SFDC Key Accomplishments in 2020

The SFDC is committed to the ongoing pursuit of economic development for the Town of Seneca Falls. Through an approach that includes branding and marketing initiatives, grant opportunities, commercial development, and the facilitation of public programs and activities, we strive to encourage economic growth, increase visibility, and boost both residential and commercial appeal.

What follows is a summary of key accomplishments over the 2020 calendar year, a year that proved challenging locally, regionally, and nationally due to pandemic guidelines and restrictions. Despite these hurdles, the SFDC was able to stay true to its mission and propel economic development opportunities throughout the year.

You can view/download our accomplishments in PDF format below:

SFDC2020Accomplishments (PDF Document)

2020 Centennial Fountain Dedication in Seneca Falls

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced today the installation of an illuminated fountain on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal in Seneca Falls as part of the state’s programming commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Placed just offshore from where the first Women’s Rights Convention was held in 1848, the fountain is a joint initiative by the New York Power Authority, Canal Corporation and Seneca Falls Development Corporation offering New Yorkers a way to celebrate New York’s role in the suffrage story and our state’s history of bold women visionaries.

As part of the New York State Canal system, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal was integral in not only transporting goods from the Atlantic to Western New York, but in connecting people and fostering the spread of progressive ideals – from women’s rights to abolition.

“It was here in Seneca Falls that New Yorkers came together to demand equal rights for women under the Constitution, drafting their Declaration of Sentiments that solidified the focus of the suffrage movement,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new symbol serves as a tribute to all women who have persevered in the fight for equality; and a reminder to all of us that we still have work to do to fully achieve equality for all.”

On display daily from September 2nd through September 8th, the illuminated fountain will spray water 80 feet into the air over the Cayuga-Seneca Canal and each evening beginning at 8:26 pm, the fountain lights will cycle through the colors of purple, white, and gold to signify the centennial of the 19th Amendment.

“Today we commemorate New York women who challenged their place in society and paved the way for future generations to be active and more equal participants in our democracy,” Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chair of the New York State Women’s Suffrage Commission said.

“The brave suffragists who stood up, spoke out and demanded change made it possible for women to vote and run for office. The actions of these women and countless others are why I am proud to stand here today, representing the great State of New York. As the birthplace of the women’s rights movement, we must uphold their legacy and continue our fight for equal rights and opportunities for all women.”

The fountain features a pump from the largest pump manufacturer in the world—ITT Gould Pumps, founded just months before the first Women’s Convention, and still headquartered in Seneca Falls.

Events and activities highlighting how the state’s canals shaped our nation’s history continue through New York’sReimagine the Canals initiative, a plan to transform the iconic waterway, encourage new visitors to explore recreational and cultural attractions, and improve resilience and economic stability for communities along the entire Canal system.

New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil Quiniones said, “Many of the 19th Century’s most influential social reform movements flourished along the banks of New York’s canals, especially in Central and Western New York. As the stewards of the historic Canal system, we celebrate its role in historical movements, like women’s suffrage, that make us proud to call New York home. We are committed to not only upholding the legacy of our early trailblazers for the rights of women but building on that movement and fostering a more inclusive and just state for everyone.”

Quiniones also highlighted the New York Power Authority’s Women in Power initiative, an employee-led group focused on gender equality, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace—fostering a supportive network for women through mentorship, education, and events, such as an upcoming forum on the progress of women in public service.

Director of the New York State Canal Corporation Brian U. Stratton said, “Today we celebrate the long-standing fight for equality and the beliefs that flourished and flowed along the Cayuga-Seneca Canal to the far reaches of the entire Canal system. At a time when communities across New York State and the nation are again seeking new ways to promote equality and spur change, we are proud to reflect on the storied history of this great waterway, and its role in the long fight for progress.”

Board Chair of the Seneca Falls Development Corporation Joell Murney-Karsten said, “The Seneca Falls community is proud of our rich, empowering history that draws visitors from across the world to come experience this storied place. Today’s dedication celebrates our role in American history, but also inspires us to look forward, to explore new ways to tell our story, and invite new residents and businesses to join us in this beautiful Town along the Canal.”

Seneca Falls Selected as “Canal Staycations” Hub for Free Kayak Rentals

The Seneca Falls Development Corp (SFDC) announced that Seneca Falls has been selected as a launching point for the new Canal Staycations activity program developed by the New York State Canal Corporation.

Designed to help promote canal and trail activity throughout New York State, the program will offer free kayak rentals and outdoor activities through Labor Day. From the Seneca Falls hub, located at the Seneca Falls Recreation Center, families, couples, and individuals will be able to reserve kayaks and paddleboards for use in the Seneca-Cayuga Canal and adjoining Van Cleef Lake free of charge.

“This is a great opportunity for people to get out and explore our community while still practicing social distancing,” shared Joell Murney-Karsten, SFDC Board Chair. “It’s so important to stay active, and this is a fantastic opportunity for residents and visitors that lasts the entire summer.”

In addition to the beautiful sights that will surround paddlers along the way, the SFDC has created a self-guided water tour so kayakers and boaters can learn more about the history that lies beneath the surface. Prior to the intentional flooding in 1915 when New York State modernized and expanded the Barge Canal System, the “Flats” of Seneca Falls, now Van Cleef Lake, was home to more than 175 houses and businesses.

Each paddler will be provided with a tour map that marks the locations of key underwater sites, including the three original falls, the prominent residences, and the dozens of factories and foundries that helped contribute to the industrial ascent of Seneca Falls.


“Designed with the help of local historians, the map will guide people with interesting facts and photos throughout their journey,” said Greg Zellers, SFDC Director. “It was a lot of fun to create and I think it’s going to offer a whole new appreciation for the once-bustling industrial and residential center that now rests beneath the water.”

The launch site for the free kayak program will be at the Seneca Falls Recreation Center boat ramp, which is located in the rear parking lot of the building at 35 Water Street. From there, visitors can paddle along the harbor and into Van Cleef Lake.

“We’re excited to see Seneca Falls once again recognized as a destination for year-round activity and recreation,” said Seneca Falls Town Supervisor, Mike Ferrara, “and this is something visitors and residents alike should take the time to enjoy.”

The free self-guided excursions will be available July 17 – September 7, Fridays through Mondays, with available slot times of 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm. Reservations must be made in advance by calling Fuzzy Guppies at (315) 539-8848. Walk-in rentals are not available and COVID-19 guidelines are in place to maintain safety. Life jackets will be provided free of charge, but visitors are welcome to bring their own.

For more information on the Canal Staycations program and the additional hubs where free activities are available, visit https://canals.ny.gov/canalstaycations.

Seneca Falls DRI Website Launched

To help inform and update the community of Seneca Falls following its recent selection as the $10 million DRI Grant winner for the Finger Lakes region, the Seneca Falls Development Corp has announced the launch of its new DRI website.

By visiting http://senecafallsdri.com, community members can get details about the DRI grant, updated information on DRI progress, answers to frequently asked questions, and subscribe to receive ongoing updates by email.

“The DRI process is going to move quickly in the coming months,” shared SFDC Board Chair, Joell Murney-Karsten, “and we want the community to be as informed as possible throughout each phase as things continue.”

Slated to start in December, community workshops and meetings will be held to gather input and ideas for prospective projects and to discuss funding opportunities. Residents and business owners alike are welcome to attend, and upcoming workshop dates will be posted on the website and published locally.

“This DRI award will have a significant and longstanding impact on the Town of Seneca Falls,” said Greg Zellers, SFDC Director, “and the more educated people are regarding the DRI and its parameters, the more inclusive it will become. Sometimes, coffee shop chats and social media can lead to misinformation, so we invite people to take advantage of this resource. When in doubt…reach out.”

Interested community members are invited to send questions and inquiries via the DRI website, or by sending an email to greg@senecafallsdevcorp.org.

Seneca Falls Announced as $10 Million DRI Winner

The Town of Seneca Falls is the latest recipient of $10 million under New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited Seneca Falls Wednesday morning to make the announcement that Seneca Falls was selected as the Finger Lakes Region’s recipient of the DRI award.

State, county and local officials gathered with Seneca Falls business owners and residents to hear the news at the new site of the National Women’s Hall of Fame. When the announcement was made that Seneca Falls had won $10 million in DRI funding, the crowd erupted with cheers and applause.

“When we gave the Seneca Falls Development Corp (SFDC) the lead in pursuing the DRI, we did so with full confidence,” said Town Supervisor Greg Lazzaro. “We knew our community would be fully represented throughout the application process and this is such an amazing day for the Town of Seneca Falls.”

In late 2017, the SFDC led a renewed charge to pursue the DRI award by holding a series of public workshops and focusing on community collaboration. Coupled with a push to realign the brand and economic development engine of Seneca Falls, the SFDC put several initiatives in motion to better foster regional, State, and commercial interest.

While Seneca Falls was a finalist for the DRI award in 2018, Penn Yann was selected as the region’s winner. Undeterred, the SFDC worked to strengthen their application by securing additional community input and focusing on the enhanced branding and messaging of Seneca Falls.

“One of our key priorities was to better showcase the rich heritage of Seneca Falls while also communicating its promise and potential,” shared Greg Zellers, SFDC Director. “This is why we chose to put forth a homegrown application that was rooted in community collaboration rather than hiring an outside firm. We felt this was the best way to capture and convey the heart and soul of Seneca Falls.”

The first monies allocated through the $10 million award will be $300,000 for initial planning. In the coming months, the SFDC will work alongside State officials to create community workshops and programs where businesses and residents can submit proposed projects for consideration.

The State will ultimately decide which downtown projects are funded, and the SFDC plans a series of community gatherings to explain and help facilitate the DRI process.

“Local business owners and residents provided insight, ideas, and a list of challenges they face,” said Joell Murney-Karsten, SFDC Board Chair, “and we want to continue this kind of community-wide collaboration. Not only for the success of commerce, but to also add quality of life benefits for residents.”

When selected as finalists for the 2019 DRI award, the SFDC was invited to present the merits of the Seneca Falls application before the DRI selection committee. Presenters for Seneca Falls included Doug Avery, Seneca Falls Town Council Member; Bob McKeveny, retired Seneca Falls Central School District Superintendent; Jessica Lorenzetti, teacher, Mynderse Academy; Joell-Murney Karsten, SFDC Board Chair; and Greg Zellers, SFDC Director.

The initial proposed projects for consideration included funding for downtown improvements, repurposing existing structures, adding tourism amenities, expanding cultural arts, small business assistance, extending walking trails, improving parking and walkability, canalside development, streetscape enhancements, and more.

While the DRI is intended to focus on downtown revitalization projects, the award has historically become a catalyst for economic development, commercial interest, and growth beyond the downtown corridor.

“I want to personally acknowledge the team of Greg Zellers and Joell Murney-Karsten who spent hundreds of hours on research and preparation for the DRI push,” added Supervisor Lazzaro. “Their commitment throughout the DRI process helped bring us to this remarkable day, and it’s an accomplishment our entire community shares in.”

Zellers further shared that the DRI award is the culmination of ongoing collaboration among the SFDC, the Town Council, local businesses, and residents.

“It’s been a long and challenging road these past few years as we worked to reposition Seneca Falls for economic revitalization, and this award doesn’t signal the end of that push…it signals the start of a new and exciting narrative for our town.”

To help educate and inform the community, the SFDC has published a DRI portal at http://senecafallsdri.com where community members will be able to view the Seneca Falls DRI application and get updated DRI information and insight.

Questions regarding the DRI and the upcoming process can be forwarded to Greg Zellers, SFDC Director, via email at greg@senecafallsdevcorp.org.

SFDC Hosting DRI Community Workshop

The Seneca Falls Development Corporation (SFDC) is inviting Seneca Falls residents, business owners, and community leaders to a public Community Workshop to discuss and gather potential projects for inclusion in this year’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant application.

The open meeting will take place from 6:00pm-7:00pm on Wednesday, April 8th at the Seneca Falls Community Center, located at 35 Water Street in Seneca Falls.

In 2018, Seneca Falls was selected as a Finalist in the Finger Lakes Region for the $10 million award. Encouraged by the feedback received after last year’s process, the SFDC is looking to continue to involve the community as they prepare the 2019 DRI application.

New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative seeks to “transform communities ripe for development into vibrant neighborhoods where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work, and raise a family.”

“With the DRI’s purpose echoing our Town’s interests,” says SFDC Director, Greg Zellers, “we plan on hosting a series of community workshops to discuss and outline potential DRI-related projects.”

State funding secured through the DRI can be used towards eligible capital projects that have the potential to spark economic vitality and growth in the downtown area. Guided by the framework of the recently-adopted Seneca Falls Economic Development Plan, core project goals may include:

  • Improve Seneca Falls’ downtown as a source of economic growth by expanding current businesses, attracting new businesses, and developing housing opportunities;
  • Retain and attract a diverse group of people of all ages, ethnicities, and incomes;
  • Enhance the quality of life for Seneca Falls residents;
  • Ensure that growth and investment projects align with the Economic Development Plan

“Together, we can work to make Seneca Falls a thriving downtown corridor once again,” added SFDC Board Chair, Joell Murney-Karsten, “and we invite the community to add their ideas, projects, and priorities so we can assemble a master list of projects to consider for inclusion.”

The SFDC has made the DRI Worksheet available online so that interested community members can either come to the meeting with a completed worksheet or send it separately to the SFDC prior to April 30th should they not be able to attend in person. Attendance is not required to submit project ideas for consideration.

Subsequent community workshops will discuss viable project ideas to help narrow the prospective list ahead of the application’s submission.

The DRI worksheet can be viewed, printed, or downloaded at:

To ensure suitable space, those interested in attending the workshop are encouraged to inquire or RSVP via email at greg@senecafallsdevcorp.org or by telephone at (315) 338-4359.

SFDC Hosts New Economic Development Initiative

The Seneca Falls Development Corporation (SFDC) and Generations Bank recently hosted a special presentation by Former State Senator Mike Nozzolio, who introduced a new economic development initiative for the Finger Lakes region.

The initiative, Locate Finger Lakes, is designed to assist and foster collaboration among economic development efforts taking place throughout the Finger Lakes.

At the meeting of the SFDC and community leaders Senator Nozzolio shared an overview of the positive economic health and potential of the region along with a discussion about the comprehensive website that was developed for residents, existing businesses, and potential businesses interested in locating operations and facilities in the Finger Lakes.

In thanking the Seneca Falls Development Corporation and Generations Bank for scheduling the summit meeting, Senator Nozzolio commented “it has been an honor and pleasure to have worked with you individually in the past”, but this is one of the first times we’ve had all the major decision makers for Seneca Falls together in one room.”

He continued that through targeted and proactive marketing communications and networking, Locate Finger Lakes is focused on sharing the assets of our region with local, national and international business leaders.  Communicating the commercial advantages to businesses and our quality of life benefits to attract their families, Locate Finger Lakes is positioned to help the entire region thrive.

With a focus on collaboration, Locate Finger Lakes helps support the work of all Finger Lakes county and city IDA’s, Chambers of Commerce, Workforce Development Boards, tourism boards, 4-year and community colleges, BOCES districts, wine trails and all other business, labor, agricultural, tourism and job-producing organizations.

“There is a revitalized attraction to the Finger Lakes Region for new and expanding business, tourism, and the pursuit of a tranquil lifestyle, so this is the perfect time for Locate Finger Lakes to assist in harnessing that enthusiasm and bring us all together for the collective benefit of the area,” said Joell Murney-Karsten, SFDC Chair. “Regional revitalization and sustainable development will provide the framework for a prosperous future for this area and former Senator Mike Nozzolio is the perfect innovator to lead that charge.”

More information regarding Locate Finger Lakes is available online.  On the website at www.locatefingerlakes.com individuals and business owners can get details on regional advantages and details covering financing, job training, Finger Lakes living, research opportunities, and other aspects related to economic development.

Locate Finger Lakes encourages existing businesses and start-ups to reach out with specific questions or needs by calling (315) 577-3796 or through email at locate@locatefingerlakes.com.

Seneca Falls Selected as a Finalist for $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative Grant

The Seneca Falls Development Corp (SFDC) announced that the Town of Seneca Falls has been selected as a finalist for the Finger Lakes Region’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant.

Today’s announcement follows an 18-month effort by the SFDC to lay a stronger foundation for economic growth, downtown revitalization, and ongoing grant pursuits for the Seneca Falls area.

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council received applications from throughout the region and selected finalists from the pool of submissions. The council will now review the finalists in greater detail before selecting their nominee and submitting it to the State. If the Department of State approves, the winning municipality will receive the $10 million grant.

“Drafting this grant proposal has been the highlight of my time with the SFDC,” said Greg Zellers, SFDC Director, “because it’s the end result of community-wide collaboration and effort to improve the downtown corridors, the quality of life, and the appreciation of place.”

Just some of the proposed projects presented in the plan for consideration included:

• Downtown Parking and Walkability Improvement
• Commercial Building Improvement Program
• Programs to Reduce the Number of Vacant Downtown Parcels
• Sackett Business District Revitalization
• Area Signage Improvement and Additions
• Support for Local Museum Building Improvements
• Funding to support restoration of the proposed site of the Seneca Falls Performing Arts Center
• Completion of the Cayuga-Seneca Trail to connect Seneca Falls with Waterloo and Geneva
• Beautifying the Ludovico Trail
• Community Foundation for Housing and Greenscape Improvement
• Increasing Housing Stock and Affordable Housing Alternatives
• Support for Motorless Canal Activities
• Business Incubator for Entrepreneurs and Start-ups
• Adding an Interactive Seneca Falls Walk of Fame

As in the two years prior, this third round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) will invest $10 million in ten different regions across New York State. The community fortunate enough to be awarded the DRI funds in each region will benefit from a transformed, revitalized, and vibrant downtown area where tomorrow’s workforce will want to live, work and raise families.

The Town of Seneca Falls first applied for a DRI grant in 2016. While not a finalist for the award, the experience provided a goal to work toward, and ultimately became the catalyst for a comprehensive planning process with the 2018 submission at the forefront.

After more than 18 months of collaborative efforts among government officials, residents, organizations, and the business community, the SFDC submitted a refreshed DRI grant application to coincide with the Town’s recently-adopted Economic Development and Revitalization Plan.

“Visitors from all over the world come to Seneca Falls to explore and honor its history, to enjoy year-round fun activities, and to take in our small-town charm,” said Joell Murney-Karsten, SFDC Board Chair. “A vibrant downtown area will not only improve their experience, but also help to revitalize the jewel within the crown of our historic region.”

The proposed DRI area for Seneca Falls is 220 acres in size with a perimeter of approximately three miles. It also encompasses Seneca Falls’ central business district (both the Fall Street corridor and the Sackett District), which includes more than 30 blocks of homes, businesses and historic sites. The entirety of the proposed DRI area is easily walkable for both residents and visitors, which will present a more positive experience as people tour the impending new home of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, which will be located at the site of the former Seneca Knitting Mill.

“The transformation of our proposed DRI area will help attract new businesses and residents to both the downtown area and the surrounding neighborhoods within Seneca Falls,” added Zellers. “As the birthplace of Women’s Rights, our history is one of progress, and if the selection committee embraces our vision, the DRI grant will ensure we have a future to match.”

The winning community won’t be announced until later in the summer, but the SFDC is continuing its push to pursue additional opportunities that can benefit area residents, businesses, and organizations.

“With the foundation we’ve been building the last few years,” said Murney-Karsten, “we’re in a position to properly showcase everything Seneca Falls has to offer. We’ve already seen a number of small wins, and each of these wins act as building blocks that can help us develop a brighter future.”

Seneca Falls Development Corp Awarded Youth Sports Grant

A new program designed to inspire and foster a more active lifestyle in local youth is coming to Seneca Falls.

The Seneca Falls Development Corp (SFDC) was awarded a grant of $5,840 to fund their proposed Team Active8 program. Administered by the Rochester Area Community Foundation via the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund for Youth Sports, 20 projects were funded throughout the Finger Lakes region to help support and strengthen the quality, quantity and accessibility of regional youth sports and recreation programs.

Team Active8 is a free 8-week program for children in grades 3-5 created by SFDC Director, Greg Zellers, to teach children how to stay active even in the absence of organized sports; to demonstrate the power of imagination; and to encourage the inclusion of non-traditional sports and activities in school and community center programming.

Beginning in the Fall of 2018 and repeating in the Spring of 2019, Team Active8 will introduce traditional sport concepts through a series of non-traditional games and fun activities so area youth can sample a diverse range of sports and explore his or her skills without the pressure of athleticism, competition, or peak performance.

Games and activities such as Billiard Soccer Golf, Ice Skating, Scoop Ball, Blind Volleyball, Kids Rule, Noodle Hockey, and Balloonapalooza will be used to encourage active play, increase confidence and motor skills, and foster an interest in ongoing physical activity or even future traditional sports participation.

“Our goal through the program is not to cultivate the next great athlete,” said Zellers, “but rather to boost confidence and inspire activity in kids who may otherwise opt to stay indoors. By offering kid-centric and kid-driven games to Seneca Falls youth, we have a greater chance of securing and maintaining their interest in staying active long term.”

With the number of large playing fields and indoor facilities at a minimum, the Team Active8 program will provide game and activity ideas that can be played without the need for considerable space or a large number of players. Throughout the program, youth will discover that imagination is their most powerful play asset and that they don’t need a formal playing field to stay active.

The five primary goals behind the Team Active8 program include:

  • Helping participants develop a better understanding of traditional sport concepts through the introduction and play of non-traditional games and activities;
  • Inspiring a marked increase in self-confidence, positive identity, and good behavior;
  • Helping the Seneca Falls Community Center determine which non-traditional sports and activities to add to its list of available programs based on the input of participants and parents;
  • Fostering the involvement of disadvantaged youth and those not already engaged in traditional sports, leagues, and travel teams so more Seneca Falls kids become active;
  • Develop a pilot program based on parent, participant, staff, and teacher feedback that can be implemented by school organizations, community centers, and youth clubs across the country while including additional age groups.

“49% of the students where Team Active8 will be offered qualify for free or reduced lunch,” remarked Joell Murney-Karsten, SFDC Board Chair, “and due to financial limitations, a vast majority of these youth aren’t engaged in organized sports, making them less likely to participate in daily physical exercise and activities. Through Team Active8, we hope to change that.”

Team Active8 will be a coordinated effort among the SFDC, the Seneca Falls Central School District, and the Seneca Falls Community Center. Program, activity, and registration details will be available at http://teamactive8.com once the program’s event calendar is completed in August.