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Tannersville mayor cheers $10 Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant

 A screenshot from the village of Tannersville's DRI proposal
Hunter Foundation
A screenshot from the village of Tannersville's DRI proposal

The village of Tannersville in Greene County has been awarded $10 million through New York  State Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Community leaders plan to focus the funding on the Painted Village portion of downtown, with a long-term goal of making the village affordable to existing residents while supporting a four-season tourism economy. We spoke with Mayor Lee McGunnigle.

What is the main focus that you'd like to apply the $10 million to?

Well, we do have a housing crisis. And we're going to address that first, that's going to be a big portion of it. And then a new creation of a beautiful outdoor music venue and arts venue, it will be world renowned. And there's a bunch of private investors that are interested. This has been an ongoing process for well over a decade. And we see it coming to fruition. Those are just some of the small items. There were 14 items contained in the DRI, and that's just some of the major projects.

How long had your village been applying for the DRI? I mean, how long had this been in the works?

Well, we have a tremendous relationship and partners with the Hunter Foundation, and all their agents. And we've been working on this, this is the second year that we've applied for this grant. And it's been sponsored by the Hunter Foundation and executed through the village. And the interview process was successfully achieved by my teammates, Executive Director Sean Mahoney from the Hunter Foundation. Dan King, Executive Director of the Royce Family Fund, and myself, so we did it two times in 2019. Obviously, we didn't do it during the COVID year, and then we successfully did it this year and brought it to fruition.

You mentioned that there's a housing crisis. Could you say more about that?

You know, during COVID, it was on some level of silver lining, many people, you know, left the city, moved up to the mountains, for safety, for solitude, for whatever the multiple reasons were. And now people are able to work remotely. So all the housing inventory was bought up, people just bought them sight unseen. There was a big boom, there's a beautiful, actually, it really added to the community, a very diverse community. And now people have decided that, hey, we can work remotely, we can live in this beautiful mountaintop, and you know, perhaps go to Albany two days a week or go to Manhattan two days a week. And it's great his whole, you know, different scenario for our community, on many levels, very positive, but there is zero housing for starter housing, workforce housing. And that's a real issue. With the purchase of Hunter Mountain by Vail Resorts, that also added to that and more influx of management and employees. So employee housing, entry level housing, it's just non-existent.

So how will the DRI work to counter that reality?

It's gonna add a little bit of leverage for outside developers to come in. And just give them a little bit of more incentive. Just call it a little bit leverage for projects. These have a large magnitude so it gives them a little bit of incentive, a little bit of leverage to successfully go into these ventures. You know, we're talking about apartments and starter homes and starter condos. So it's going to be a big outside private investment.

For people who haven't been to your village before. What's it like? Can you describe what downtown's like and how you see this money changing things?

It's a mountaintop community. We’re the gateway to the whole mountaintop, to two major ski resorts and also two major attractions for the state of New York, mainly Catskill falls and north south lake. And I mentioned Hunter mountain and windows, everyone kind of drives through the village of Tannersville to enter into these mountains. These are the Great Northern Catskills, the highest Catskill Mountains. The village itself is at 2,200 feet, so even in mid-summer, it's still cool. It's still beautiful, the fresh air. We're blessed to have an organic farm right on our main street with greenhouses, operates year round, and amazing eateries and shops. And there are still a few distressed buildings that will also be addressed during this DRI with a little bit of leverage for people to come in and do more renovations to the couple of buildings that still need to be renovated. And then it's a quaint village with beautiful health and environment, bike trails, mountain bike trails for all levels, a village lake that has already been going on going big renovation, a skateboard park and modern facilities. And I think people just see how grand it is between the scenic, it’s just spectacular.

What was your reaction when you learned that you had won the grant?

Well, I tell you, I'm still flying pretty high from it. And I always remark about Tannersville being the highest Village in New York, because it is highest incorporated village, it's 2,220 feet. And I'm still, you know, 27 years being in public service. And to have this come to fruition at this point in my life, and many of my children and their friends having their families in the community and staying in the community. I mean, I'm just, I'm walking on a cloud, because it's going to be generational change. $10 million for a small village like ours. And with the influx of these new things that are going to be added to our community, it's going to be a big game changer.

And just lastly, what's the timeline for spending those funds? How long out are we talking about for seeing some of these projects come to fruition?

I think the final planning stages will start right after the New Year. There'll be some Zoom meetings in December, the state has already informed me. I'll be co-chairing a committee that will really drill down into each component, make sure that the business plan is in in line and it makes sense. And then I would assume that'll be implemented within a year or two. We have I know we have people staged for the affordable housing to be ready to move in September of 2022.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.