CATSKILL — Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. stopped by the Twin Counties on Friday to call on fellow Congressional members to restore funding for land conservation and recreation.
His first stop was HiLo Cafe, 365 Main St., for coffee with Catskill Village President Vincent Seeley. Schumer then took a leisurely stroll down Main Street, accompanied by Seeley, local business owners and the village trustees Stanley Dushane, Joseph Kozloski, Peter Grasse and Greg Smith.
On his tour, Schumer remarked on the changes in Catskill that had taken place in the past 20 years as he bent down to read the menu at New York Restaurant on 353 Main St.
“What a transformation,” Schumer said, looking from the menu to the buildings and businesses on Main Street.
Schumer visited Catskill for the first time in 1999 when he was a newly elected senator. Catskill’s downtown was dying then, he said.
“Many stores were closed,” Schumer said. “There was no life on the street. People sort of felt like the better days of this town were behind us. And look at it now. There is new life. There is excitement. There are new kinds of shops and businesses and enterprises, and the street is beautiful. And you can now say its best days are ahead of it.”
The village is looking to build on the development of Main Street to the waterfront in Catskill, and federal funding could help, Schumer said. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which protects public lands for conservation and recreation, helps state and local communities build parks and recreational facilities and invest in conservation.
Standing in front of Catskill’s waterfront at the corner of Bridge and Water streets, Schumer called on Congress to reauthorize and fully fund upstate New York’s primary source of conservation and recreation funding. Funding expired for the second time in five decades on Sept. 30.
“We need this fund,” Schumer said. “It is important and I am going to use all my clout to get it done. That is what I pledge to the citizens of Catskill here.”
The village enacted a moratorium Sept. 26 on all new construction from West Bridge Street to the Historic Catskill Point for the next six months so that it can give the village time to update its 10-year-old comprehensive plan so the village is more prepared for new development.
There are no plans for Catskill officials to apply for the federal funding at this time, Schumer said.
“To be able to buy land, preserve it and use it, in an economically viable land is the dream of this community,” Schumer said. “They are not ready to apply get but when they do, I will go to bat.”
Seeley said the village is looking at two parcels along the Catskill Creek for development, but declined to identify the parcels because the plan is in the early stages.
“We want to develop the land the right way,” Seeley said.
In the future, the village wants to construct a boat slip near Bridge Street to allow boats to drop off tourists. The federal funds could be used to make that happen, Seeley said.
Catskill Creek connects to the Hudson River and is deep enough for tourist boats, Schumer said.
It’s one of the latest development ideas along the waterfront that started with Crossroads Brewery, which opened at 201 Water St. a year ago.
In its 50-year history, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided financial assistance for more than 40,000 local projects, and provided $3.9 billion to states.
Several of those projects took place in Greene and Columbia counties.
The most recent project in Greene County to be funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund was the Coxsackie Boat Launch rehabilitation project in 1981. More than $24,000 was earmarked for the project, which was completed in 1985.
In 1967 and 1971, more than $600,000 was used to fund North-South Lake Recreation Area and the Long Path, which connects Thatcher State Park to the 175th St. subway station in New York City through the Catskills.
In Columbia County, $5,019 was used to fund the Lake Taghkanic Cottage rehabilitation project; $35,500 was used for the Hudson Bikeway; and $22,575 for a park in Philmont, all in 1977.
Schumer on Friday also fielded questions about the pipe bomb packages sent to outspoken critics of President Donald Trump. A suspect, Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, of Plantation, Fla., was arrested in connection to the bombing campaign, according to the New York Times Wire Service. Schumer, another critic of the president, did not receive any suspicious packages. The arrest took place after his visit to Catskill.
“There is a policeman in front of my house and they are checking my mailbox every day,” Schumer said. “These things are horrible and they should not be politicized. They should just find who did it and punish them. And do everything they can to stop anyone else from doing it.”
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.