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Task Force named to reimagine the Canal Corridor

Posted 10 June 2019 at 10:27 am

Press Release, New York Power Authority

Photo by Tom Rivers: Fireworks go off in Holley near the canal and lift bridge last June 3, 2018 when the village capped its annual June Fest celebration.

ALBANY – The members of a task force established to reimagine the Erie Canal were announced on Friday. The panel will make sweeping recommendations to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the Board of Trustees of the New York State Canal Corporation as to how this historic waterway can be used to address resilience challenges and leverage economic development and recreational opportunities along its 363-mile route.

The task force will lead the Reimagine the Canals initiative announced last month by Governor Cuomo, who is seeking new opportunities for the 195-year-old waterway, which helped transform New York from an agrarian state to an industrial powerhouse, to directly benefit the communities it travels through. It is expected the panel will develop a set of strategic recommendations for the canal system to be presented to the Governor.

“This is a unique opportunity to improve upon one of New York’s most valuable assets,” said Joanie Mahoney, chair of the task force. “With the experts we have to serve on the task force, I know the future of the Erie Canal is in very good hands.”

The task force will focus on several areas affecting the Erie Canal, including:

• Potential new uses to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers

• How the Canal can support and enhance economic development

• New opportunities to enhance recreation and tourism

• Ways the Canal can mitigate impacts from flooding and ice jams, improve resiliency and restore ecosystems in canal communities

• Opportunities to use Canal infrastructure to expand irrigation for Western New York farms

In addition to serving as task force chair, Mahoney, New York State Thruway Authority chair and former Onondaga County Executive, will serve as regional lead for the central region. Former Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy will be regional lead for the Western region, while former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens will be regional lead for the Mohawk Valley.

The task force is slated to hold its first meeting later this month. Several public meetings, to be held across the state this summer, will be announced soon. The task force is expected to present its recommendations to Governor Cuomo by the end of the year.

John Robinson, a member of the new canal task force, is pictured on June 30, 2015 on his third ride along the Erie Canal, going 363 miles from Buffalo to Albany. He is pictured with his wife Andrea. They are close to the Main Street lift bridge in Albion. Robinson used an adaptive-use bicycle to make the trip on the towpath. He runs a business, Our Ability, which promotes inclusivity in the workplace for people with disabilities in the workplace.

The task force members are drawn from a variety of fields with active stakes in the canal’s future, including maritime recreation, tourism, agriculture, historic preservation, resilience and environmental conservation. They are:

• Michael Arcuri, Arcuri Ward Law, Utica

• Leslie Becraft-Corrigan, General Manager, Winter Harbor Marina, Brewerton

• Andy Beers, Director, Empire State Trail/Hudson River Valley Greenway

• David Buicko, President & CEO, Galesi Group

• John Courain, Operations Director, Genesee Waterways Center

• Marie Cramer, Canal New York

• Maureen Doyle, President, Central NY Waterways

• Robin Dropkin, Executive Director, Parks and Trails New York

• John Garver, Professor, Geology, Union College

• Stuart Gruskin, Chief Conservation and External Affairs Officer, the Nature Conservancy

• Chris Lajewski, National Audubon Society

• Ross Levi, Executive Director of Tourism, Empire State Development (I Love NY)

• Cornelius Murphy, Professor, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

• Bill Nechamen, Executive Director, NYS Floodplain and Stormwater Managers Association

• Derrick Pratt, Program Director, Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum

• Bob Radliff, Executive Director, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

• John Robinson, CEO, Our Ability

• Bruce Van Hise, Executive Director, Corn Hill Waterfront & Navigation Foundation

• Jeff Williams, Public Policy Director, New York Farm Bureau

Ex-Officio Members

• Richard Ball, NYS Agriculture and Markets Commissioner

• Eric Kulleseid, NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner

• Rossana Rosado, NYS Secretary of State

• Basil Seggos, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner

• Brian Stratton, NYS Canal Corporation Director

• Howard Zemsky, Empire State Development President and CEO

Helping guide the task force will be the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, a part of the State University of New York. It will oversee the series of public meetings across the canal region, where residents, business owners, municipal leaders and other stakeholders can offer their ideas and insights about the Canal’s future.

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