Niagara Bottling Should NOT Be Awarded 10 Years of Tax Abatements

This petition made change with 1,795 supporters!

Governor Andrew Cuomo, State of NY
Kenneth Adams, President of Empire State
Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of SUNY, NY

Donald Katt, President of SUNY Ulster
Kevin Cahill, NYS Assembly District 103
George Amedore, NYS Senate
Michael Hein, Ulster County Executive
James E. Quigley 3rd, Town of Ulster Supervisor
Shayne Gallo, Mayor of the City of Kingston

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo made his first announcement regarding Start-Up NY projects proposed for the SUNY Ulster campus on December 29, 2014.  At that time, Niagara Bottling Company was not approved for Start-Up NY funding. Niagara was also subsequently denied a reported $10.8 million Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) grant.

An article in Country Wisdom News released on February 1, 2015 quotes a spokesperson for the Chazen Companies, Niagara’s engineering consultant for the Town of Ulster site: “Niagara seems to feel this is a good site and one worth fighting for. They came back and asked us to go ahead and prepare scoping documents. After the town approves those, the public comment can begin. It's still early in a long process.”  

Despite the clear public outcry in our region across the political spectrum and the denial of public funding and incentives to date, Niagara indicates that it will continue to “fight” for the Town of Ulster location.  Another announcement regarding Start-Up NY funding for the three remaining SUNY Ulster candidates – including Niagara Bottling Company, is expected in mid-February.  

If the Niagara Bottling Company is awarded public funds or tax abatements, our coalition is currently empowered by thousands of voters – and this number will certainly grow – to fight back.

With this letter, we, the undersigned, demand that Niagara Bottling Company be denied Start-Up NY tax abatements because:

1.     The SEQR Process Should be Completed First. 

2.     Niagara Does Not Meet Start-Up New York Criteria for Local Economy, Sustainability, and Growth Opportunities.

3.     SUNY Ulster Has Not Met Start-Up New York Requirement to Produce Certification from Specific Stakeholders.

4.     Niagara’s business does not meet Start-Up New York Requirements Regarding College Mission.

5.     The Niagara Bottling Plant is Inconsistent with County, Regional, and State Plans to Reduce GHG Emissions and Protect our Water Resources.

6.     Public Incentives for Niagara Bottling Company is Inconsistent with the Economic Development Strategy of the Mid-Hudson Region.

7.     Non-Disclosure to Protect Business Must Not Violate the Public Trust.

Further details:

1.     The SEQR Process Should be Completed First: 
We recommend against the announcement of a Start-Up NY decision on the Niagara/SUNY application at this time, before the myriad complex environmental and community impacts associated with the Niagara Bottling project that is the subject of that application have been identified and assessed as required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Such a decision now could confuse the public and inappropriately influence impartial SEQRA evaluation.

2.     Niagara Does Not Meet Start-Up New York Criteria for Local Economy, Sustainability, and Growth Opportunities:  Start-Up New York requires the sponsoring college to describe in its application how a proposed business would generate positive community and economic benefits, including: diversification of the local economy; environmental sustainability; and opportunities that are a magnet for economic and social growth.  These required criteria are not included in the SUNY Ulster proposal for the Niagara project and we see no way that the Niagara Bottling plant can meet these and other Start-Up New York program criteria.

3.     SUNY Ulster Has Not Met Start-Up New York Requirement to Produce Certification from Specific Stakeholders:   The application review process requires the sponsoring SUNY college to “provide certification of its notification, and any written responses, to the proposal by municipalities surrounding proposed off-campus sites, as well as responses by the college faculty senate, union representatives and the campus student government.”  Although the source of water is from Kingston’s municipal water supply, and that water source is in the Town of Woodstock, these two municipalities were not participants in the notification process and no such documentation was included in SUNY Ulster's 39-page amended plan dated August 29, 2014.  Students and faculty also report having received no such certification.

4.     Niagara’s Business Does Not Meet Start-Up New York Requirements Regarding College Mission:  SUNY Ulster students and faculty have voiced opposition to the Niagara Bottling proposal because the project violates the school's mission - including its pledge to ensure “responsible use of resources.”  SUNY Ulster students and faculty do not want SUNY Ulster education directed to the type and quality of jobs Niagara will offer.  SUNY Ulster President has refused our coalition’s repeated requests to discuss publically the merits of this partnership.  Concerns have been repeatedly raised by SUNY Ulster students, faculty, and other concerned residents, that the Niagara Bottling proposal is not in keeping with SUNY Ulster's community role, or with the requirements for public accountability and transparency.

5.     The Niagara Bottling Plant is Inconsistent with County, Regional, and State Plans to Reduce GHG Emissions and Protect our Water Resources:  The use of publically-financed infrastructure and municipal water supply – a finite resource – for  GHG-intensive manufacturing is inconsistent with the goals set forth in “Ulster Tomorrow,” Ulster County's  sustainable economic development plan adopted in 2007; the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council Plan; and the regional “Cleaner, Greener Communities Sustainability Plan” required by Governor Cuomo. 

6.     Public Incentives for Niagara Bottling Company is Inconsistent with the Economic Development Strategy of the Mid-Hudson Region:  The quality jobs moving regional prosperity forward across the US today are being created by small, innovative, entrepreneurial businesses whose workers are fairly compensated and whose profits re-circulate in the local economy. These jobs are revitalizing older urban cores across the country, expanding the tax base and supporting local infrastructure and services. Niagara Bottling represents an economic development model long out of date: major public investment for exploiting local resources through sprawl development to employ a dwindling number of minimally-compensated workers and generate major corporate wealth that leaves the region.

7.     Non-Disclosure to Protect Business Must Not Violate the Public Trust:  Many, if not all, of the public officials who have a role in the decision to provide Start-Up NY funding to Niagara bottling, as well as many of those responsible for permits and approvals for the project to go forward, have signed “Non-Disclosure Agreements” with Niagara Bottling.  Except where information constitutes a trade secret or confidential commercial and financial information, these NDAs may be inconsistent with the requirements for public accountability and transparency; they have been repeatedly cited as the reason for not providing the public with requested information on the project.  The government has a duty to protect public resources above offering them for private profit.

NY State, Ulster County and SUNY Ulster can do better for the Mid-Hudson Region and its residents. We demand that they do. 

Rebecca Martin
, Executive Director
Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Policy & Planning Advisor

Kitty McCullough
, Economic Development Committee Chair
Rachel Havens, Events and Fundraising Committee Chair
Karin Wolf, Communications
Debra Bresnan, Communications

Woodstock Land Conservancy

Marita Lopez-Mena, Executive Director
Patty Goodwin, President
Kevin Smith, Chairman of the Board
Virginia Luppino, Outreach/Education Coordinator
Eve Fox, Board Member
Michael DeWan, Board Member
Georiga Asher, Board Member
Grace Murphy, Board Member
Hank Starr, Board Member
Nancy Jainchill, Board Member
Jim Tolisano, Board Member

Esopus Creek Conservancy
Leeanne Thornton, Vice President
Mary McNamara, Board Member
Elizabeth Simonson
Cambiz Khosravi
Richard Buck
Terry DaGrosa

Catskill Mountainkeeper
Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL Sr. Research Director

The Wittenberg Center
Reverend Betsy Stang, Founder & Executive Director
Reverend James Davis, Environmental Director
Karin Wolf, Executive Assistant

Neetopk Keetopk
Karin Wolf

Kingston Transition
David Bruner, Core Member
Gai Galitzine, Core Member

Woodstock Transition
Polly Howells, Core Member
Kirk Ritchey, Core Member

SUNY Ulster Environmental Club
Aidan Ferris, President

City of Kingston, NY
Matt Dunn, Ward 1 Councilman and Majority Leader
Deb Brown,  Ward 9 Councilwoman and Minority Leader
Brad Will, Ward 3 Councilman

Town of Woodstock, NY
Jeremy Wilber, Town Supervisor

Red Hook Conservation Advisory Council
Laurie Husted, Chair

Earth Guardians,  New York
Aidan Ferris, Director
Sigi Sage, Co-Director
Aaron Luborsky, Climate Solutionist
Rachel Marco-Havens, Advisor

Mid-Hudson Sierra Club
Joanne Steele, Chair

Slow Food Hudson Valley
Rich Vergilli, Co-Chair
Helen Coyle Bergstein, Co-Chair
Giovanna Righini, Steering Committee Member

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