm just saying that's it's been happening for years.

8:48 PM  
Mrs. W said...

Sorry... my attention span is waning at this time of day!

When I said that it's been going on forever, I mean worldwide. Ie, European settlers took native land for the 'greater good' and 'progress,' too.

8:54 PM  
Mrs Mecomber said...

Oh yes, I didn't think you thought this confiscation is right. My concern is that the news reporter wrote about it as if it was just another run-of-the-mill "sacrifice" for us to swallow.

I did assume that you meant European settlers, and that is what really steams me about it-- we, supposedly free and having our rights protected-- are being trampled on just like Europe did and just as the Founders of the US warned us not to do! Arg!!!!

Just for the record, I thought it was wrong for the settlers to grab the Indians' land, I thought "Manifest Destiny" was wrong (the way we went about it), and the Mexican War was wrong, etc.

I know, it's obvious that human nature is as corrupt as ever and there is nothing new under the sun. :( But those checks and balances and amendments were sure great while they lasted. I hate to see them die...

Thanks so much for your comments. :D

9:05 PM  

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