Finger Lakes Welcome Center opens in Geneva

finger lakes logoA new welcome center has opened on the shores of Seneca Lake in Geneva. It is one of 11 being built across the state.

The Finger Lakes Welcome Center will be operated by New York Kitchen, formerly the New York Wine and Culinary Center, and features a “Wine and Water” theme to promote the world-renowned assets of the Finger Lakes. It will be the first welcome center to sell New York State-made wine, beer and cider at its Taste NY Market.

“The Finger Lakes are one of New York’s greatest treasures, and the new welcome center in Geneva celebrates the region’s rich culture and heritage and encourages visitors to explore the world-class attractions,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “Tourism is vital to regional economies across the state, and our new visitor and spending records are proof positive of the success of our investments.”

In 2017, New York welcomed nearly 244 million visitors who generated $67.7 billion in direct spending, breaking previous tourism records, state officials said this week. Tourism is at the core of the new Finger Lakes Welcome Center, with multiple interactive I Love New York kiosks positioned throughout the facility, allowing visitors to test their knowledge of the region or design a trip itinerary.

The Taste NY Market will offer hot and cold lunch options such as seasonal soups and salads, sandwiches and a kids menu, all made from ingredients and products grown and produced by local farmers. The market also will offer grab-and-go snacks and gifts.

“The new Finger Lakes Welcome Center will serve as a destination for travelers and promote the great local attractions, beverages and food in the region,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “This project continues to move the Finger Lakes forward, strengthening communities and growing the economy in the area.”

An I Love New York sculpture is featured outside the new center and a Walk of Fame recognizes famous New Yorkers from the region. The welcome center has outdoor seating with a view of the lake, as well as a children’s play area.

“Tourism is a vibrant and vital aspect of the economy in Ontario County,” said Jack Marren, chairman of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors and Victor town supervisor. “The center will provide a hospitable welcome to visitors and promote all of the attractions and businesses, products and services in the Finger Lakes for years to come.”

In 2016, the City of Geneva won the state’s first $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant for the Finger Lakes region. One of 10 grants awarded statewide and administered through regional economic development councils, DRI is designed to fund priority projects that transform downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise a family.

Since that win, Geneva has sought to leverage its historic assets and natural resources; support businesses, educational resources and workforce development initiatives; provide a range of services and amenities to its diverse community members; ensure its downtown and waterfront are seamlessly integrated; and serve as stewards of its natural and historic resources.

The new Finger Lakes Welcome Center is one piece of that puzzle.

“The City of Geneva is pleased to be home to the new regional Finger Lakes Welcome Center,” Geneva Mayor Ronald Alcock said in a statement. “I have no doubt that it will serve to attract even more visitors to the region while highlighting the wide range of destinations, products and local businesses that call the Finger Lakes home.”

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Downtowns set to compete for state revitalization funding

A rendering of Batavia's proposed Downtown Public Market structure that is to be part of the city's DRI win. (Provided)
A rendering of Batavia’s proposed Downtown Public Market structure that is to be part of the city’s DRI win. (Provided)

The State of New York has launched the third round of its Downtown Revitalization Initiative, or DRI, investing $100 million in 10 downtown areas across the state.

The annual competition awards $10 million to each of 10 downtowns, chosen by the state’s 10 regional economic development councils. The investment is designed to boost local economies and foster vibrant neighborhoods that offer a higher quality of life in regions statewide.

“We have seen firsthand the excitement and transformative nature of these investments—turning downtowns into economic engines for their communities and beyond,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. “This new round of funding will provide these downtowns new opportunities to rebuild for 21st century needs and foster growth that will be felt across the entire region.”

Now in its third year, DRI will accept applications until June 1 and regional councils will weigh eight criteria to select nominees:
• The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries;
• The municipality, or the downtown’s catchment area, should be of sufficient size to support a vibrant, year-round downtown;
• The downtown is able to capitalize on prior or catalyze future private and public investment in the neighborhood and its surrounding areas;
• There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers downtown, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable;
• The downtown must be an attractive and livable community for diverse populations of all ages, including existing residents, millennials and skilled workers;
• The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes and parking standards, complete streets plans, energy efficient projects, green jobs, and transit-oriented development;
• The municipality should have conducted an open and robust community engagement process resulting in a vision for downtown revitalization and a preliminary list of projects and initiatives that may be included in a DRI strategic investment plan; and
• The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years.

In the Finger Lakes Region, the city of Geneva was the first recipient of the $10 million DRI, while the city of Batavia was the recipient in 2017. Officials did not indicate when the winners would be announced, but last year DRI recipients were announced in October.

Seneca Street in Geneva, where some of the city's revitalization has occurred. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
Seneca Street in Geneva, where some of the city’s revitalization has occurred. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)

“Winning the Downtown Revitalization Initiative has stimulated public infrastructure projects focused on making downtown public spaces and the connection to the lakefront safe, vibrant and lively for residents and visitors,” Geneva Mayor Ron Alcock said. “In addition, property owners are investing further in their buildings and businesses as a result of the DRI. All of the DRI projects contribute towards successfully forwarding our comprehensive plan’s vision of a beautiful, prosperous, equitable, connected and sustainable Geneva.”

In Batavia’s winning proposal, the plan calls for capitalizing on the economic development success the region has experienced in the last decade. The DRI will close project funding gaps, officials said in their proposal, increase project feasibility and provide certainty for private investors to move forward.

“The Downtown Revitalization Initiative has created economic development momentum in Batavia that I have not seen before in my 31-year career with the city,” Batavia Interim City Manager Matt Worth said.

Genesee County Economic Development Center officials on Thursday are planning a walking tour in the Batavia to showcase successful economic development projects, in conjunction with National Economic Development Week May 7 through May 11.

“The Downtown Revitalization Initiative has given communities across the state the opportunity to spearhead local projects that will grow their downtowns and boost the economy,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, chair of the Regional Economic Development Councils. “I’ve visited many cities that were awarded funding as part of Rounds 1 and 2 of the DRI, and they’re moving full speed ahead with exciting plans that will transform their areas.”

As part of the initiative, the state is promoting smart growth strategies and transit-oriented development, which is in increased demand from New Yorkers across the state, Hochul said.

“The investment in Round 3 of the DRI will give even more communities the resources they need to pursue these collaborative and innovative projects,” she added.

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Anonymous tip starts plagiarism investigation of Hobart and William Smith president

The president of Hobart & William Smith Colleges, who has been in office less than a year, is under investigation for alleged plagiarism in his doctoral dissertation.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, an anonymous note making allegations of plagiarism was sent to the colleges, the Chronicle, and the University of Pennsylvania, where Hobart President Gregory J. Vincent earned his doctorate in education.

Thomas Buzzuto, chairman of the HWS Board of Trustees, issued a statement saying, “Hobart and William Smith Colleges are aware of the allegations in the anonymous email and are committed to thoroughly and seriously investigating them. This process to examine the issue fully and fairly has already begun. President Vincent has informed the colleges that he believes the charges are without merit.”

The Chronicle article said its own investigation found two separate sentences in the part of Vincent’s dissertation it examined that were verbatim copies of sentences from a reference book. The passages apparently did not credit the work, “Universities and Their Leadership,” edited by William G. Bowen and Harold T. Shapiro.

Vincent, a native of New York City who graduated from HWS in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in history and economics, is the first alumnus to serve as president of the colleges.  He earned a law degree from Ohio University in 1987 and worked for a time in civil rights litigation in Ohio before seeking a career change. Vincent earned his doctorate in 2004. He returned to HWS after 12 years at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was vice president for diversity and community engagement, W. K. Kellogg professor of community college leadership and professor of law.

A year ago this month, HWS announced its selection of Vincent for the next president. He started work July 17 and was inaugurated Oct. 27.

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Culinary event in Geneva to raise funds for Foodlink

feastA new culinary event in Geneva is expected to raise thousands of dollars for Feeding America’s Finger Lakes and Genesee Valley food bank and regional hub, Foodlink Inc.

The inaugural FEAST—Feeding Everyone at Shared Tables—will benefit the Rochester-based nonprofit that serves 10 counties by distributing food to a network of hundreds of human service agencies. Foodlink last year served more than 1.1 million meals and snacks to children in the region.

FEAST is the brainchild of Three Brothers Wineries and H.J. Stead Co. executive chef Samantha Buyskes. The event will be held at the Cracker Factory on April 24.

“I really wanted to create something unique and special for Geneva,” Buyskes said in a news release. “I’m hoping that celebrating the area’s rich culinary offerings and supporting the great work Foodlink does in our community will be an enticing opportunity for many local foodies.”

Buyskes plans to invite some 20 chefs to the event and hopes to sell 250 tickets. General admission for the event is $35, with VIP tickets, which include a private, pre-event reception, will go for $55.

“We were pleasantly surprised and so grateful that Samantha chose to partner with Foodlink for this amazing event,” Foodlink’s director of development and community engagement Heather Newton said. “Our organization truly understands the power of food, and we hope this event can bring local residents together and become a highlight for the community for years to come.”

A South Africa native, Buyskes opened her first restaurant in Trumansburg, Tompkins County, in 2002. In 2007 she joined Sheldrake Point Vineyard and brought her focus on time and place, seasonality, community and connection there. At Three Brothers Wineries Buyskes oversees the food program for its café and restaurant, H.J. Stead.

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