Students assess Cuomo’s plan to revitalize Genesee River

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo  launched a proposal to rejuvenate the Genesee River (pictured above). Geneseo students have expressed varied perspectives on the measure regarding its likely economic and environmental impact. (Annalee Bainnson/Photo Editor)

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an initiative that would allocate $50 million in state aid toward development in the Genesee River corridor. 

The “ROC The Riverway” plan includes approximately 30 projects assembled by various institutions from the city of Rochester to local organizations. The initiative is funded through public and private investments, with the goal of creating a more vibrant waterfront to promote local tourism, according to the governor’s press office. 

“Downtown Rochester has experienced a major renaissance in recent years,” Cuomo said in a Feb. 8 statement announcing the initiative. “With this investment to transform the Genesee River waterfront, we help unlock the untapped potential in this region.” 

Co-chairs for the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council Robert Duffy and Anne Kress will be in charge of leading the project’s advisory board. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren will similarly play a significant role in plans for development. 

“Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s support, Rochester will once again unleash the power of the mighty Genesee to create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities for our citizens,” Warren said in the Feb. 8 announcement. 

Investing in the plan, along with prior restructuring initiatives for the Finger Lakes region, are projected to create up to 8,200 new jobs, according to the governor’s office. The redevelopment plan is based on the successful model of Buffalo’s developed waterfront, according to Cuomo’s statement. 

Geneseo students have had a variety of reactions to Cuomo’s development plan in the region.

“I really like the idea of redoing the river,” sophomore biology major Esha Parikh said. “It definitely attracts people, but what I think makes it a good plan is that it is sustainable. They are utilizing the river instead of cutting down trees and building malls.”

Some students applauded Cuomo and the state for focusing on the local economy in the Finger Lakes region. 

“I think Rochester is a city with a lot of potential for tourism, given its location on Lake Ontario,” international relations and geography double major sophomore Max Moritz said. “Development of businesses and restaurants could be very good for the city, given that it is done with environmental sustainability in mind. Along with tourism, these developments would add many jobs to the area.” 

Other students raised questions about what the changes might mean for the local environment surrounding the river, including wildlife. 

“People should have appreciation for nature for just the way that it is,” freshman chemistry major Rachel Arauz said. “If reconstructing the area would attract more people, by all means change it. However, no one ever takes into consideration the wildlife that’s already in the area.” 

Urban development along the waterfront can often cause negative impacts on the local marine habitat. Such human activities can also perpetuate environmental pollution, which threatens the aquatic life in the local region, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 

The total budget for the project has not been set, and there is no specific city commitment according to a Thursday Feb. 8 article from the Democrat and Chronicle.