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Please join Mayor Robert Corby of Pittsford and Assemblymember Carrie Woerner of Round Lake in signing a letter to Gil Quiniones, President of the New York Power Authority and Brian Stratton, Director of the New York State Canal Corporation. As we mark the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Barge Canal, it seems like a remarkably poor time to remove historic resources from the National Historic Landmark NYS Canal System.
Gil C. Quiniones, President
New York Power Authority
123 Main Street
Mail Stop 10 B
White Plains, NY 10601-3170
Brian U. Stratton, Director
New York State Canal Corporation
30 South Pearl St.
Albany NY 12207
Dear Mr. Quiniones and Mr. Stratton:
We write to express our concern regarding the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation’s disposition of historic vessels of the Erie Canal.
We are in the midst of two celebrations: the bicentennial of the beginning of construction of the Erie Canal (1817-1825) and the centennial of the completion of the Barge Canal (1905-1918). The New York State Canal System, designated a National Historic Landmark, notes the importance of the canal fleet and canal vessels to the New York State Canal System.
We maintain that the historic canal fleet is an important element of our Erie Canal history and wish to see this history preserved in context for future generations of New Yorkers. As representatives of communities along the canal, we recognize the significant role this inland waterway plays as a transportation and recreational corridor, as part of our state’s history and as an engine for economic development. In 2015, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor completed a study that demonstrated the corridor generated $307.7 million in economic impact, supported 3,240 jobs and delivered $34.9 million in tax revenue. Our communities are counting on the continued integrity of the canal – including its historic vessels – to leverage future investment.
One such vessel is the National Register-listed Tugboat Urger, which the New York State Canal Corporation refers to as “the flagship of the fleet of vessels … operated on the 524-mile Canal System.” Built in 1901 and purchased for service on the NYS Barge Canal in 1922, Urger is one of the oldest operable tugboats in the country. Urger served as a beloved “teaching tug” and travelling ambassador for the New York State Canal System for 25 years. She provided an authentic experience of New York State’s history and development, not only to school groups, but to our communities along the canal that the U.S. Congress called “America's most iconic, influential and enduring waterway.”
Tug Urger is one of only 27 vessels listed on the National Register in New York State and is listed with statewide historical significance. We support the continued use of Urger on the canal, and believe this vessel would be of better public service as a floating ambassador of the canal than a beached and decommissioned relic at the Lock 13 NYS Thruway Visitor Center.
Further, we understand that the NYS Canal Corporation, under the direction of the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and in partnership with NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, plans to sink up to 30 canal vessels off Long Island to create artificial diving reefs for sport fishing and recreational diving. Initial phases of artificial reef construction occurred without public or stakeholder input and included the sinking of three vessels eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
We ask that the remaining phases of this process be more transparent, and that you work with stakeholders to develop a plan for New York’s fleet of historic canal vessels.
Finally, we urge the NYS Canal Corporation and New York Power Authority to follow the New York State Historic Preservation Act by eliminating any adverse impacts of their planned canal vessel disposition.
As we celebrate two important milestones in the history of the Erie Canal, our cities, counties and districts are working to revitalize our canalside assets. We’re asking for your help in ensuring that the historic vessels of the Erie Canal remain a part of our efforts.
The Role of the Preservation League
The Erie Canal is an engine for recreation and tourism with significant economic benefits for canal communities, businesses, and New York State. The Preservation League has been working for years to help communities in the Erie Canal Corridor address their unique preservation challenges and revitalize canalside assets.
Through more than $600,000 in grants, technical services, workshops, awards and our Industrial Heritage Reuse Project, the Preservation League has helped individuals, not-for-profits and municipalities throughout the canal corridor. Loans from our Endangered Properties Intervention Program (EPIP) have added more than $300,000 in support. Download our 2016-17 Annual Report for more information on the League's investment in canal communities, or visit Protecting the Erie Canal Legacy on our website for a list of projects supported by the League.