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For the history community, one of the most important sources of REDC funding has been the New York State Office of Parks and Historic Preservation. The description of grants opportunities is provided here:

The Environmental Protection Fund Grants Program (EPF) provides matching grants on a competitive basis for the acquisition, planning, and development of parks, historic properties, and heritage areas located within the physical boundaries of the State of New York. Parks is for the acquisition, development and planning of parks and recreational facilities to preserve, rehabilitate or restore lands, waters or structures for park, recreation or conservation purposes and for structural assessments and/or planning for such projects. Historic Preservation is to acquire, improve, protect, preserve, rehabilitate or restore properties listed on the State or National Register of Historic Places and for structural assessments and/or planning for such projects. Heritage Areas is for projects to acquire, preserve, rehabilitate or restore lands, waters or structures identified in the approved management plans for Heritage Areas designated under section 35.03 of the Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law, and for structural assessments or planning for such projects. Up to $19.5 million

As previously noted, NYSOPRHP is primarily a parks oriented organization. Awards related to parks, recreation, and playgrounds are not included in the awards listed below. The secondary status of historic sites also can be seen in the advocacy days. In Historic Preservation advocacy day last month, the “ask” was to maintain the NYSOPRHP staff dedicated to the state and federal historic register programs…but not to the preservation staff at Peebles Island. Similarly on Parks advocacy day (March 4), the emphasis is on the parks and not the historic sites.

With that being said, NYSOPRHP still is a major source of funding for the history community. The 2018 awards in this area are listed here by state region and county. Not all counties have REDC history-related awards. Whether that is because none were submitted or none of the applications were accepted cannot be determined from this list. The awards tend to be site-specific and may be to county, municipal, or private organizations. Ironically, even the Preservation League of New York received an award to help preserve its own office in Albany.

Albany: City of Albany
Lincoln Park Pool Design Project
The City of Albany will design, plan and permit the total replacement of the historic Lincoln Pool. The new pool will bring back to life the City’s 1930 historic resource. This pool is a recreational resource, a historic asset, and an economic driver, not only to the City, but the whole Capital Region.
OPRHP PKS P $262,500

Albany: Preservation League of New York State
Rehabilitation of 44 Central Avenue
The Preservation League of NYS will address structural deterioration, water infiltration, and areas of damaged and missing exterior brick masonry at its historic headquarters building. The work will also include making the first floor meeting space accessible to wheelchairs to allow greater public access.
OPRHP HP D $250,000

Columbia: Village of Chatham
Tracy Memorial Village Hall Roof Restoration
The Village of Chatham will restore and repair the roof and cupola of the Tracy Memorial Village Hall, an archetypal 1913 Classical Revival municipal building, on Main Street.
OPRHP HP D $200,000

Cayuga: Aurora Masonic Center
Aurora Masonic Center Preservation
The Aurora Masonic Center will complete a Historic Structure Report, a Drainage Study, Archeological Survey and develop a Preservation Plan and Architectural Design. The construction phase will preserve and restore the facade of the historic Royal Arch Chapter Hall.
OPRHP HP D $168,525

Cayuga: Cayuga Museum of History and Art
Cayuga Museum Case Laboratory Comprehensive Rehabilitation
The Cayuga Museum of History and Art will conduct structural and archaeological investigations, develop design solutions for two decades of on-site water infiltration issues, and complete construction documents to rehabilitate and mitigate deficiencies at the Case Research Laboratory. This work will address deterioration and safety concerns.
OPRHP HP P $53,700

Livingston: Village of Avon
Five Arch Bridge Restoration
The Village of Avon will complete the stabilization and restoration of the historic Five Arch Bridge in order to prevent further deterioration and allow future generations to enjoy this unique structure.
OPRHP HP D $200,000

Monroe: Village of Fairport
Fairport Bicentennial Canal Gateway Project
The Village of Fairport will create an ADA accessible formalized waterfront park which celebrates the Erie Canal’s and Village’s history and improves water access for all users. The project will enhance the existing docks, kayak launch, and boat ramp along the north bank of the Erie Canal, add comfort amenities and signage, and will improve the safety of Erie Canal Trail bicyclist along Liftbridge Lane West.
OPRHP PKS D $300,000

Ontario: City of Geneva
Parrott Hall Stabilization and Remediation
The City of Geneva, in collaboration with the Parrott Hall Coalition, will perform stabilization, urgent repairs, and remediation of historic Parrott Hall to prevent further deterioration, and to ready the property for complete rehabilitation and reuse.
OPRHP HP D $400,000

Ontario: Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park
Sonnenberg Gardens Visitor Center Phase One
Sonnenberg Gardens, Inc. has secured the property at 145 Charlotte street, part of the original Thompson estate, for a new entrance and visitor center with its nonprofit offices and collection storage. New parking and maintenance facility is part of the proposed phase 1 upgrades.
OPRHP PKS D $500,000

Nassau: Old Westbury Gardens, Inc.
Westbury House Roof Restoration Phase 2
Old Westbury Gardens, Inc. will complete Phase 2 of the roof restoration at Westbury House, the only Collyweston slate roof in the United States, and the terra-cotta cornice ensuring the architectural integrity of the 1906 mansion and eliminating hazardous conditions to visitors and staff.
OPRHP HP D $500,000

Nassau: Roslyn Landmark Society
Roslyn Grist Mill Restoration
The Roslyn Landmark Society will continue the restoration of the Robeson-Williams Grist Mill (Roslyn
Grist Mill) situated in the middle of the Village of Roslyn. Once restored it will provide educational and archival opportunities for the Village of Roslyn and surrounding communities.
OPRHP HP D $500,000

Suffolk: The Caumsett Foundation, Inc.
Park Entrance Improvements
The Caumsett Foundation will improve the primary access to Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve by widening the road and making drainage improvements in order to provide safer two-way traffic as well as a new path for pedestrians and bikes.
OPRHP PKS D $500,000

Dutchess: Bard College
Montgomery Place Mansion Restoration Project
Bard College will restore the integrity and resiliency of the exterior of the Montgomery Place Mansion, a national Historic Landmark.
OPRHP HP D $300,000

Dutchess, Ulster: The Poughkeepsie- Highland Railroad Bridge Company, Inc.
Walkway Over the Hudson’s Lighting Project
The Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge Company, Inc will plan and design sustainable, LED lighting for the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park. This project will increase safety and security measures, the hours the Park is open to the public, and opportunities for nighttime programming. Design will include remote-controlled, color-changing lights, intended to be powered by alternative energy sources.
OPRHP PKS P $100,000

Ulster: Hudson River Maritime Museum
Rondout Riverport Phase 2
The Hudson River Maritime Museum will enhance the visitor experience at the Riverport by making walkway improvements, improving energy efficiencies, adding solar capacity, improving the museum facade, grounds and streetscape and integrating connections to the Kingston Greenline and Empire State Trail.
OPRHP HAS D $430,000

Ulster: Mohonk Preserve, Inc.
Lenape Lane Bridge Replacement
Mohonk Preserve will replace the 92 year-old Lenape Lane Bridge, which is a key historic carriage road connection that crosses Butterville Road in New Paltz located near the base of the Shawangunk Ridge. The bridge is also part of the broader Mohonk Preserve Foothills Project and will complement a new trailhead at the picturesque Testimonial Gateway, providing another much needed access point for the more than 200,000 people who visit the Preserve each year.
OPRHP PKS D $181,500

Westchester: Untermyer Gardens Conservancy, Inc.
Untermyer Gardens Pool Restoration Planning Project
The Untermyer Gardens Conservancy will hire a landscape architect to create design and construction documents for the rehabilitation of the historic pool at Untermyer Park and Gardens as a shallow water-filled reflecting pool. The goal is to leave the existing pool floor and walls in place while the pool is lined and infilled to a reduced depth, a concrete pad poured, and reproduction mosaic tile installed.
OPRHP HP P $50,000

Westchester: Westchester County Playland Carousel Restoration
Westchester County will reconstruct the fire damaged 1928 Carousel building at the National Historic
Landmark Playland Park in Rye. The unique octagonal building with a lamella roof houses the treasured 1915 Grand Carousel, one of only four in existence featuring hand-carved horses and chariots by famed carousel maker Charles Carmel.
OPRHP HP D $450,000

Herkimer: Friends of Historic Herkimer County
Historic Herkimer Jail Preservation Tourism Development Project
Friends of Historic Herkimer County will restore and preserve the deteriorated limestone walls of the original 1834 Herkimer County Jail in Downtown Herkimer. The Project will enable the Friends to open currently closed parts of the Jail for tours and interpretation of the colorful people who spent time “in jail” between the 1830s and 1970s, bringing more tourists and residents to the historic Four Corners in Downtown Herkimer.
OPRHP HP D $239,500

Schoharie: Klinkhart Hall Arts Center, Inc.
Klinkhart Hall Stabilization
Klinkhart Hall Arts Center, Inc. will complete renovations of the Klinkhart Hall building in the Village of Sharon Springs to allow for the reuse of the vacant building which once served the community. The renovation of this historical icon will stimulate the expansion of a growing artistic community and attract tourism to the region. The structure will serve as a gallery, theatre and community center allowing for the expansion of the existing public arts programs.
OPRHP HP D $500,000

New York: Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York Roof Replacement
The Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York will restore its landmark 1898 building by reintroducing slate roofs, rehabilitating flat roofs and drainage systems, conserving masonry wall and roof elements, and reconstructing its tower floor. This project will revitalize architect William Appleton Potter’s masterpiece of Perpendicular Gothic design, thus securing its place as a community anchor on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
OPRHP HP D $500,000

New York: Protestant Episcopal Church of Saint Peter in the City of New York
St. Peter’s Rectory Restoration
The Protestant Episcopal Church of Saint Peter will replace the roof and restore the exterior masonry facades, chimneys and windows of its Rectory, constructed as the original church building built in 1831 on land donated by Clement Clark Moore, the celebrated author of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. The building will continue in use as a community center providing neighborhood services.
OPRHP HP D $500,000

Franklin: Historic Saranac Lake
Trudeau Building Rehabilitation
Historic Saranac Lake will acquire and restore the former home and medical office of Dr. E. L. Trudeau at 118 Main Street, adjacent to the existing Saranac Laboratory Museum. The historic Trudeau Building will open as a museum, allowing the public to experience this important historic space. This project will establish a museum campus next to the Hotel Saranac that will drive arts and culture tourism to the North Country region.
OPRHP HP D $500,000

Jefferson: Jefferson County Historical Society
Paddock Mansion Roof Replacement
The Jefferson County Historical Society will replace the roof on the Paddock to restore the look of the building when it was completed in 1878. OPRHP HP D $500,000

Broome: City of Binghamton
Stone Opera House and Strand Theater Historic Structure Reports
Historic Structure Reports will be prepared for the Strand Theater and Stone Opera House, architectural icons in Binghamton’s historic commercial Downtown core, to help ensure their survival and revitalization, paving the way for reinvestment and generation of economic activity Downtown.
OPRHP HP P $75,000

Broome: Union Presbyterian Church – Riverside Cemetery
Riverside Cemetery Historic Restoration
The Riverside Cemetery, located in Endicott, will restore its historical monuments including monument and foundation restoration of Revolutionary & Civil War era graves, foundation repair of headstones, and repair, repainting and installation of solar lighting at the Veteran’s area flagpole.
OPRHP HP P $52,750

Chemung: American Battlefield Trust
Coldiron Tract at the Newtown Battlefield
American Battlefield Trust will to preserve the 68-acre Coldiron Tract on the Newtown Battlefield, located adjacent to the Newtown Battlefield State Park.
OPRHP HP A $100,000

Tioga: Village of Newark Valley
Municipal Building Window Restoration
The Village of Newark Valley will restore all windows in the Municipal Building. The windows will be removed, restored and reinstalled in fully operable condition.
OPRHP HAS D $100,000

Tompkins: Historic Ithaca, Inc.
Cascadilla Boathouse Restoration
Historic Ithaca, in partnership with the City of Ithaca, will restore the exterior of the Cascadilla Boathouse , a c. 1896 building in Stewart Park, Ithaca, New York to prevent further deterioration. The National Registerlisted boathouse, originally built for that purpose, is still in use today. This project will make the building weathertight and attractive, and restore its Shingle-Style architectural elements.
OPRHP HP D $367,172

Chautauqua: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Bell Tower and Front Porch Stabilization
St. Luke’s Church of Jamestown will complete a stabilization and restoration of two focal elements of its 1894 building, the 95 foot bell tower (containing a full octave carillon) and the gabbled front porch and staircase on Main Street. The completed restoration will preserve a cultural institution open to the community, with a fully water and weatherproof building that removes the potential life safety hazards of key features at the façade of the building.
OPRHP HP D $500,000

Erie: Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition, Inc.
Michigan Street Baptist Church Stabilization
The Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition will address urgent structural deficiencies and crucial systems upgrades of the Historic Michigan Street Baptist Church.
OPRHP HAS D $375,000

Erie: Springville Center for the Arts, Inc.
First Baptist Church Parsonage Acquisition
Springville Center for the Arts will acquire the historic Baptist Parsonage to create permanent artist housing in downtown Springville, reunite all of the properties in the First Baptist Church National Register Listing, and prepare for the restoration of the building.
OPRHP HP A $45,978

Erie: Town of Eden
Bley Street Mill Park Study
The Town of Eden will develop a feasibility study for the preservation and adaptive reuse of Croop’s
Mill on Bley Street along Eighteen Mile Creek. The study aims to identify necessary measures to stabilize the structures, capitalize on its heritage, develop means for access to the Creek, expand economic opportunities through recreation and tourism, and provide an educational connection to agriculture.
OPRHP PKS P $20,000

Niagara: Carousel Society of the Niagara Frontier
Allan Herschell Complex Storage Building
The Carousel Society of the Niagara Frontier will construct a new building on the site of the 1920’s
Storage Building in order to exhibit band organ artifacts. Foundation repairs will also be made to the Children’s Gallery.
OPRHP HAS D $89,743


In December the latest round of Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) awards for 2018 were announced. The event popularly referred to as “Hunger Games” distributes funds to the different regions of the state by category. In this blog, the awards from I LOVE NY are listed in alphabetical order by region and by county within region. The Market New York pool is capped at $15 million. It is defined as follows:

Market New York is a grant program established to strengthen tourism and attract visitors to New York State by promoting destinations, attractions and special events. Funding is available for tourism marketing initiatives, capital/construction projects and the recruitment and/or execution of special events, including meetings, conferences, conventions, festivals, agritourism/craft beverage events, athletic competitions and consumer and industry trade shows.

As always, there is no mention of the Path through History. It is possible that there was a Path-related proposal that simply did not win. As it turns out there is scarcely any mention of history either in any fashion. So despite everything you may hear about New York’s history from government officials, when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, forgetaboutit. On the other, how many history-based applications were submitted in this category? On the other other hand, how many regions support and promote history-related applications anyway. By now, how many history organizations have given up on the REDC process?

Each award includes the applicant, both government and private, the project title, the project description, and the amount of the award. Not all counties had a recipient.


Albany County
Times Union Center Capital Improvements
Albany County will undertake a tourism capital project of the Times Union Center. The project will involve upgrades of seating replacement, locker room renovations and LED expansion to stay competitive in entertainment industry, and continue offering a vast variety of community events.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
Hudson Valley Esports Invitational and Expo
The Hudson Valley Esports Invitational and Expo will make the Capital Region a national destination for up-and-coming professional gamers and solidify the region as a video-gaming hub for developers and players alike.

Albany, Columbia, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady
Albany Symphony Speak Up Festival
The Albany Symphony will present a major national music festival, “Sing Out, Justice!”, and a regional tour of free, outdoor concerts in an uplifting celebration of the Stonewall uprising, 2019 World Pride, and the Women’s Suffrage Movement. The festival will amplify the larger story of New York’s leading role in championing civil liberties from the 19th century to the present.

Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady
GymRat Basketball LLC
GymRat CHALLENGE Sporting Event
GymRat Basketball will use this working capital grant to drive tourism to the GymRat CHALLENGE, by attracting basketball teams, athletes and visitors from outside of New York State to the Capital Region while simultaneously raising awareness of the Capital Region as a major sports event destination.

Basilica Hudson Destination
Expanded Basilica Hudson
Destination Basilica Hudson will host and promote over 35 culutural [sic] programs and events to attract new and repeat visitors, from downstate and beyond NYS, to continue to build interest and visibility for Hudson and the Hudson Valley for visitors from near and far.

South Front Street
Holdings LLC Red Barn Hudson
South Front Street Holdings LLC will create a new destination, RED BARN HUDSON a year round Farm & Flea marketplace, a full-service restaurant + grab & go cafe, a new destination for the Mid-Hudson Region. Showcasing and celebrating the abundant talent of the Hudson Valley, and serving as a gateway to the region, it will be a dynamic, active, year-round creative hub and marketplace.

Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Saratoga Performing Arts Center Multi-Media Marketing Campaign
Saratoga Performing Arts Center will increase cultural tourism to Saratoga Springs and the Captial [sic] Distriction [sic] overall, by creating and executing an integrated marketing campaign (TV, Digital/Social, Print, Outdoor) by promoting it as a world class arts and culture destination to travel decision makers in suburban communities.

City of Auburn
NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center Marketing Plan
The City of Auburn will develop and implement new branding, marketing and destination events for the new NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn. The Center is a heritage-tourism promotion center that communicates the pioneering role that the State has played in the ongoing quest for Equal Rights and acts as a visitor launching pad for visitors to discover Equal Rights attractions throughout New York State.

Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, Oswego
CNY Arts, Inc. Arts Marketing Campaign 2019
CNY Arts will market Central New York’s array of arts, culture, and heritage activities as a strong opportunity for tourists visiting friends and family to create meaningful memories. These funds will be used to support this region’s arts and entertainment collaborative marketing platform that showcases CNY’s arts, entertainment, and cultural events..

New York State Rhythm and Blues Festival Inc
27th New York State Blues Festival
The New York State Rhythm and Blues Festival, Inc. will come alive in June 2019 when local, regional and national blues acts come together for our 27th NY State Blues Festival in Downtown Syracuse. In a real spirit of “community”, volunteers and local/regional companies provide support, offering fans who travel from out of the area a unique travel destination with a weekend full of amazing music.

Genesee Country Village & Museum
Genesee Country Village & Museum Agritourism Marketing
Genesee Country Village & Museum will use the grant funds to increase targeted tourism marketing efforts throughout the Northeast U.S., Canada and select other countries as well as further promote and expand visitor engagement opportunities at three core agritourism programs. These efforts will grow the number of non-local visitors to the site and the Finger Lakes region, producing a broad economic impact.

Rochester Fringe Festival
Downtown Community Interactive Arts Experience
The Rochester Fringe Festival will host and promote the U.S. Premiere of “PEARL” by Plasticiens Volants, a world-renowned company of artists who will tell a spectacular story using giant inflated puppets, unfolding along city streets and culminating in a finale in the heart of Downtown. Rochester Fringe Festival will bring interactive community performing arts to downtown Rochester.

Rochester Fringe Festival Inc.
Downtown Community Interactive Arts Experience
The Rochester Fringe Festival will bring to downtown Rochester two world-class shows created especially for the city, which willl [sic] feature unique settings and local history.
Arts ACIP $28,800

Rochester Museum &Science Center
Strasenburgh Planetarium Star Projector
The Rochester Museum and Science Center will use grant funds to purchase a new star projector for the Strasenburgh Planetarium renovation.

Special Touch Bakery Inc.
Special Touch Bakery Expansion and Outreach
Special Touch Bakery will increase its marketing for their NYS made products and inspire visitation with a feature guideded [sic] factory tour. Additionally, the grant funds will be used co-promote events with regional food and beverage partners further increasing awareness of New York’s Finger Lakes region.

Visit Rochester
Family Market Tourism Campaign Continuation
Visit Rochester will produce a major tourism program to attract families to the Rochester area is expanding this spring. The program, titled “Bring The Family. Closer.” is projected to attract 4,000 families to the Finger Lakes Region over the next two years.

New York Kitchen
New York Kitchen Campus Development
New York Kitchen will use the funds to support needed facility improvements and a new agritourism marketing program both of which will increase visitation to this tourism destination and the overall Finger Lakes Region.

Tough Mudder Inc.
Tough Mudder Long Island 2019
Tough Mudder Inc. will use grant funds to support the production and operations of the “Tough Mudder Long Island” sporting event, an 8-10 mile obstacle course designed to test participants strength, stamina, teamwork, and mental grit and increasing visitation to the Long Island region.

World Surf League
New York Professional Surfing Competition
The World Surf League will use grant funds to promote Long Island and New York State to fans and viewers worldwide, highlighting the region as a world-class family surfing and coastal destination by launching a landmark professional surfing competition.

Nassau, Suffolk
Discover Long Island
Discover Long Island (DLI) International Marketing Initiative
Discover Long Island will be expanding its cooperative partnership with NYC & Co. in Canada and Australia and continuing its promotional efforts in Germany and the United Kingdom. The campaigns will include digital marketing, collateral development, trade show participation and in-market professional contracts and events.

Nassau, Suffolk
LGBT Network Pride on the Beach 2019
LGBT Network will use grant funds to leverage a tourism surge from World Pride, Stonewall 50 through the coordination and marketing of World Pride Long Island, a weeklong series of attractions including its Pride on the Beach weekend & new Pride Week activities. A digital domestic marketing and advertising effort promoting Long Island’s ecotourism and agritourism assets will drive out-of-state LGBT tourism to Long Island.

East End Tourism Alliance
“Seasons of Reasons”- East End of Long Island Tourism Promotions
East End Tourism Alliance will provide common promotional themes for the East End of Long Island, defined and scheduled seasonally, to have a stronger and more consistent regional branding impact on potential visitors. The program will will emphasize promotional themes that work particularly well in the shoulder seasons and outside of peak tourism periods.

Ward Melville Heritage Organization
Celebrating a Legacy: Tourism Marketing Plan
The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization and the Long Island Museum to generate new awareness of Stony Brook Village by attracting visitors to a full, year-long program of activities, including tours of its Revolutionary era assets and themed events highlighting the village’s cultural importance both past and present.

Winship Media
Long Island Wine Country Direct Marketing Tours
Winship Media, together with the Long Island Wine Council, will create a new series of educational tourism activities that will drive new direct sales opportunities for Long Island wineries and help reinforce the state’s efforts to promote its craft beverage industry by increasing the number of well-informed, local product advocates throughout the New York City metro area.

Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, Westchester
Sullivan County Visitors Association
Dove Art Trail Legacy Connector Project
Sullivan County Visitors Association will undertake a marketing project that will link the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival to Mid-Hudson and Catskill Regional tourism experiences through thematic itineraries and travel packages by using multiple modes of transportation as connectors.

Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Ulster, Westchester
Hudson Valley Tourism Inc.
Discover Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley Tourism Region and New York Stewart International Airport have formed a partnership to encourage international and domestic travelers to choose New York and the Region as their travel destination. Through this partnership a comprehensive marketing plan was created including outreach to new international tour operators supported by an aggressive advertising campaign.

City Winery
City Winery Hudson Valley
City Winery is acquiring the historic 22-acre Montgomery Worsted Mills. The first phase of construction on this beautiful 120-year site will be to centralize its national winemaking operations, accompanied by a tasting room and cafe.

Storm King Art Center
Storm King Art Center Marketing Project
Storm King Art Center will develop and implement a marketing project that will highlight new public transportation options for visitors, in an effort to increase visitation in an environmentally friendly and strategic manner. The project will also highlight other regional tourist attractions.

Arrowood Farms
Arrowood Farm Brewery Expansion Project
Arrowood Farms will expand production capacity, reduce product costs, and implement a marketing plan that will bring additional visitors to the farm. This will allow the business to meet increased demand, expand distribution and create new jobs.

Defying Labels: Lyndhurst Marketing Plan
Lyndhurst, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will launch a comprehensive marketing plan to promote the State-funded restoration of its historic lower landscape. Opening events will highlight philanthropist Helen Gould and Madam C. J. Walker’s efforts to empower immigrant women and women of color with economic independence in the early 20th century.

Wolf Conservation Center
Education Pavilion
The Wolf Conservation Center will build a new Education Pavilion, to promote conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment and the human role in protecting their future. The new tourism destination will also offer programs and special events to visitors to the Mid-Hudson Region.

Kids Oneida Inc.
Utica Childrens [sic] Museum ReImagined
Kids Oneida will use the funds to relocate and renovate the Utica Children’s Museum, in order to establish itself as a premier tourist destination, thereby increasing visitation to this tourism attraction and the overall region.

Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute
Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Dreihaus Collection
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute will use grant funds to support an expanded marketing plan for the exhibition of “Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Dreihaus Collection,” on view from June 15, 2019 through September 1, 2019 at MWPAI Museum of Art in Utica.

Fenimore Art Museum
Rock & Roll Icons Exhibition and Celebrity Programming
Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown will use grant funds for strategic branding and marketing initiatives to promote a major rock & roll exhibit, featuring photographic portraits of the biggest rock stars of the 20th century, and to publicize live concerts, film screenings, and talks from music industry insiders, further establishing the museum as a key destination for visitors to Central New York.

Red Shed Brewery
Red Shed Brewery Brew Experience NY
Red Shed Brewery Brew Experience NY will promote tourism and the craft brewing industry in Otsego County through a tap room and kitchen renovation and new concert venue hosting quarterly events. In addition, a week long brew experience will be developed in Cherry Valley, NY to create a destination for visitors to immerse themselves in learning about NY craft brewing.

The Farmers’ Museum
Craft Brewing Exhibition and Signature Event, Hopsego
The Farmers Museum in Cooperstown will utilize grant funds, through a strategic branding and marketing initiative, to publicize a new craft brew-themed exhibit, expand the museum’s signature summer event, Hopsego, and bolster the unique craft brewing and hops programs in its 19th-century historic village, further establishing the museum as a key destination for tourists in Central New York.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame
Top Nine Artifacts to See Program
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will create and promote a ‘Top Nine Artifacts for Your Favorite Team’ marketing program, connecting fans to their favorite team and driving additional visitation to the tourism destination and overall region.

Universal Hip Hop Museum
The Universal Hip Hop Museum/BronxPoint
The Universal Hip Hop Museum will undertake a capital project to build the only state chartered educational museum focused on the preservation of the Hip-Hop culture, located at Bronx Point in the Lower Grand Concourse area and is the cornerstone of scholarly research, preservation and activity for NYC and beyond.

Womens [sic] Housing and Economic Development Corporation
Bronx Music Hall – This is Bronx Music
The Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation will produce the Bronx Music Hall Grand Opening to celebrate the kick-off of the new Bronx Music Hall in the South Bronx. This world-class event will strengthen tourism, attract 600+ visitors, feature at least four highly acclaimed music artists and/or bands, and announce the arrival of the Bronx Music Hall as a new destination for New Yorkers and visitors alike.

Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
Bedford Stuyvesant Tourism Development Plan
Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation seeks to develop the tourism potential of Central Brooklyn, the focus of the project is the creation of a comprehensive Feasibility Study/Tourism Marketing Plan to develop tourism in Central Brooklyn. The project will particularly emphasize music, dance, theater, visual arts and healthy living. In addition, the project calls for the production and enhanced marketing of a couple of high-visibility events – the Restoration Rocks music festival and the Annual 10K Run.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Marketing
Brooklyn Botanic Garden will be completing a decade long series of capital campaign projects, representing the most significant renewal in the Garden’s 108-year history, with enhancements throughout its 52 acres. Brooklyn Botanic Garden will use a tourism marketing campaign to introduce new audiences, regionally, domestically and internationally to a new and improved botanic garden.

New York
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
Children’s Museum of Manhattan: A Durable Tourist Attraction
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan will use the grant funds to assist in restoration of the exterior of a 1903 landmark building to be the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s new home. This will create a structurally stable, watertight envelope, repair façade deterioration, and protect the building from continued damage. The new museum will be a beacon for family tourists and double annual attendance.

Heritage of Pride
World Pride 2019 and Stonewall 50 Marketing Campaign
Heritage of Pride will develop and promote an entire month of programming and events tied to NYC Pride as NYC will be welcoming the world for the first WorldPride to be hosted in the United States to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club
Major Capital Investment Project
La MaMa embarks on a capital investment to renovate a multi-building complex in the East Village. Once completed, the project will enable La MaMa to expand its programs, increase services to the community, improve visitor access & comfort, and bring the aged complex into a new state of being for NY’s last remaining original Off-Off Broadway theatre.

Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
Stonewall 50 and World Pride NYC Marketing Plan
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art will use funds to support the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and World Pride. Leslie-Lohman Museum, the world’s only LGBTQ art museum, presents “Art after Stonewall,” the first major exhibition to examine the impact of the LGBTQ civil rights movement on the art world accompanied by educational experiences and programming that connects the world of LGBTQ art to the residents and visitors of New York.

NewYork [sic] Historical Society
Equality and Justice for All: New Museum Educational Galleries
New-York Historical Society will establish a dedicated gallery space throughout the Museum to exhibitions exploring topics of freedom, race, equality, and civil rights in America. The state-of-the-art galleries will primarily explore the long struggle of African Americans for full rights as citizens with future exhibitions widening the lens to include other marginalized groups.

The Fort Ticonderoga Association
Ticonderoga Marketing
Fort Ticonderoga will use the grant funds to develop and implement a marketing plan to showcase Fort Ticonderoga as a cultural and historical landmark with both world-class collections and exhibits that will bring tourists from all over to the region.

Essex, Franklin
LPEC Quality Destination Inc. Empire State Winter Games
LPEC Quality Destination, Inc. will be hosting the 2019 Empire State Winter Games – Go Global event. In its 39th year, the Games will bring together athletes from across NYS, Northeastern US, Canada, and beyond to compete in over 30 winter sports events.

Adirondack Sky Center
Astroscience Center Tourism Capital and Marketing Project
Adirondack Sky Center will cover partial funding for site preparations and construction work for the AstroScience Center, and tourism marketing and communications, including the Adirondack Sky Festival -a new special annual event celebrating Adirondack Skies, in partnership with The Wild Center.

Pendragon Theatre
Pendragon Theater – Relocation Capital Project
Pendragon Theatre will repurpose a downtown Saranac Lake building to create a state-of-the-art theatre facility on an under-utilized site, providing more activities for tourists and reinforcing downtown redevelopment.

LUMA Projection Arts LLC
LUMA NY Waterways Mist Projection
LUMA Projection Arts LLC will develop and promote “LUMA NY Waterways Mist Projection”, LUMA Projection Arts Festival’s newest feature to hypnotize and inspire the city of Binghamton and increase visitiaton [sic] to the overall Finger Lakes region.

Catskill Revitalization Corporation
Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine at the Delaware and Ulster Railroad
Catskill Revitalization Corporation will present, “Thomas the Tank Engine” at the Delaware and Ulster Railroad (DURR) in Arkville during the summer of 2019. The eight-day, two-weekend long event is expected to attract 10,000 riders in addition to several thousand more people for event-related activities.

Aprile Ventures LLC
Glamping at Watkins Glen
Aprile Ventures LLC will develop a world-class Glamping destination and Craft beverage venue. As part of its innovative multi-regional strategy, the “Glamping at Watkins Glen” project will support tourism, enhance the outdoor experience for visitors and promote awareness of the abundance of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and resources that New York has to offer.

Watkins Glen
International Out-of-State Traveler Campaign 2019
Watkins Glen International will create and promote a marketing plan to attract out-of-state travelers to the Southern Tier’s largest weekend sporting event, NASCAR at The Glen.

Schuyler, Tompkins
Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce
The Apple of Our Eye Elevating the Reputation of New Yorks [sic] Craft Cider
Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce will promote agriculinary tourism experiences year-round with a focus on quality craft cider producers, authentic farm visits and expanding seasonal anchor events like Apple Harvest Festival, Finger Lakes Cider Week, Open Farm Days Weekend and Press Bay Holiday Market with the goal of becoming the Craft Cider Capital of NYS.

The Corning Museum of Glass
Make Your Own Glass (MYOG) Expansion Capital Project
The Corning Museum of Glass will expand The Studio and the Make Your Own Glass workshop, creating the international comprehensive center for artists, students, and visitors working with glass. This will provide an opportunity for The Corning Museum of Glass visitors of all ages and skill levels to have exciting, memorable, new, and unique experiences trying many types of glass working.

Dunkirk Local Development Corporation
Dunkirk Great Lakes Grand Prix Boat Races
The Dunkirk Offshore Grand Prix is a new-to-New York State, internationally televised powerboat race that will bring excitement to the City of Dunkirk on the beautiful shores of Lake Erie. The event will feature racing, live music, food, and more, attracting tens of thousands of visitors to the region and highlighting all of the great things that Western New York has to offer.

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens Facilities Project
The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society, Inc. is a premier cultural destination in
Buffalo’s South Park, engaging visitors with a unique plant collection, educational programs, and stunning landscape and architecture. The Botanical Gardens plans to grow its offerings in a newly constructed facility designed to complement the existing Lord & Burnham-designed Conservatory.

Erie Land Development LLC
Dunkirk Wingate Hotel & Recreation Center
The Dunkirk Wingate and Recreation Center Project will feature a new eighty-three room, nationally branded hotel, restaurant, distillery, beer garden, swimming pool, and outdoor recreation center both facilitating existing tourist experiences and attracting new tourists to Chautauqua County.

Visit Buffalo Niagara
Buffalo Wing Trail Marketing Initiative
Visit Buffalo Niagara’s Buffalo Wing Trail is a guide to twelve of the most iconic bars, taverns and pubs around Buffalo serving the city’s culinary creation. The Buffalo Wing Trail Marketing Initiative will enable this area to implement an integrated marketing campaign to raise the awareness of Buffalo and Western NY’s to foodie travelers.

Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation
From Rivers to Rainbows – WorldPride 2019
Destination Niagara USA and Dutchess Tourism have entered into a partnership with New York City, who is hosting WorldPride June 2019. Grant funds will be used to support a marketing plan with the goal to leverage the momentum of the expected 3 million visitors to the event, inspiring them to explore more of New York State including Dutchess and Niagara counties.

A Rose by Any Other Name Is Still the Tappan Zee Bridge

What can we learn from the controversy over the naming of the Tappan Zee Bridge? What lessons can be drawn by looking at the larger picture? Let’s examine the data and see if we can put the pieces together. Start with the above-the-fold headline in my local paper on August 31, 2018:

Cuomo or Tappan Zee: Names Feed Identity Crisis by Frank Esposito, Rockland/Westchester Journal News

The article recounted the ongoing struggle to preserve the historic name of Tappan Zee Bridge in contrast to the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. The former bridge could be located in one and only one place; the latter bridge could be located anywhere in the state. Confusion continues given the signs to the Tappan Zee Bridge which still exist on the highways and byways, in the internet, and in our minds. The article ends with a reference to the son in the gubernatorial debate when he, too, referred to the Tappan Zee Bridge.

The article on page 3 on the same day is entitled “Cuomo Pressed on Tappan Zee Name, Toll” by Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau. The moderator asked the candidate if he is open to renaming the bridge.

By coincidence, earlier in the same month, Tappan and Rockland County resident Steve Dunlop wrote an opinion piece for the same newspaper entitled ’Tappan Zee’ Played Pivotal Role in American Revolution (8/5/18). Dunlop was referring to the “Tappan Sea Skirmish” using the British name (“zee” suffered the same fate as “New Amsterdam” when the British replaced the Dutch). The skirmishes were on August 3 and 16, 1776, in attacks on the five British frigates anchored near where the current bridge is located. Dunlop declares that the unexpected resistance offered by the Americans served to inspire other Americans along the Hudson Valley and put the British on notice.

Pushing back to June, the headline in the local paper was:

Tappan Zee Bridge Name Supporters Deliver Petitions to Andrew Cuomo (6/7/18). The article also was by Jon Campbell who has chronicled the violation of federal regulations with Cuomo’s I LoveNY highway signs (see below). The article reported the delivery to the Governor’s office by ten members of Save Our Tappan Zee of a two-foot high petition with over 108, 000 signatures asking for the change of the name to the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge.

The previous day an article Tappan Zee Bridge Name Change Awakens a Grassroots Movement that Cuomo Can’t Stop appeared in the local paper by the aforementioned Steve Dunlop. I imagine the title was crafted by the newspaper and not the guest writer. Dunlop described the process of the name change by Cuomo as follows:

The vast majority of New Yorkers don’t pay attention [to Capital politics]. Gov. Andrew Cuomo knows this well. A master of statecraft, he exploited that very somnolence when he snuck the name change at the close of the 2017 legislative session, then stuck it in the session-ending reconciliation session. He did it with no fanfare, and not even a token attempt to muster public support. He did it because he could. And he could because no one was looking.

Dunlop reports on a growing grassroots effort by the history community, especially in Rockland County, to advocate for something specific in Albany. Remember the advocacy motto: No “asks” means “No gets.” Now the history community is asking.

How much of Tappan history do you think the Governor knew before making this change? Do you think when the Governor was contemplating changing the name of Tappan Zee Bridge he ever inquired into the meaning of that name? Do you think he inquired of the New York State historian how it came to be that the bridge had the name that it did? Do you think he inquired of the scholars who have written about the building of the bridge or the development of Rockland County after its completion? Has he documented any connection between his father and the Tappan Zee Bridge sufficient to warrant the name change? Did he do his homework?

By now it is not surprising to realize that our Governor has a sincere but superficial interest in New York State history. Over the years, I have had the unfortunate honor to write numerous blogs about the failure of the once-promising Path through History project. I also had the unfortunate honor to write about the still ongoing violation of federal regulations with the highway signs that included the Path through History. I will not repeat that information here.

But as I tracked the shortcomings in the Path through History project, I wondered if the Path project was unique in this development. Was it a one-of-kind failure or was it symptomatic of multiple programs? Historians know that unique is not a pattern that one should not pass judgment on the whole based on the example of the one.

As I result I began to notice other new programs which had been created recently. I wondered how they were working out. I am not referring to the 80% of life which is showing up, of maintaining the current programs which exist on their own momentum. Instead, I looked to the new and unprecedented to compare their execution with that of the Path through History.

The first new program I noticed was called Start-Up NY. Cuomo launched he program in 2013 effective in 2014. It allows businesses to move into tax-free zones on or near college campuses and pay no taxes for 10 years. Shortly thereafter, I began to notice articles that suggested the Start-Up initiative was an even bigger failure than the Path was. Here are a sample of some headlines from my local papers that I accumulated over the years.

2/6/15 Report: Agency Generates Few Jobs by Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
4/22/15 Facing Criticism, Cuomo Defends Start-Up by Joseph Spector
5/15/15 Jobs Effort That Cuomo Vowed Would Fire Up Economy Is Slow to Take Hold by Susanne Craig and Jesse McKinley (NYT)
5/27/15 Corporate Welfare Fails to Deliver the Jobs: The Sad Case of Start-Up NY
by Lawrence S. Wittner, Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany on Start-Up NY and SUNY. Because the author had been a history professor, the article received some traction in the history community (History News Network).
1/20/17 Cuomo Changes Name and Focus of Jobs Effort by Vivian Yee (NYT)
The article reported that the program that cost nearly $50 million in 2014 to produce 76 jobs and $53 million in 2015 to produce another 332 jobs would henceforth be called Excelsior Business Program. These numbers appeared in other articles as well.
2/2/17 Lawmakers, NY Economic Czar on Job Growth by Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau
Without meaning to, Howard Zemsky, Empire State Development President and CEO, implied that changing the name is a good thing given the previous failure associated with the name by the media.
4/3/17 Start-Up NY created 757 Positions in ’16 by Jon Campbell
5/28/17 How Business “Partnerships” Flopped at America’s Largest University by Lawrence Wittner, writing two years after his earlier foray (History News Network).
8/26/18 Cuomo’s Jobs Record: The Good, Bad, and Ugly by Jon Campbell
Under “The Bad,” the first item is Start-Up NY. No one seems to call it Excelsior Business Program. Changing names is not so easy. The English actually had to conquer New Amsterdam to make that change work!

I do not claim to have made an exhaustive story of the Start-Up NY program. I can say simply as someone trying to be an informed voter, the optics for the Start-Up NY program are pitiful. From an historian perspective, what is interesting is that as with the Path through History, Start-Up NY was a government initiative that comes across as a failure to anyone not dependent on the state government.

With that thought in mind, let’s briefly turn to the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) funding better known as “hunger games” in political circles. In a scathing analysis of its shortcomings and failures by Riley Edwards, research associate at the Citizens Budget Commission, he concludes:

Rather than pursuing headline-grabbing projects in which taxpayers are the ones on the hook when a deal falls through, or providing excessive, narrowly targeted tax breaks, the state should consider approaches that provide more widespread benefit. Investments in infrastructure, workforce development, and higher education, as well as a more competitive tax system, can improve New York’s ability to attract and retain employers.

Along the same lines, Stephanie Miner, Democrat and former Syracuse mayor running for governor as an independent, has called for the state to cease operating a host of economic development efforts. She says, they waste taxpayers dollars and fail to live up to the hype (Former Syracuse Mayor Calls for End of State Economic Development Programs by Tom Precious, Buffalo News, 7/31/18). Miner said the billions of dollars directed to economic development projects for which both Democrats and Republicans take credit should be earmarked for a massive and well-defined infrastructure improvement effort for public transit systems, water and sewer projects, decaying bridges and pothole-strewn roads.  “Government should not be in a position of picking winners and losers,’’ she said of the programs. She highlighted such efforts as the Buffalo Billion, which she said has failed to live up to early job prediction estimates and was the subject of a recent bid-rigging corruption trial that ended up with the conviction of longtime Buffalo businessman Louis Ciminelli and others.

While some of these comments can be attributed to electioneering, the general thrust seems valid. Government should focus on infrastructure and not picking winners and losers. That’s for the market to do. On the other hand, when Cuomo responded by touting his development plans underway at LaGuardia Airport, he did not disclose the name change for the renovated facility.  Once again, as someone seeking to be an informed voter, the optics for “Hunger Games” seem pitiful.

How about those I LoveNY signs? They cost over $8 million much of which went to out-of-state vendors. This government initiative still faces a September 30 deadline for removal. The penalty is $14 million loss in federal highway funding for New York. Three headlines in my local paper tell the story of the Governor’s thinking:

NY’s Plan: Swap I Love NY Signs with Similar One by Jon Campbell (2/15/18)
I Love NY signs likely won’t come down by summer as promised by Jon Campbell (6/6/18)
Millions on Line in Spat over Signs by Chris Carola (8/7/18).

A Governor willing to risk $14 million in funding is not going to be swayed by 108,000 signatures on a petition to change the name of a bridge.

One last headline:

Cuomo Had the MTA Waste $30M on Tunnel Vanity Project by Danielle Furfaro, Lois Weiss and Nolan Hicks (New York Post, 7/22/18).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the cash-strapped MTA to waste as much as $30 million on his latest vanity project — retiling two city tunnels in the state’s blue-and-gold color scheme — instead of using the dough for desperately needed subway repairs, The Post has learned.

The boondoggle began soon after the taxpayer-funded agency ordered white tiles to reline the Brooklyn-Battery and Queens Midtown tunnels after Superstorm Sandy, documents show.

The governor got wind of the plan — and insisted that the cash-strapped transit agency add stripes of blue and gold, thinking nothing of the additional $20 million to $30 million cost, according to sources and project documentation.

Is there a commonality to these government actions?

Instead of considering the Path through History in isolation from the other initiatives…

Instead of considering the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in isolation from the other initiatives…

look at all these other projects together. Maybe it should be no surprise that the Path through History project failed or that vanity trumped history with the renaming of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Advocating for State and Local History: A Regional Case Study

Long Island History (Patchogue-Medford Library)

How should the history community advocate on its behalf? Perhaps instead of focusing at the state level for the advocacy for state and local history, one should think smaller. In this post, I wish to address the recent example by the Long Island history community and to make some suggestions about the next steps. Long Island is a region of millions so it is bigger than most of the other regions in New York State with the exception of New York City. It some ways, it may be considered comparable in size to a state.

A few months ago, an email notice went out announcing the Long Island Historian Summit.


You are cordially invited to a one-day summit of assigned Long Island county, town, city, borough and village historians.

According to the press report on the meeting (see below):

New York law requires that incorporated villages, towns and boroughs have their own historian, said Howard Kroplick, historian for the Town of North Hempstead and an event co-organizer. However, the law does not dictate what kinds of resources those historians should have or how the job should work. According to a survey Kroplick conducted of 22 village and nine town historians, job descriptions and salaries widely range. Most of the historians said they worked part time, and 27 percent never release any kind of report on the work they have done. More than 90 percent of village historians work from home and almost none are paid. Kroplick said his survey also found that the top two concerns among the surveyed historians were saving historic buildings and projects and obtaining funding and resources.

The purpose of the conference was to assist this particular segment of the history community.

This conditional invitation restricted the attendance to these municipal historians in Long Island. The invitation did not extend to the history community at large in Long Island. Other regions in New York have conducted regional history meetings under the rubric of the Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS). My experience with them has been that meetings in the region were open to the general history community and to affiliate members of APHNYS such as myself. There is no right or wrong way to organize such meetings. It is at the discretion of each region. For a first time effort, it was reasonable to restrict the potential audience.

It should be noted that Long Island contains a huge number of villages, towns, and not-so-large cities, and two counties. According to Kroplick, of the 117 municipalities in the two counties, there are 72 appointed historians. The compliance rate with the state regulation is 62% meaning 38% of the municipalities are in violation of the law.

Since Brooklyn and Queens are part of the island, the borough historians were also invited.

The attendance was 65 people. That number far exceeds the regional meetings I have attended elsewhere even when open to the general history community. It was the largest meeting of Long Island historians ever and, according to Devin Lander, New York State historian, likely the largest gathering of local historians at a New York State regional meeting. Kudos to Long Island for showing up in force.


The Long Island Historian Summit, sponsored by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, will be held on Saturday, June 30, 2018 to provide an opportunity to discuss challenges, opportunities and experiences relevant to their positions.

One immediately notices here a critical element in the advocacy process – funding. A local Long Island foundation decided to sponsor the meeting. The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, provides financial support for historical preservation projects around Long Island. It supported a county history class at the Nassau Community College (a class every community college should offer). It funded and helped organize the event. A representative from that foundation is on my email distribution list. A few months ago, I had the chance to meet her at a regional meet-up held at the 9/11 Memorial organized by the Museum Association of New York (MANY). The Foundation definitely is interested in statewide advocacy and has been following the deteriorating situation in New York State. I reported on that subject in a series of blogs written before I attended the recent conference by the Massachusetts History Alliance. As will be seen, there is a lot which can be accomplished at the regional level rather than trying to embrace the state in its entirety.


The speakers and moderators included various government levels and different elements of the history community:

Devin Lander – New York State Historian
Thomas J. Ruller – Assistant Commissioner for Archives and New York State Archivist
The Honorable Peter Fox Cohalon – Suffolk County Historian
Howard Kroplick (Chairperson) – Town Historian of North Hempstead
Zach Studenroth – Village Historian of Southampton
Barbara Russell –Town Historian of Brookhaven
Dr. Georgette Grier-Keys – President, Board of Trustees of Association of Suffolk County Historical Societies.

The program itself besides the presentations by the two state representatives included sessions on

Funding – including preservation, conservation, and humanities
Resources – including archaeology by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, signs by a private funder of history signs, education by the Guilder Lehrman Institute, and preservation.

One key omission in this group was the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) director for Long Island. In New York State, the state is divided into regions which compete for state funding. The process is derisively referred to as “Hunger Games” and its effectiveness as an actual job generator has been questioned. Nonetheless, it is the major game in town for state funding so it behooves the history community to reach out to it even though the odds are it will lead to nothing.


The meeting was covered by Newsday, the leading newspaper in Long Island. Obtaining such publicity was a great achievement. I wonder how many other such regional or state meetings are covered by the media. At minimum, the conference organizers should send press releases announcing the meeting and then reporting on it along with pictures the media can used to disseminate the results. Kudos to the Long Island municipal historians for getting such coverage.


Without intending to, the press coverage highlighted the two divergent approaches taken towards the history community. This dichotomy has been the subject of posts in the past. I have called it the Paul Tonko versus the Andrew Cuomo approaches based on the two politicians, one federal, one state, in New York. By this I mean, the role of history organizations as part of the social fabric, as part of the civic identity of community versus history organizations as economic generators through tourism.

Consider the contrast between these two comments as reported in the Newsday article.

Devin Lander, New York State historian and one of the event’s organizers: “The communities that do well and are drawing those tourists, they’re leaning on their history. It’s very important that we talk about the relevance of what we’re doing.”

Amy Folk, Southold Town historian: “The historian’s job is to look at the past and give context for the present and the future.”  This quotation followed the report by Newsday on the discussions:

Historians also emphasized how to explain the importance of their work to the community — preserving a village’s central historic church, for example, also benefits community services like day care centers and food pantries that use the space, they said.

While I have no objection to cultural heritage tourism, is that really viable for the average community historical society? Think of the planning and effort by the often volunteer staff to handle a school visit by a single class, by an entire grade, by more than 100 people. Do residential communities really want busloads of tourists driving through their communities on a daily basis? Sure the local food places would benefit, but is that the primary function of a municipal historical society – to generate tourism? Municipal historical societies like the local library and the local school or part of the social fabric of the community. The primary responsibility is to develop a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a sense of community, by connecting the residents to the story of the community from Ice Age to Global Warming.

True, this was a conference of municipal historians and not historical societies. However some governments own historical sites and a representative of the historical societies was present at the meeting.


The article concluded with an implication of what’s next.

Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara M. Russell said historical groups can thrive by coming together. Events like Saturday’s summit are key in making those connections happen, especially for smaller groups that can’t afford to make trips to Albany, where state resources are concentrated.

The next step for this convocation is to bring the state capital to the region. This is an election year. Long Island will be electing state legislators and senators. What a perfect opportunity for the history community to advocate on behalf of local and state history. I suspect some of the people attending the conference know their local politicians. Now is the time to arrange meetings with all the major candidates to discuss history concerns on their home turf and not at the state capital. I don’t mean to have a philosophical discussion on the merits of history. I mean to have specific “asks.”  You want this bill to be passed or to be rejected. You want the spending limits for this program to be increased. You want school curriculum to include local history at the elementary, junior, and high school level. Or whatever your agenda is. Now during this election year is the time to act. And when you meet with the candidates, make sure you know the number of people who are members of historical societies in that district. Numbers count.

Finally, you need someone who will lead this effort. This conference was led by Howard Kroplick, historian for the Town of North Hempstead. He comes from the business world and still has his mojo. He is looking to do things. It takes somewhat like that to make things happen. Here is an opportunity for him to take a leadership role in one region and create a template that can be used elsewhere. Here is an opportunity to develop at the regional level an effort which can led to a statewide effort. The history community certainly could use such a jolt.

The Confederacy Trumps New York on Civil Rights Tourism

U.S. Civil Rights Trail

The South shall rise again. What can dysfunctional New York learn from the South on Civil Rights tourism?

By coincidence just prior to the awarding of the grants for 2017, a problem with the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) funding process was exposed in an article in the Travel Section of the Sunday New York Times (12/3/17). The problem directly relates to the shortcomings of the Empire State Development on precisely those two areas near and dear to the history community: funding and history tourism. The article is entitled “New Civil Rights Trails in Both South and North.” It describes the process whereby representatives from southern state tourism departments met two years ago at Georgia State University to begin the creation of what is called the nation’s first civil rights trail.

As part of that process, Lee Sentell, the Alabama state tourism director, noted that while many civil rights sites were thriving they were not connected to each other.

“No one had even done an inventory of civil rights landmarks. They saw themselves as one-offs and didn’t realize they were part of a network.”

If this sounds like exactly what the Underground Railroad sites in New York are going through today, it is because it is. Of course, the same could be said for American Revolution sites in the state, or War of 1812 sites, the Dutch sites, or the immigration sites, or the sites related to any of the themes in the I LoveNY Path through History project.

Faced with this problem of the lack of connectivity, these southern tourist directors then decided to do something about the situation. They collaboratively and cooperatively acted together to promote cultural heritage tourism in the area of civil rights [did we do that?].

1. They drew on research experts at the university [did we do that?].

2. They created a map linking the sites they researched including directions of how to get from one site to another [did we do that?].

3. They planned to officially launch the US Civil Rights Trail on January 1, the anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln [and this in in the Confederacy! Did we publicly launch any individual paths through history?].

Four weeks later the launch date arrived and the trail is now up and running. The southern states chose the motto:

 What happened here changed the world.

4. The website will contain explanations of the importance of each site and feature interviews with relevant people to those sites [did we do that?].

5. The website will explain the connections as one site affects another [imagine knowing how one War of 1812 site relates to another!].

This website allows you to explore the destinations important to the Civil Rights Movement, as well as plan your journey to cities along the trail. On this site, you’ll find places to see and things to do at each destination. Plus, you’ll find in-depth explorations crafted to allow you to experience the destination or event in a more comprehensive way. Discover the trail. Discover the fight for civil rights. And make sure the true stories that changed history are never lost.

Some of these details resemble what the Path through History site does. But see how much more was accomplished in the grouping of sites such as those relating to Martin Luther King, Jr. or Emmett Till. See how the more detailed text provides a more enriching experience. The website is still new and naturally is experiencing growing pains but it is a conceptually more advanced model than New York chose to implement. One might wonder how is it that tourist people were able to develop a more meaningful website than one would expect from tourist experts.

The answer is quite simple. Contributing to this process was the cultural heritage consultant for the state department of economic development [we have marketing consultants but have you ever heard of a cultural heritage consultant or staff person in I LoveNY or the REDC? For a recent article on state spending of ads and to ad firms see $354 Million: How Much NY Spent on Tourism, Business Ads].

In other words, the tourist departments in the south realized that to develop a history-based website, they should consult with experts in history and not just spend money on marketing and advertising companies or erecting signs.

The NYT article did mention Black Heritage Tours in New York. It began operations in 2016. I met founder its Jennifer Tosch once at a presentation through a Dutch consulate program. Her Hudson Valley trip focuses on the Dutch-African experience. There was an I LoveNY familiarization tour for it. According to the website for 2018 there is a two-day tour Feb. 10-11. A full itinerary is not provided and the description of this February program is somewhat questionable:

Experience New York’s Fall Foliage starting in Harlem we’ll travel upstate through the Hudson River Valley to witness the brilliant transformation of the autumn leaves.

I suspect the description from a fall tour in 2017 was carried forward.

Imagine if New York was serious about wanting to promote its story in the Underground Railroad, what would it do? There is a grassroots effort with people like Judy Wellman, an annual conference in the Capital Region led by Paul and Mary Liz Stewart, and cultural heritage tour initiated by Lori Solomon of Akiba Travel. The next Underground Railroad conference will be March 8-10 in Albany but I don’t think tourism is part of the program.

This April will be the two-year anniversary of my post

The Underground Railroad in New York State: Black Lives Still Don’t Matter

The post examined the Freedom Trail established 1997, its defunct commission, and the various weird website links which have cropped up over the years. I ended in my usual delicate and tactful way that has endeared me to government officials:

There is more that could be written about the New York State Freedom Trail/Underground Railroad Heritage trail with its defunct commission, no staff, inadequate websites, and the lack of support for conferences, public forums, and teacher programs [as required by its formation] but the point should be clear. Unfunded, dysfunctional, silo organized history projects are standard operating procedure in New York State. Although black lives don’t matter in New York State history it’s not because the State is racist, it is because the State’s ineptitude occurs on an equal opportunity basis [i.e., all the themes identified in the Path through History].

So what has changed in the nearly two years since then? How come the South can get its act together on civil rights tourism and New York State can’t on any history theme? Perhaps our Governor who wants to be President should travel to the South to learn how state governments can promote cultural heritage tourism and apply that model not just in civil rights but in all the themes of the Path through History and in sites both upstate and downstate. After all, what happened here changed the world.

Save the History Community: Clone Erika Sanger

In recent posts, I have reported on the absence of any private state-wide organization advocating on behalf of the history community.

History Professors Protest for Local and State History

NYSHA Responds to Advocacy for Local and State History Post

The NYSHA Saga Continues: Gone but Not Forgotten

The former New York State History Association (NYSHA) located in Cooperstown has not fulfilled that role. Effectively it is a local farmers’ museum and national art museum. While these two functions are perfectly legitimate ones that focus raises significant critical issues regarding the leadership within the history community in this state…or, more accurately, the absence of any leadership.

Simultaneously with the NYSHA posts, I also introduced the actions of another private state-wide, organization, the Museum Association of New York (MANY) with its executive director Erika Sanger. What follows then is a report of events in the last two weeks contrasting the actions of NYSHA and MANY. The contrast provides insight into what a proposed New York State History Society (NYSHS) should do.


To begin with, MANY sent a query to its members for information about the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) funding process as it relates to the New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA). The request was in preparation for testimony Erika was to give before the Committee on Tourism at its budget hearing on December 5. That request led to a response by Rosa Fox, the municipal historian for the Town of Huron who also is responsible for three buildings. That response generated a new post, not directly about NYSHA but related.

Before turning to the results of the query, let’s examine the difference between NYSHA and MANY.

1. MANY is a membership organization with museums from around the state (including zoos, aquariums, art museums, and science museums, as well as history organizations; NYSHA is not.

2. MANY has a full-time person dedicated to state-wide issues; NYSHA does not.

3. MANY testifies to the legislature and Regents on statewide issues; NYSHA does not.

4. MANY solicits the opinion of the state-wide community; NYSHA does not.

So regardless of the particular details of the December 5 testimony, one can immediately differentiate the two organizations and decide what one would like the NYSHS to do if it existed.

The results of Erika’s survey have been circulated through the MANY distribution network so it is not necessary for me to repeat them here. I will just note a response of 89 organizations of various sizes, budgets and regions in the state. Many organizations were not familiar with the REDC process in general or found it daunting to apply. That process itself was the subject of a recent post about “Hunger Games” the apparently routine nick name in Albany for REDC funding.


The awards for 2017 were just announced last week. As has become my custom, the grants will be analyzed in a series of posts as they relate to the history community. As also expected the phrase “Path through History” does not appear anywhere in the report. In the responses to MANY, the 35% of the organizations that did seek REDC funding reported on all the categories they used and not just NYSCA. These funding sources included:

Art and Culture Initiative
Arts and Culture Facilities Capital Grant program
Historic Preservation and Recreational Trails.
Market New York (I LoveNY)

One should note that NYSOPRHP is a well-established source of funding for the history community and that the NYS Museum has zero funding in the current arrangement. I will be reporting on these grants in the new year with one exception.

MANY was the recipient of an award. It issued the following notice:

MANY is thrilled to announce that we received our first Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) grant for Administrative Workforce Expansion! We would like to thank Governor Cuomo and the members of the Capital Region Economic Development Council for their support of the Museum Association of New York and the New York State museum field.  

The grant will allow MANY to hire a Marketing and Social Media Coordinator to manage digital marketing and communications, enrich our service to the field, promote professional development programs, share funding opportunities, and improve economic stability in New York’s cultural sector.

Thanks to everyone who signed our letter of support and congratulations to all the organizations who received support. You can find the full list of grant awards here.

In this notice, one observes pluses and minuses of the program. First, MANY is to be congratulated. Second, one notices that even though it is a state-wide organization, it was obligated to apply through the Capital Region since it is located in Troy. The current setup means that even if NYSHA had sought any funding it would have had to have done so through the Mohawk Valley region. Remember there is a Mohawk Valley region in REDC funding but not in I LoveNY or the Path through History. This application process highlights the hunger games competition among the regions with no provision for state-wide organizations.


Wait, there’s more from MANY. The organization has been active with the Museum Education Act. During this busy past week, it sent out the following notice:

Dear Friends, Colleagues, and MANY Members,

On Tuesday, the New York State Board of Regents unanimously endorsed the $1.6 billion state aid proposal along with their 2018 budget and legislative priorities. We are thrilled to report that for the first time ever the Regents designated the Museum Education Act as a budget priority and proposed $5 million to fund it.

Under their state budget priorities, the Regents describe this new program as:

Expanding Access to Education Programs through Cultural Institutions – Support the Museum Education Act and establish competitive grants to support cultural institutions that seek to establish or improve museum education programs designed to improve and support student learning opportunities, including supporting the development of local curricular aids.

And if this action was not sufficiently awesome on its own, the State Education Department released a video on today of Commissioner MaryEllen Elia’s statement about how increasing equity has been the driving force behind everything SED does. In talking about equity, the Commissioner specifically mentions passing the Museum Education Act and linking museum education programs with pre k -12 schools to enable students to learn from the museums’ “incredible collections”.

We are grateful to Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Roger Tilles, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, Executive Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin and Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Education Mark Schaming for their support of museums in New York. 

But, we’re not quite home yet. To get these bills passed in the upcoming legislative session will require your help.  We will soon be sending out new tools to help you call and meet with your legislators. We will also be selecting dates for you to join us in Albany to advocate for passage of the Museum Education Act.


Again let’s look at what Erika has been up to as executive director for MANY.

1. Testifying before both the Regents and the Legislature.

2. Getting $5 million approved as a budget it (that’s real money!)

3. Calling on members to advocate with their own legislators apparently both locally and at the state capital.

It should be noted also that MANY has retained a lobbyist and has re-instituted the practice of conference calls for its members with the lobbyist for updates on the world of politics in Albany.

In short, Erika and MANY are doing on behalf of the museum community what nobody is doing on behalf of the history community. Is there more that needs to be done even within the museum community? Definitely, but at least someone is trying. Should there be a NYSHS based in the capital region acting on behalf of the history community as MANY is for the museum community. Definitely. Will there be? What does it take to make it happen?

REDC: Funding “Hunger Games” Where History Is the Loser

Goshen Legoland (photo by Legoland)

Over the years, I have reported on the funding available to the history community through the REDC process. Recently, I have had cause to review that pitiful process. The impetus for this review was an eblast from Erika Sanger, Executive Director, Museum Association of New York (MANY) on November 29. I posted that notice on November 30 at the conclusion of the response from Paul D’Ambrosio, President and CEO of the Fenimore Art Museum and Farmers’ Museum to an earlier post on NYSHA.  Erika  testified on December 5 at the New York State Assembly’s Standing Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts, and Sports Development’s Annual Budget Oversight Hearing of the 2017-2018 State Budget. The purpose of this hearing is to review the impact and effectiveness of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) grants awarded throughout the State and arts projects funded by NYSCA. She asks for comments about the funding.

Rosa Fox, the municipal historian for Huron sent Erika an email response with a copy to me and gave me permission to incorporate it into a post. I first met Rosa at the new municipal historians session of the annual conference of the Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS), my favorite session at the conference. Putting aside all the details of how she became the historian, once she was appointed she learned that she also had three buildings/museums to maintain. Here is her reply to the MANY request for comment:

 Good Morning Erika,

This morning I replied to the survey you are using to help build your testimony for next week’s Budget Oversight Committee. So glad to know you are doing this and that you have reached out to us – in the field – to inquire as to our experiences/thoughts. Thank you!

I am a very very small town municipal historian. You may not even have heard of Huron, NY.  The town is located in Wayne County (Upstate – about half way between Rochester and Syracuse).  Huron has no village – just lots of rolling apple orchards. We are well known for Chimney Bluffs State Park. Huron also has Lake Ontario as its northern border and is blessed with three embayments that provide plentiful recreation during all seasons – as long as the water levels are sensible. That is another story. 

I started the historian gig in 2015 – about six months after I retired from 35 years of teaching – middle school band. In addition to the role of historian, I found myself in charge of three historic buildings. One of the buildings functions as archives and museum. The other two are historic buildings that are open several times a year for public visitation – an 1871 schoolhouse and a grange building. 

In the first couple years of my role as town historian, I attended the REDC-CFA meetings in Rochester with great hopes of applying for a grant to assist with the restoration of our historic grange building that was beginning to fall into disrepair. The entire REDC-CFA process was so discouraging and unattainable, I decided to forget about REDC-CFA. The grange building projects are being broken down into small – bite-sized pieces the town can handle. With the help of smaller, local, less cumbersome grant assistance and local donors, we will probably have the restoration completed by about 2030 or so. 

In my written reply on your survey, I commented that the REDC-CFA process appears to be geared for more populated communities. I know of very few communities in Wayne County that have benefited from REDC-CFA monies. I have spoken with a number of local historians and others – and they are all very discouraged by the process. I have also heard this same sentiment at out APHNYS conferences. Peter Feinman has also written a number of very eloquent articles that I have found express my sentiment about the whole REDC charade. I’m sure you are familiar with Peter’s writings [Erika is.]. If you are not, please let me know and I would be happy to send you some links. 

I am of the opinion that if anything positive can be done for small town museums, parks, arts organizations, historians, etc – it would be to get back to the decentralized grant process that was in place twenty years ago. I had written several successful grants for our community at that time, and also served on the grant review panel for the Wayne County Arts Council.

That process brought people – with common goals together. It was grass roots. It provided funds to small communities for activities and projects they could not otherwise afford. Because the funds were of smaller amounts – generally everyone who applied got something. We always had a grants reception for the grantees. That was a great way for people to network and learn about each other’s communities and projects, and get ideas for their community for future years. The arts thrived during the decentralized granting period. 

Erica, please feel free to quote, share, do whatever you like with this letter. You may or may not agree with my thoughts about REDC. You may be able to show this small town historian who has three historic buildings to oversee that the REDC-CFA process is more attainable that she thinks. If you can – hallelujah. 

In closing, thank you again for reaching out to us for our thoughts and experiences. Good luck next week. Look forward to reading about your testimony and experience before the panel.


Rosa Fox
Town of Huron Historian

In my opinion, Rosa speaks not just for the Wayne County history community but for the overwhelming majority of municipal historians and historical societies who are shut out from the REDC process and no longer have Member Items to help them on a small scale.

Development Money, in Cuomo Era, Is Disbursed With Dazzle

This issue was the subject on an article on December 11, 2015 in the New York Times by Jesse McKinley with the titleDevelopment Money, in Cuomo Era, Is Disbursed With Dazzle.” In the article, the competition among the regions for funding by the regions was compared to the competition to live among the regions in the movie “The Hunger Games.”

In January, Mr. Cuomo added a wrinkle to the format, dangling over the seven upstate regions an additional $1.5 billion in funding, to be disbursed over five years. The catch: Only three regions would win, each getting $500 million. (Three regions, including New York City, were not eligible.)

The plan drew quick and snarky comparisons to “The Hunger Games,” the dystopian thriller in which different regions submit their best and brightest progeny to the Capitol, culminating with the victors’ being celebrated by a television host.

The comparison was apt enough to inspire numerous Twitter posts with the hashtag #nyhungergames, as well as doctored images of Mr. Cuomo as a stand-in for President Snow, the villain of “The Hunger Games.” Such critiques were circulated by groups like Reclaim New York, which criticized the plan on Thursday as a “game-show approach to economic development” and “a disturbing and offensive example of government propaganda.”

Far be it from me to compare Albany to Hollywood. Wait a minute, considering the sex scandals may be the comparison isn’t so far-fetched.

The topic was the subject of a more recent article on June 7th of this year apparently by Gannett but appearing in a number of publications:

Transparency, accountability at issue in handling billions of taxpayer dollars

New York’s 10 regional councils have designated more than $4.4 billion to 5,300 projects since they were launched in 2011. But the money is largely void of benchmarks and job-creation goals, limiting the public’s ability to objectively determine whether the dollars have been well spent, a review of data and documents by the USA Today Network in New York found.

Are the taxpayers of New York getting their bang for their buck? As one investigates the process, one observes how irrelevant the history community is to it.

Critics say the process lacks openness and is ripe for conflicts because top leaders in the region often sit on the boards where grants can go to their own entities. That criticism has grown in the state Legislature, where lawmakers this year are proposing to tighten oversight of the boards and create new standards under which they operate. “We are talking about transparency. We are talking about accountability. And at the moment, we have neither,” Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, D-Mount Pleasant, Westchester County, said.

The awards are commonly referred to as the “Hunger Games” because they pit each region of New York against one another for a pot of roughly $750 million a year.

Sometimes people are under the misperception that the REDC funding represents new funding be provided through the leadership of our Cuomo. That is only partially true.

Each year, the councils award about $750 million in aid to the 10 councils. The majority — $530 million — is not new money, but the same state aid previously doled out by governors, state agencies and lawmakers. The other $220 million is the “new money” each year allocated through Empire State Development, the state’s economic-development arm.

What’s changed is not the allocation of funds by NYSCA and NYSOPRHP to the history community but the format through which one applies for the funds. As previously reported the New York State Museum has no funding pool and I LoveNY which does, doesn’t fund projects in the history community.

The problems identified in the 2017 article mirror those in 2015:

But there is no audit or independent evaluation of their effectiveness. And the state does not have a current accounting of jobs created or retained, nor of the money spent…. As part of this year’s state budget, Empire State Development was tasked with creating an annual, comprehensive economic-development report on the state’s 30-plus job-creation programs.

Better late than never.

USA Today Network decided to take matters into its own hands. It created its own database with help from the Buffalo-based Investigative Post, ProPublica and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The results should not be surprising to anyone with even a vague awareness of politics. Big rewards went to companies or colleges whose leaders sat on the very councils making decisions on the applications to be approved including Corning Enterprises, Binghamton University, the University of Rochester, Marist College and Stony Brook University. Corning, a recent host of both the APHNYS and MANY state conferences, with $40,000,000 was the recipient of the largest single award.

Some efforts are underway so revise the process. The Finger Lakes council revamped how it prioritizes projects. An evaluation team that reads and scores each application has been broadened to include greater geographic diversity. Ethics and conflict of interest guidelines now are being reviewed at the start of every meeting. And, beginning in May, those meetings are being video recorded and posted online. If the goal is to bring together the leaders of the community as Howard Zemsky, who heads Empire State Development, claims, will the inclusion also include the cultural heritage community and the place of non-recreational tourism?

The article concludes with a reference to tourism in my own region, the Mid-Hudson Valley. The article began with tourism in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Tourism does not mean river cruises although practically every major river in the world has river cruises and tourism began here with these cruises in the 1820s. Tourism does not mean the American Revolution although Washington spent more time in New York especially the Hudson Valley than in any other state during the war. Tourism does not mean the Dutch although there now are direct flights from Europe to Newburgh in the Hudson Valley. Tourism also does not mean immigrants, slavery or any of the other themes in the Path through History. Instead tourism means Legoland, the Rockland County reject now moving ahead in Orange County. And even assuming Legoland succeeds in drawing people from outside the region to Goshen, what else will the people do who have driven there? As even the representative Legoland said at the Tourism Advisory Council, now is the time to start planning. Is there are funding to do so?

Is there a place for the history community in the REDC funding process? So far the answer is “no.” And what about for non-tourism related projects like education, community and civics, or replacing a roof? Will anything change in the next funding cycle?


The Battle for New York State History: Representative Paul Tonko versus Governor Andy Cuomo

The State of New York State History

On April 12, 2015, Representative Paul Tonko received the Legislative Leadership Award from the Museum Association of New York (MANY). He was a co-winner with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of the inaugural award by MANY.  The award recognizes exemplary leadership in support of museums and cultural institutions in the state. These two elected officials were cited for their work in Congress in support of funding the Office of Museum Services within the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Representative Tonko appeared in person in Corning to receive the award at the annual MANY conference. During the reception in the glass-blowing exhibit area, he spoke to the attendees. Unfortunately, I took no notes and did not record what he said. In general terms, I was impressed with what he had to say, with his vocabulary and choice of words on behalf of local and state history. As I recall, he never once mentioned them in conjunction with economic development or job creation. It was all about the civic and social importance of local history in the community.

On April 2, 2017, Representative Tonko was present in Saratoga Springs at the MANY conference when Regent Roger Tilles was the award winner. As a member of the Culture sub-committee, Tilles deals directly with the state Archives, Library, and Museum. He received the award due to work in support of the Museum Education Act. During the reception, Tonko addressed the audience. This time I paid more attention to his words. At times he seemed to be channeling my blog. I do not know him and I doubt he has read them, nonetheless one couldn’t help but wish when it comes to local and state history that he was governor. He is well aware of the of the importance of a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a sense of community and the importance of local history to the social fabric and civic health of a municipality. Once again, there was no mention of economic development or job creation as primary responsibilities of local and state history organizations.

It is hard to imagine Governor Cuomo ever winning the MANY Legislative Leadership award unless it was a crass political move as a quid pro quo in his quest to be President. Let’s look at some of the key actions which have occurred during his tenure.

1. Member items have been eliminated. Given the chronic corruption in the state government, one might easily applaud this attempt to rein in the endemic misuse and abuse of taxpayer money. Unfortunately, the action threw out the baby with the bathwater. Many small non-profits seeking comparatively small sums of funding turned to their local legislator and/or senator (as I did) for support. Larger scale funding often was a bureaucratic challenge. Starlyn D’Angelo, executive director Albany Shaker Heritage Society and current MANY Board of Director, raised this very point at the History Roundtable chaired by State Legislator Steve Englebright on May 29, 2014 with Regent Tilles in attendance (see Report from the NYS History Commission Roundtable). It was Devin Lander’s last day as a legislative aide before becoming executive director of MANY, his position before becoming State Historian.  While there is some funding in Republican Senate districts as Fort Niagara availed itself of, there is no state-wide mechanism to address the small-scale needs of the history community (see January History News).

2. REDC funding has now begun a new cycle of funding application for the 2017 awards. To some extent, the funding simply includes the types of funding that history organizations directly applied to NYSOPRHP and NYSAC for in the past. In general terms the local history organization has no place in this process. The Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC) are interested in economic development and job development. Imagine if the local library had to request funding based on those standards…or the police department!

The game is rigged against the history community. At the recent MANY conference, Ross Levi, Marketing Initiatives for Empire State Development for I Love New York and the public face of the Path through History, spoke in the “Partnerships for Progress: Museums and Tourism” session.  The theme of the session was the ways in which museums and cultural institutions can partner with I Love New York to promote their organizations. I will more to say about this in future posts taking into account the Tourism Advocacy Council, the plenary address at MANY, and related materials.

In the meantime, I wish to report on a question asked from the audience to Ross about the local tourism representation. At the second Women’s Suffrage conference last October 7, (see Women’s Suffrage Centennial), Rick Newman, Seneca County TPA, distributed a list of the Tourism Promotion Agency (TPA) from every county. By law, I Love New York works through these agencies and not directly with local history organizations. Ross suggested that the local history organizations contact the TPA in their county. These TPAs could be an advocate for the history community in the REDC funding process.

I take Ross at his word. While I do not know him well, I think he genuinely believed what he was saying was sound advice with real world application. Here we have a classic example of the disconnect between the Albany-Manhattan bubble and that real world. While I can only comment anecdotally, I have heard multiple incidents from people in the history community about TPAs who don’t give them the time of day. TPAs are interested in wineries, recreational tourism, and sites that bring head to beds. TPAs often are non-government organizations, that is, chambers of commerce, working to do what is best for its members. The members rarely are small non-profit history organizations and are even if they were or became members, they are not likely to carry much weight. There is nothing wrong with Chambers of Commerce actively promoting economic development, but once again it means the history community is left high and dry with nowhere to turn in the funding process.

3. Speaking of nowhere to turn, let’s turn to the great failure itself, the Path through History. It will celebrate its fifth anniversary on August 28, 2017. What does it have to show for itself? I attended the kickoff meeting for the HV region on January 25, 2013 (see A Fork in the Road on the Path through History).  Of the ten regions originally created and recipients of $100,000 grants from the State, how many of those regions are still functioning? If they are functioning, what do they do? If they aren’t functioning, what replaced them? Was there ever any additional funding?

Historic sites are ranked by revenue/budget for tourist purposes. Within the Hudson Valley region where I live, there are five over the $1,000,000 threshold I Love New York uses to calculate the crown jewels for tourism. I don’t know what they are in this region but some possibilities include Historic Hudson Valley (multiple sites including Kykuit), Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt library and homes run by the National Park Service and National Archives, and the Culinary Institute. Approximately 70% of the organizations in the region are under $50,000 in revenue meaning they are below the radar where anyone in the state gives a dam about them.

In my blog after the initial meeting, I recommended that the $100,000 be used to hire people who would create paths. Years later, I recommended that there be funding through the REDC process to hire PATHFINDERS who would create the paths that the TPAs and I Love New York would promote (see Create Pathfinders in Your Region). One region tried and it was rejected – there is no place for cooperation and collaboration no matter what jargon terms are used at conferences and meetings. Once again the history community is left high and dry.

As it turns out there are people at the grassroots level who can and have created paths through history. Generally these are conjunction with a conference. I will be writing about these examples in a future post. Of course, these are created without state support or promotion.

The cost to New York State of the failure to respect the Tonko model is enormous if difficult to quantify. The stakes for the country are even larger. It goes to the heart of what it means to be an American and resident of one’s community. In a recent op-ed piece entitled “America’s Political Disunion” by Robert P. Jones (NYT 5/2/17), he cited British writer G. K. Chesterton’s observation after he had visited the United States that unlike European countries we did not rely on ethnic kinship or cultural character to create a shared identity. People of any race, any ethnicity, any religion can and have been American. Once upon a time in New York, German Palatines, the English, the Dutch, the French both Huguenots and Catholics, Scotch-Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics, were people of different “nations” and types. Today they are all Americans and lumped together as white. And anyone who thinks all the Haudenosaunee nations live together in a two-dimensional kumbaya relationship as one Native American people should think again or think for the first time.

We are a storytelling species. We’ve lost that story feeling. We’ve lost the narrative. Can we tell a shared story of our history at the national level, at the state level, at the community level? Can we tell a narrative that unites us around a common multigenerational project that gives an overarching sense of meaning and purpose to our history? What is our shared narrative in our community? What is our shared narrative in our state? What is our shared narrative as Americans?

For most of the past 400 years, America did have an overarching story. It was the Exodus story.

The Puritans came to this continent and felt they were escaping the bondage of Egypt and building a new Jerusalem….

During the revolution, the founding fathers had that fierce urgency too and drew just as heavily on the Exodus story….

Frederick Douglas embraced the Exodus too….

The successive immigrant groups saw themselves performing an exodus to a promised land…

In the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders drew on the Exodus more than any other story (David Brooks, “The Unifying American Story, NYT 3/21/17).

There is a unity in the story from long ago in lands far far away to boldly going where no one has gone before.  There are stories to be told in every community throughout the land from Ice Age to Global Warming about the people who lived there and the people who do live there. There are stories to be told about how all the different peoples of the Mohawk Valley became part of We the People. There are stories to be told about how all the peoples who arrived at Castle Garden became part of We the People. There are stories to be told about how all the peoples who arrived at Ellis Island became part of We the People. There are stories to be told about how all the people who arrived at JFK Airport became part of We the People.

There are stories to be told if We the People are to survive as a nation, to long endure, to not become Syria, to not become Yugoslavia, to not become Iraq. We don’t even celebrate the birthday of our state or the anniversary of when we constituted ourselves as New Yorkers.

Brooks ends his op-ed piece with a call to leadership for We the People.

What’s needed is an act of imagination, someone who can tell us what our goal is, and offer an ideal vision of what the country and the world should be.

Neither of the candidates provided such a vision in 2016. They didn’t even try. Will anything be different in the 2020 rematch? Maybe Tonko should run for president instead of Cuomo.


History Anniversary Funding

Lockport Erie Canal Locks

There is always an anniversary somewhere. For the state, three come to mind now: the Women’s Suffrage Centennial, World War I Centennial, and the Erie Canal Bicentennial. State funding for anniversaries has been problematic over the years to be polite about it. Each time has been an exercise in reinventing the wheel, seeking out legislative support, lobbying for a pittance, and constantly laboring to scrounge up funds for a threadbare program.

The REDC funding process does not address this problem. There is no history bucket for applicants. No anniversary bucket. The logical source for such funding would be through the State Historian’s Office, a position which has been degraded in recent years and is now making a bit of comeback. A serious problem is that the state historian along with the museum, archives, and library, are all under the jurisdiction of the Board of Regents and therefore not directly under the control of the Governor. The REDC funding buckets are. Could the Governor extend the REDC funding to include them? Could the Regents establish their own funding mechanism to compensate for this shortcoming? Even if they could, who is going to ask them?

In the meantime, the New York Canal System operates independently and does provide funding through the REDC applications. In this post, I examine how it distributes its funds and comment on the lessons to be learned through this anomalous source of history anniversary funding by the State.

Canalway Matching Grant Program (Canals) – up to $1,000,000

The Canalway Grants Program is a competitive matching grant program available to eligible municipalities and 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations along the New York State Canal System. Funding is for capital projects that enhance economic and community development along the canal corridor and are consistent with the goals of the Regional Economic Development Council Plans.

Notice that the description specifically identifies capital projects as being within its purview. As will be seen, awards also can be for marketing and/or developing history-related programs. Below are all of the awards granted by the New York State Canal System in county order.


City of Cohoes Cohoes Visitor Center
This project will create an engaging Canal exhibit for the Cohoes Visitor’s Center in time for the Erie Canal bicentennial celebration and will feature a model lock and other model machines. The project is part of a larger revitalization effort to support tourism in Cohoes.
Amount: $62,000

This award easily could be part of Marketing NY. One would think all visitor center funding for history exhibits could be done through I LoveNY or through the State Historian.

Erie Canalway Heritage Fund Inc.
Matton Shipyard Structural Preservation Initiative
This project will stabilize three original buildings at the Matton Shipyard in Cohoes at the junction of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers.
Amount: $148,000 in addition to $182,936 from Marketing New York for an Erie Canal Waterway Trail

In this instance, the applicant was able to leverage funding from two sources, one a capital improvement and the other a tourist award. But as Cohoes shows, the waterway trail could have been funded through New York State Canal System.  Here is an example of where knowing how the system works pays off.


Canal Society of New York State
Erie Canal Bicentennial Exhibition Collaboration
This grant will fund a joint collaboration with the NYS Canal Society and the Erie Canal Museum to do state-wide outreach for the Erie Canal bicentennial through the design and fabrication format that will be utilized throughout the eight years of the bicentennial.
Amount: $39,000

Clearly this award is an anniversary one. One may anticipate eight years of such awards to the applicant. The issue is not the legitimacy of the award but the structure through which history anniversary awards are awarded. Undoubtedly, Women’s Suffrage Centennial which will extend through 2020 would love to have such a secure source of funding.


Lockport Locks Heritage District Corporation
Lock Tender Tribute
This grant will fund updates and improvements to the Erie Canal Museum, located at the base of the Flight of Five locks.
Amount: $85,000

Here we see a new wrinkle in the funding process: capital improvement awards based on the historical sector. Imagine a scenario where American Revolution sites applied for funding to one source while immigration museums and municipal historical societies applied to two additional funders. Again, the issues not the merit of any individual application but the dysfunctional structure without a clear source for history organizations.


Rome Area Chamber of Commerce
Rome Canal Bicentennial Program
This grant will fund a series of art and culture events to promote the Erie Canal bicentennial in the City of Rome.
Amount: $97,000

The awards of the New York State Council on the Arts but one may observe the overlapping jurisdictions.


Madison County Signage Plan for the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park
This project will develop and install wayfinding signage within the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, which spans three counties (Onondaga, Madison, and Oneida) and contains the longest and one of the only remaining portions of the original Erie Canal system.
Amount: $30,000


City of Schenectady
Mohawk Harbor Visitor Center and Large Vessel Dockage
This project will include the construction of a walking trail, visitor’s center with public restrooms and approximately 75 feet of large vessel dockage space.
Amount: $150,000


National Womens Hall of Fame
Center for Great Women
This project is phase three of a project that will transform the empty Seneca Knitting Mill into the Center for Great Women – the headquarters of the National Woman’s Hall of Fame. Work will include demolition, construction, interior build-out and site work of the first floor of the Mill, creating 4,200 square feet of habitable space for exhibits.
Amount: $125,000 in addition to the $250,000 from Marketing New York

Obviously this award is a bit of a surprise. Who would expect a grant to renovate a knitting mill into a woman’s hall of fame in the canals category?  And this ignores the additional two grants for another $800,000 from two other funding sources. The four awards refer to “rehabilitation,” “demolition,” “transform” and 4200 square feet of exhibit space. Again the merit of the award is not the issue. Since none of the four awards even mention suffrage, I will address the suffrage awards regardless of funding source in another post.


Corning Museum of Glass
New York Waterways GlassBarge
This grant will fund the Corning Museum of Glass’ project to install a mobile glass blowing studio on a Canal barge to provide demonstrations to the general public at waterfront locations along New York’s
Amount: $144,000 in addition to $57,830 from Marketing New York


Wayne County
Canal Trail Lock 26 Pedestrian Bridge redecking
This grant will provide funding for materials and installation of a former railroad bridge in Wayne County in order to remove the biggest off-road obstacle to extending the Erie Canalway Trail to connect with Seneca and Cayuga Counties.
Amount: $120,000

As one surveys the awards in this category, one observes the lack of clarification in the scope of each funding agent. It would be very easy to move awards from one category into another one. In a sense that is what happens as applicants from around the state and in different regions seek to identify the most likely source for approval of their request. Once again, the merits of individual applications are not the issue. Imagine if all the history-related awards were grouped together and under a single source. Now imagine a request for that exact sum of money which has been awarded through scattered funding sources was now under the label of history funding. The outcry would be ferocious. Instead we make do a procrustean bed funding process.


I picked the etching because I preferred its historical look to a photograph of the canal today. The drawing comes from  ClipArt ETC.  The source is Benson John Lossing, ed. Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History (vol. 3) (New York, NY: Harper and Brothers, 1912). It looks like it is a drawing of the locks at Lockport. For a photograph, see Low Bridge Productions.

Funding A History Passport Program

Passports are an underutilized resource for promoting tourism and community identity. While I have been a strong advocate for the creation and use of passports at the local, county, and regional basis for schools and tourism, I only now have realized the potential funding opportunity with the latest round of funding through the Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC).

This epiphany began at the annual conference of the Association of Public Historians in New York State in Corning in April. On the display table there was a pile of Adirondack Coast Cultural Alliance passports. Continue reading “Funding A History Passport Program”