|Photo: Don Fox|
“This is just a bad idea — the canals are an invaluable resource for New York State in so many ways,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “It is very important that we let the public know how this ill conceived plan will hurt people, businesses and communities.”
The canal system is a symbol of New York’s forward thinking on economic development and innovation. While commercial traffic has diminished since the canal’s heyday, the canal system still drives economic development in waterway communities, especially through tourism and recreation. The layoffs come at a critical time when major storms and flooding continue to threaten communities along the Mohawk Valley. Locks in some parts of the state require hands-on manipulation by skilled workers to control dam movement and regulate water levels. The intricacy of this work should not be underestimated.
Statewide support for strong canals is growing. CSEA released statements from a wide range of individuals, businesses and organizations in support of strong Canal operations. CSEA has also joined a grass-roots coalition effort to stop the cuts, New Yorkers Against Canal Cuts, which has established a petition site to galvanize support.
Among other activities, the coalition will start handing out flyers at the Central New York Boat Show in Syracuse this weekend.
CSEA believes the layoffs are political retaliation because ongoing labor negotiations have not concluded. The fact that management employees and political appointees have been spared from layoffs is further evidence that unionized workers are being targeted in a vindictive action that makes no economic or operational sense. “Governor Cuomo says his administration is about jobs and the economy but putting dedicated workers out of work and undermining the state Thruway and Canal operations is a lousy way to promote a jobs agenda,” Donohue said.
Statements of Support for a Strong New York State Canal System
“I think laying off lock operators will diminish the efficiency of lock operations and it will definitely diminish the recreational experience for both boaters and land side users. The lock operators are the heart and soul of New York State’s Canal System and the Canal Corporation has already drastically reduced its workforce in previous years to about half of what they had at the start of the millennium.”
— Thomas X. Grasso, President, Canal Society of New York State
“We conduct daily tours from Mother’s Day to the end of October. We use the bridges and the locks several times per day. If we cannot, it is going to put us out of business. Millions of dollars have been spent to improve the waterway and build businesses along that corridor. It would be a detriment to one of the greatest resources New York State has. The canal has helped to create and build communities. Our tours are narrated. We educate people about the canal and its history. We carry thousands of schoolchildren on the canal every spring, giving them a first-hand experience.”
Additionally, “The canal employees are very important to us. These people who work the locks and bridges are incredible. They do everything possible to keep things running smoothly and safely. They will also add to the experience for visitors by talking about the locks. We are talking about people who are priceless to the canal system. Someone somewhere has his eyes closed and needs to wake up. The state must not be clear on what this system does in terms of bringing money to the communities along the canals. There is enormous economic benefit. To chop these people and tell them to go home is crazy.”
— Captain Lee Poinan, Colonial Belle Tours, Fairport, NY
CANAL NEW YORK, Marketing and Business Alliance, Inc. encourages the NY State Thruway Authority and the Canal Corporation to maintain full and complete operation of the Canal System throughout the typical season from May 1st to November 1st. This iconic canal system is a significant economic generator as it serves residents of and visitors to the communities along its banks.
The Canalway stretches for a total of 525 miles. It is part of 234 municipalities, six of the 11 current Vacation Regions and six of the Regional Economic Development Councils Estimates are that the system generates over $380 million in spending each year.
— Richard C. Rivers, Chairman, CANAL NEW YORK, Marketing and Business Alliance, Inc.
“Cutting back on services to tourists could not come at a more inopportune time for Lockport. After years of delays, the NYS Canal Corp and the City of Lockport are moving forward with an ambitious plan to restore two original Erie Canal locks to operating condition. The economic impact study associated with this development determined that this change will bring an additional $10 million per year into Lockport businesses as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional sales tax revenue for Niagara County. Let’s hope we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot by not being ready for business once the tourists arrive.”
— Douglas Farley, Director Erie Canal Discovery Center, Lockport, NY
“The efforts made to put the canal on the front-burner and make it part of the economic recovery of upstate are significant. These layoffs would be counterproductive. It will make day-to-day business more difficult for us. It is going to affect the image of the canal, the ability to enjoy the canal, not to mention all the businesses along the canal.
In the bigger picture of revitalizing upstate New York the canal is critical. Marinas, tour boat operators, fishermen, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, shops, and the communities all invest a lot in this canal to have it open. As boat operators we pay leases and permit fees to the canal for the luxury of using it. Anything that takes away from the value will get our attention. We are invested in this canal.”
— Dan Wiles, Mid-Lakes Navigation Co., Skaneateles/Macedon, NY
New York’s canal system and Canalway Trail represent a world-class tourism destination that adds many millions of dollars in spending to the state’s economy while also providing critical public health and quality of life benefits to New York residents. Maintaining skilled, experienced staff is essential to ensuring that these resources are safe and offer an enjoyable experience for local citizens as well as tourists.”
— Robin Dropkin, Executive Director, Parks & Trails New York, Albany, NY
“I would like to comment from my personal experience navigating the entire NY Canal System several times with over 400 lock throughs, and as a USCG Master Captain for Corn Hill Navigation’s tour boats, that the lock tenders are the best goodwill ambassadors NY has, greeting and serving boaters and tourists from around the world. The Canal System is a key to economic development through tourism, recreation and community redevelopment. It is a shame to see the dedicated staff being cut even more. Shouldn’t making New York “open for business” include keeping its canals open for business as well?”
— Captain John Johnston, Corn Hill Navigation, Rochester, NY