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For Immediate Release:
December 1, 2020
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Port of Seneca Cruise Terminal Building, funded with a $500,000 DRI grant, Serves as Gateway to Seneca Lake

 Governor Cuomo’s $10 Million DRI Investment in Watkins Glen is Part of a Strategic Goal to Enrich the Community with Key Catalytic Projects

The New York State Department of State today announced the opening of a new Port of Seneca Cruise Terminal building, funded in part with a $500,000 DRI grant administered by Empire State Development as part of Watkins Glen’s $10 million DRI. The new two-story building will serve as the gateway to Seneca Lake and visually anchor downtown Watkins Glen. The project provides additional public amenities and enhances lakefront views, which is expected to increase tourist visits to the downtown.

“Watkins Glen is a community that continues to grow as a destination with new developments and projects,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “As a Downtown Revitalization Initiative Round 2 winner, Watkins Glen is building on its local businesses, cultural institutions, arts scene, parks, wine trails and more. The completion of the new Seneca Cruise Terminal building as part of the DRI will serve as a gateway to Seneca Lake and help to attract more businesses, residents and visitors and increase tourism in the area to strengthen the economy as we work to build back better for the post-pandemic future.”

Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “Thanks to the vision of Governor Cuomo, the Watkins Glen Downtown Revitalization Initiative is infusing new life into the region by creating a new gateway to Seneca Lake for residents and visitors. This new terminal building will help the local economy with its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud of the role that the Department of State has played in this project and look forward to the continued transformation of Watkins Glen.”

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Eric Gertler said, “Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which is truly transforming New York State’s city centers, is creating new opportunity along the Watkins Glen waterfront. Thanks to this targeted investment, Captain Bill’s Seneca Lake Cruises will continue to draw tourists to this beautiful village, as it has for many decades.” 

Located at 1 North Franklin Street in Watkins Glen, the new 5,000-square-foot multi-purpose Port of Seneca Cruise Terminal  building will serve as the ticketing office, event and office space, and retail outlet for Captain Bill’s Seneca Lake Cruises. William Simiele, best known as "Captain Bill," purchased an existing sightseeing boat company on Seneca Lake in 1963 and grew the business to include a sightseeing vessel, dinner vessel, gift shop, and a marina.

The DRI award for this project is $500,000 with a total project cost of $1 million. 

Senator Tom O'Mara said, “I'm proud to play a part in this ongoing state investment in the village of Watkins Glen, through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, that will continue to bring short- and long-term benefits to the village, all of Schuyler County and the entire region.  The new Port of Seneca Cruise Terminal building is a fantastic addition to the waterfront as the gateway to Seneca Lake and a cornerstone of regional tourism.”

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano said, “The Port of Seneca Cruise Terminal building is an exciting and welcome addition to the village of Watkins Glen.  It enhances the waterfront as the gateway to Seneca Lake and it will stand to strengthen regional tourism, the future of the village and all of Schuyler County, and the regional economy as a whole.  These state investments through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative have already made a great difference and will continue to provide benefits for years to come.”

Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk said, “The Village is excited to celebrate the completion of this DRI project. This adds to the enhancement of our downtown and our waterfront while improving the view of Seneca Lake. Thank you to the State of New York for providing the funding for the DRI”.

Wine & Glass Tour, Inc. President Mark Simiele said, “The NYS DRI Grant has offered the ability of Watkins Glen to be transformed in meaningful ways in an effort to further our economic growth.  Captain Bills’ Seneca Lake Cruises is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this transformation.”

Watkins Glen was named a DRI Round 2 winner in 2017. The area selected for revitalization in the Village of Watkins Glen is comprised of the walkable, compact traditional downtown as well as surrounding residential and commercial neighborhoods. There are over 150 businesses as well as a number of residential properties and cultural institutions within the two-square mile area.  Benefitting from local amenities that include the Seneca Lake waterfront, parks, wine trails, a growing art scene, and the internationally-recognized Watkins Glen International, downtown Watkins Glen is ripe for investment. 

The downtown Watkins Glen Strategic Investment Plan is guiding the investment of DRI grant funds in revitalization projects that advance the community's vision for its downtown and that can leverage and expand upon the state's $10 million investment. DRI projects will build upon other recent investments in the downtown and surrounding area, including Watkins Glen International and Watkins Glen State Park, to create a sustainable environment for a year-round innovative and prosperous economy.

About the Downtown Revitalization Initiative  
In 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo launched a major new initiative—the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).  Through the DRI, the Governor moved to aggressively accelerate and expand the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhood to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for investment in all ten regions of the state. The DRI represents an unprecedented and innovative plan-to-act strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation.  

In the first four years of the DRI, the State has committed $400 million to invest in downtowns that are ripe for revitalization and have the potential to become magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation, greater economic and housing diversity, and opportunity. Participating communities are nominated by the state's ten Regional Economic Development Councils based on the downtown's potential for transformation, and each community is awarded $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the community's vision for revitalization. The DRI is chaired by New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. Communities receive support from private sector experts and a team of state agency staff led by the Department of State in close partnership with Empire State Development, and NYS Homes and Community Renewal. Other agencies are also involved in reviewing and implementing projects.