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The Whitneys wanted either to develop the land, which environmental groups regarded as the "jewel of the Adirondacks," or to sell it to the state of New York.
But the property was one of only two dozen areas in the country that has enough wild terrain to protect native ecosystems.
Whitney Park, after Sonny's grandfather, New York street-car magnate and secretary of the Navy under Grover Cleveland.
He negotiated with the Pataki administration and, either by design or luck, so terrorized the Sierra Club and Adirondack Council, the state's two leading environmental groups, that they sent a message to Albany: "Give this nut what he wants." "Some people might say I'm Satan himself," chuckles Hendrickson."What he brought was a Republican business sense, and I think Marylou appreciates that." His savvy negotiations over Mrs.Whitney's Adirondacks holdings won him new respect both inside and outside the family."We want to see the world," says John, adding that Marylou had already "done" motherhood.M'Lou, Marylou's oldest daughter, lives in England with her second husband.
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But it worked: The State of New York, which originally offered around $7 million, finally made an offer Marylou was willing to accept -- $17.1 million. " Hendrickson also wins high marks from Hobbs: "The kind of thing John did in the Adirondacks is the kind of thing Uncle Sonny might have done as a young man." Even Chris Ballantyne of the Sierra Club, who staged a black-tie protest with "tasteful signs" at last year's Whitney Gala, admits he's intrigued by the John-and-Marylou team.