County, village weigh in on Mohawk land claim in Massena

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 5:12 PM EST
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MASSENA, New York (WWNY) - On Monday, we told you about Mohawk smoke shops opening in the heart of Massena. It’s in the “square mile” land claim.

It’s most of the east end of the village of Massena. So should home and business owners there be concerned?

Mayor Timothy Ahlfeld says right now, no, but “I really would like someone from the state level, or even the federal level, to come in and alleviate some of the concerns residents may be having.”

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe confirmed Monday it’s licensing businesses in the square mile. A smoke shop opened last week. It advertises its cigarettes are tax-free.

“If there is a new set of rules that are, you know, have come into the village of Massena, and not everybody is playing by them, then that’s just totally unfair,” said Ahlfeld.

The square mile extends north to the Willow Street rail overpass; south to the end of Malby Avenue; west just past the Parker Avenue bridge; and east to the end of Orvis Street.

St. Lawrence County officials thought it had become a non-issue.

“From the county’s perspective, the Massena square mile is not included as a part of the land claims resolution,” said Stephen Button, county attorney.

Just two weeks ago, the county sent a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul asking for a face-to-face meeting on the land claim. It was signed by tribal chiefs and St. Lawrence and Franklin counties.

The land claim lawsuit has been in the courts a long time. What’s changed is Mohawk business people staking out their own claims.

The village and county have no role in cigarette or sales tax collections. That’s the state’s job.

The state Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a 7 News request for comment Tuesday.

The New York State Office of Finance and Taxation said it could not comment.

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