Cover photo for Richard Persico's Obituary
Richard Persico Profile Photo
1933 Richard 2021

Richard Persico

August 1, 1933 — August 6, 2021

Richard Armando Persico, a prominent environmental lawyer with a long and distinguished career as an innovator and administrator of land use and environmental laws in the Adirondacks and State of New York, passed away on the 5th day of August, 2021 at the age of 88.

In 1973, Mr. Persico, when Chief Counsel to Governor Rockefeller's Office of State Planning, drafted the legislation that enacted into law the Adirondack Park Private Land Use and Development Plan, the most sweeping state-level land use control program over private lands in the nation. In June of that year he was appointed the first Executive Director of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), responsible for the administration and enforcement of this pioneering land use control law.

Early on, the fledgling APA became responsible for the review of locally controlled construction and improvements of facilities for use in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, including a prolonged public hearing regarding the proposed construction of the towering Olympic ski jumps.

The involvement of a state agency into local level land use matters had met with immediate and hostile resistance from the Adirondack Park's local governments and land owners, creating a tumultuous climate throughout Mr. Persico's five-year tenure as head of the new agency. Nevertheless, as time passed and things somewhat settled down, Persico was pleased that despite numerous attempts during his tenure and some years later to abolish or weaken the APA, the law he was so involved in bringing about had endured virtually unchanged.

In January 1979, Persico was appointed Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) where he supervised legal enforcement of the State's air and water quality laws and regulations, and hazardous waste disposal remediation programs, including cleanup of the Love Canal disaster in Niagara Falls, and removal of PCBs from the Hudson River.

Mr. Persico's time at DEC again involved him in Lake Placid's preparations for the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, first in providing the legal services required for use by the local Olympic Committee of the State-owned Whiteface Ski Center and the bobsled and cross country facilities at Mount VanHoevenberg Recreation Area.

When expected chartered buses failed to arrive in Lake Placid for the 1980 Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony, leaving thousands of visitors stranded outside of town for hours in freezing weather, Governor Hugh Carey declared a state of emergency, and Mr. Persico was recruited by the Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Robert Flacke to assist in securing enough buses to rescue these visitors. Mr. Persico later assisted Commissioner Flacke in developing a viable after use of the Olympic facilities, and drafted the initial legislation creating the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).

At the end of his service with DEC Mr. Persico faced a major career decision, to remain in Albany and form an environmental law firm or to accept the position in Lake Placid as General Counsel to the recently formed Olympic Regional Development Agency. His love of the Adirondacks prevailed and on the first of January 1983 he reported for work at ORDA, where he was instrumental in obtaining state and local permits and legislation required for continued expansion of and improvements to the 1980 Olympic Winter facilities used by ORDA, including drafting and lobbying for the legislation necessary for the 1987 amendment of the New York State Constitution allowing for the widening and expansion of ski trails at the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center.

Mr. Persico's achievements and contributions during his years of public service were acknowledged by the Environmental Law Section of the New York State Bar Association in a plaque inscribed to: "Richard A. Persico, a pioneer and dedicated leader in the development of environmental law and lawyers in the Adirondacks and throughout New York State”. Recognized were his contributions in the creation and implementation of such environmental landmark legislation as the State Hazardous and Waste Super Fund, the State Land Master Plan, the Adirondack Park Agency Act, and the State Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Law.

Mr. Persico's achievements were also honored in a unanimous State Senate Resolution acknowledging his "many fine accomplishments and outstanding leadership abilities in service to the State of New York”.

In 1987, Mr. Persico retired from State service and for ten years in association with his long time associate, Thomas Ulasewicz, practiced law in Lake Placid in a field office of the Glens Falls law firm, Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart and Rhodes, specializing in environmental and land use control matters. His legal services included advising the Finch Prime Company concerning its Adirondack forest lands, representing Scotland's Glen Eagle's proposal for developments on Lake Placid Club properties, development proposals at the Whiteface Resort, and Constitutional issues at the Saranac Golf Course. Persico also during this period served for a year as Lake Placid Village Attorney.

Mr. Persico retired from the practice of law in 200l. He thereafter enjoyed numerous travels throughout Italy with his wife Barbara, dabbled in oil painting, tended to his vegetable garden, struggled with golf, and pursued his life-long passion to master classic Italian cooking. His favorite times were those that he was able to spend with his grandsons, Rick and Michael. He also enjoyed gathering at Nicola's bar on Tuesday evenings with his local cronies.

Richard Armando Persico was born in Gloversville N.Y. on August 1, 1933, to Thomas and Blanche Persico, both workers in the glove-making industry. He graduated from Gloversville High School in 1951, obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history and political science in 1955 from the New York State College for Teachers, now the State University at Albany. He then entered the United States Army, serving two years as a Special Agent in the Army Counter Intelligence Corps in the Far East. Following military service, he entered Albany Law School, graduating with a Juris Doctor Degree in 1961.

Mr. Persico is survived by his wife, Barbara Persico; son, Thomas Persico( Ellen); daughter,Gina NeJame; grandsons Richard NeJame and Michael NeJame; sister, Annabelle Townson; stepdaughter, Kelli Calvo (Karl); stepson, Kregg Keator (Nid); granddaughters, Bryn Keator Snow (Ross), Ashley Tallman(Heath), Chelsey Guillou(Stephane) and Morgan Credito(Carlo); great grandchildren, Cydney and Zoey Snow and Sebastian Guillou; and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, Thomas and Blanche Persico and brother Joseph Persico.

Funeral arrangements are in care of the Fortune-Keough Funeral Home in Saranac Lake. There will be no calling hours. The family will be in attendance at the church from 10:30 A.M until the time of mass of Christian burial at 11:00 A.M. Wednesday, August 11, at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Lake Placid, New York. Burial will follow at North Elba Cemetery, Old Military Road, Lake Placid, New York.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in memory of Richard Armando Persico be made to the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance, North Country Life Flight and High Peaks Hospice.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Richard Persico, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

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Visitation

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

10:30 - 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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Service

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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Interment

North Elba Cemetery

New York 73, Lake Placid, NY

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