About the Task Force
About the Task Force
The Reimagine the Canals Task Force examined how the historic Erie Canal system could be redeveloped to become a more vital force for boosting local economies, inspiring new forms of recreation and tourism, and strengthening environmental resiliency both now and in the decades to come.
The task force built on the success of the Reimagine the Canals Competition, which sought out innovative ideas that capitalize on the Canal’s strengths.
The Reimagine initiative builds on successful efforts by New York State to invest in the Canal corridor, including the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and Taste NY, which have stoked the growth of new industries, businesses and housing in Canal communities.
The task force’s report can be read here. The press release about the task force’s recommendations can be read here.
More than 375 people participated in five Reimagine the Canals public engagement sessions held throughout the Erie Canal corridor in July 2019. The meetings were run by the Rockefeller Institute, a SUNY-affiliated public policy think tank. They provided Canal communities with the opportunity to learn about Reimagine and share their ideas, concerns, and visions for the Erie Canal’s future. The community engagement team also collected information online, where 287 Canal users from across the U.S. and Canada provided input.
Here's a report on the outcomes of the community engagement process.
Schenectady County Community College, July 11
Photos by Michael Gallitelli
New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton is interviewed by WAMC Radio; Stratton gave opening remarks at every public meeting.
Joe Martens, the Task Force Co-Chair representing the Mohawk Valley region, gave opening remarks.
Challenger Learning Center, July 15
Photos by Anne Dykstra
At each event, participants watched a video about the 2017 Reimagine the Canals competition.
Laura Schultz, a Senior Researcher at the Rockefeller Institute, facilitated the events.
The College at Brockport, July 16
Photos by Anne Dykstra
New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton gave opening remarks at every public meeting.
Marc Cohen, Chief of Staff to Bob Duffy, the Task Force Co-Chair representing the Western Region, gave opening remarks.
SUNY ESF, July 23
Photos by Michael Flynn
Joanie Mahoney, the Task Force Chair and representative for the Central Region, gave opening remarks.
SUNY Polytechnic, July 30
Photos by Trish Hennessy
Joe Martens, the Task Force Co-Chair representing the Mohawk Valley Region, gave opening remarks.
Task Force Members
Task Force Members
Joanie Mahoney - Task Force Chair, Central Region Co-Lead. Mahoney is the Chief Operating Officer at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. Previously, she was County Executive of Onondaga County, elected in 2007 as the first woman to serve as County Executive and was overwhelmingly reelected in 2011. Since taking office, Onondaga County was the recipient of multiple good governance awards including the U.S. Water Prize from the U.S. Water Alliance and green infrastructure partnership by the EPA. She also serves as chair of the New York State Thruway Authority.
Bob Duffy - Western Region Co-Lead. Duffy is the former Lieutenant Governor of New York. He currently serves as president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. Duffy previously served as Rochester mayor from January 2006 to January 2011 and as Rochester police chief from March 1998 to April 2005. Duffy also serves on the State University of New York Board of Trustees, Chairman of the AIM Photonics Leadership Council and is co-chair of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.
Joe Martens - Mohawk Valley Co-Lead. Martens is Director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance, a coalition of business, labor and environmental organizations committed to promoting the development of offshore wind energy off New York's coast. He was previously a Senior Fellow at the Open Space Institute, a regional land conservation organization that has protected thousands of acres of land from Maine to Georgia. He also served as New York Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner from March 2011 to July 2015.
Mike Arcuri - Partner, Arcuiri Ward Law, Utica. Arcuri served four terms as Oneida County District Attorney and was a Member of Congress from 2007 to 2010. He presently maintains his own law practice in Utica and serves as an Administrative Law Judge and Panel Member of the New York State Industrial Board of Appeals.
Leslie Becraft-Corrigan - General Manager, Winter Harbor Marina in Brewerton. Becraft-Corrigan manages brand development, human resources, accounting, client relations and logistics for the marina.
Andy Beers - Director, Empire State Trail/Hudson River Valley Greenway. Beers serves as director of the Empire State Trail under the umbrella of the Hudson River Valley Greenway, whose aim is to advance the state's commitment to the presevation, enhancement and development of the world-renouned resources of the Hudson River Valley.
Ron Bierstine - Owner, Oak Orchard Tackle & Lodge, a recreational fishing destination with equipment, advice and lodging on Lake Ontario and Western NY, and NYS Licensed Outdoor Guide. During the summer Bierstine is the Dockmaster at the Orleans County Marine Park. He also takes part in the steelhead net pen fish rearing in cooperation with NYSDEC in the Oak Orchard River. Bierstine is a 1990 graduate of SUNY ESF employed first by Wehran Engineering.
David Buicko - President & CEO, Galesi Group. Buiko is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company's divisions. He is a Director and past Chairman of the Center for Economic Growth, a regional economic development organization, and a member of the Capital Region Leaders' Forum.
John Courain - Director of Operations, Genesee Waterways Center in Rochester. Courain oversees activities for a water sports organization for rowing, rafting, kayaking and canoeing that seeks to increase opportunities for communities to access and engage with waterways.
Marie Cramer - Canal New York board member. Cramer serves in a leadership role for a private-sector organization to promote economic and business development along the state Canal System corridor.
Maureen Doyle - President of Central NY Waterways, of which she has been a member since 2010. Doyle has also worked with the Boating Industries of Upstate New York, Onondaga County Flood Advisory Committee, German American Society of CNY, Cross Lake Seneca River Association (from 1984-2009. Name changed to CNY Waterways, Inc in 2010), as well as the Jordan Fall Festival. CNY Waterways focuses on water levels, flood gate positions, current velocity, aquatic invasive species, blue-green algae toxins, sustainability of fish and wildlife, water quality, all boating entities and waterfront business growth across the Oswego River Drainage Basin which includes the NYS Canal System in Central New York.
Robin Dropkin - Executive Director, Parks and Trails New York. Dropkin leads an organization that works to expand, protect and promote a network of parks, trails and open spaces, including the Erie Canalway Trail.
John Garver - Professor, Geology, Union College. Garver specializes in tectonics, sedimentation, landslides and ice jams, with a specific focus on the Mohawk watershed, where research is directed at understanding hydrology, sediment budget and climate change.
Stuart Gruskin - Chief Conservation and External Affairs Officer, the Nature Conservancy. Gruskin oversees the organization's conservation and policy work in New York. His professional background includes legal, finance, and policy experience in the private and public sectors and specialities in environmental, energy, and economic development policy.
Jill Jedlicka - Executive Director and Waterkeeper, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. Jedlicka has helped secure and implement more than $100 million in investments throughout Western New York that have contributed to the region's waterfront and economic resurgence. Under her leadership, the organization was awarded the North American Riverprize, an international competition for excellence in watershed and river system management.
Robert King - Director, Agriculture and Life Sciences, Monroe Community College. King has also served as the agriculture program leader at Cornell University Cooperative Extension.
Chris Lajewski - Center Director of the Montezuma Audubon Center. Lajewski oversees the Montezuma Center, a conservation hub for the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, a 50,000-acre ecosystem with a unique mosaic of forest, wetland, grassland, open water, agriculture and 300 bird species. He also manages the Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps, an organization of community volunteers seeking to improve wildlife habitats at the Onondaga Lake watershed.
Cornelius (Neil) Murphy - Professor, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Murphy is professor of environmental and sustainable systems. From 2000 to 2013, he was the third President of SUNY-ESF. Previously he was president and chief executive officer of O'Brien & Gere, a large environmental engineering consulting firm based in Syracuse.
Bill Nechamen - Executive Director, New York State Floodplain and Stormwater Managers Association. Nechamen is a certified floodplain manager. He is also principal and owner at Nechamen Consulting, which focusses on training associated with the National Flood Insurance Program, flood resistant building standards and building codes.
Derrick Pratt - Program Director, Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum. Pratt organizes a variety of educational programs for the museum. His previous professional experience is in education.
Bob Radliff - Executive Director, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. Radliff oversees an affiliate of the National Park Service, which works to preserve and share the heritage of the Erie Canal corridor, promote the corridor as a world-class tourism destination and foster vibrant canal communities.
John Robinson - Managing Partner, CEO and Founder, Our Ability. Robinson leads an organization that provides inclusive workforce and employment consulting, mentoring, workshops, keynotes and seminars on disability and diversity.
Bruce Van Hise - Executive Director of the Corn Hill Waterfront & Navigation Foundation, a nonprofit organization that operates the Sam Patch, connecting the Rochester community and visitors from around the world to the Erie Canal and Genesee River through guided boat experiences and innovative educational programs. With more than 30 years of experience in the nonprofit and financial services sectors, he previously served as senior director for Rochester Area Community Foundation and senior vice president for Bank of America's Philanthropic Solutions group, overseeing more than $1 billion in trust and endowment assets.
Jeff Williams - Public Policy Director, New York Farm Bureau. Williams oversees government relationsl and political advocacy campaigns for a public policy organization whose mission is to serve and strengthen agriculture.
David Wolfe - Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University. Wolfe's primary research interests and expertise include soil and water conservation and management; plant stress physiology; and new tools for climate change adaption and mitigation for managed and natural ecosystems.
Basil Seggos - Commissioner, Department of Environmental Conservation. Commissioner Seggos was appointed by then Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2015, leading an agency of nearly 3,000 professionals. As Commissioner, he oversees programs that promote a clean, healthy and accessible environment, including: protecting and restoring New York's air, lands and waters, combating climate change, enforcing State environmental laws and regulations, responding to natural and man-made disasters, and supporting world-class outdoor recreation.
Richard Ball - Commissioner, Department of Agriculture and Markets. Commissioner Ball has served in his current role since 2014. Ball has held a number of positions within agriculture and community organizations at the local, state and national level, including the New York State Vegetable Growers Association, the New York Farm Bureau, the American Farm Bureau and the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce.
Howard Zemsky - President & CEO Empire State Development. Commissioner Zemsky was nominated to serve as President and CEO of Empire State Development and Commissioner of the New York State Department of Economic Development in March 2015. He leads the Governor's decentralized, collaborative and strategic approach to economic development. ESD administers a range of programs, initiatives, incentives and services designed to increase private sector investment and job creation across New York State.
Erik Kulleseid - Commissioner, Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Commissioner Kulleseid was nominated by then Governor Cuomo in January 2019. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President, Parks and Policy Program for the Open Space Institute. He co-founded the Parks Program at OSI in 2010 and secured $30 million to support state park improvements and expand recreational access to parks, including the Jones Beach Revitalization Plan, the Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park and Thacher Park Center.
Brian Stratton - Director, New York State Canal Corporation. Director Stratton was appointed by then Governor Cuomo in April 2011. Prior to joining the Canal Corporation Mr. Stratton was elected Mayor of the City of Schenectady in November of 2003, and re-elected to a second term in 2007. During his tenure, Mayor Stratton successfully corrected the City's severe financial problems, working with local leaders to attract more than $300 million in new private investment.
Rossana Rosado - New York Secretary of State. Secretary Rosado was appointed Secretary of State in February 2016. During her career in editing, publishing and producing, where she was the first woman to serve as an editor and publisher of the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the country, El Diario La Prensa, Secretary Rosado earned a number of awards, including an Emmy, a STAR Award from the NY Women's Agenda, and a Peabody Award for Journalism. Secretary Rosado also served on the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey from 2012 to 2015 and was recently reappointed to that role in 2017.