Catskill Watershed Corporation bristles at Eldridge over comments

Former congressional hopeful Sean Eldridge has drawn the ire of the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) with his comments about economic development in the New York City watershed.

Eldridge, a Democrat, lost the race for New York State's 19th Congressional District to Republican incumbent Chris Gibson on Nov. 4. 

Before the election, Eldridge gave an interview to the Watershed Post where he discussed the importance of lending money to small businesses in the Catskills.

Eldridge owns an investment firm called Hudson River Ventures, which gives loans to small businesses, including several in the Catskills. 

Eldridge singled out the CWC for criticism regarding economic development, saying that it was "sitting on the resources."

"When I talk to small businesses throughout the district, the issue of access to capital continues to be a big concern," Eldridge said. "One of the things that I've heard is that [the CWC has] trouble sourcing projects."

On Nov. 5, the day after the election, the CWC's executive director, Alan Rosa, sent the former Democratic candidate a letter regarding "inaccuracies" in his comments.

Rosa noted that the CWC can only give monies from its Catskill Fund for the Future to towns that are located inside the New York City watershed. He also said that the CWC has tried to collaborate with Eldridge's investment company, "but to no avail."

The CWC's full letter to Eldridge is below.

November 5, 2014

Dear Mr. Eldridge:

The Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) Board of Directors read with interest your interview at Several of your responses contained inaccuracies regarding CWC and the New York City Watershed. The CWC Board of Directors instructed me to provide this response to you and after the close of the election polls. As a not for profit organization, CWC does not endorse or oppose any candidate for office and we did not desire our response to be an election issue.

As you may be aware, CWC is a not for profit local development corporation charged with the dual goals of watershed protection and economic development in the New York City West of Hudson Watershed. All thirty-nine towns in the Watershed are voting members of CWC. CWC is managed by 15 independent directors, most of whom are publicly elected officials themselves, and are in turn elected to the CWC Board by the town supervisors of the watershed towns. CWC is not the City of New York.

CWC is also charged with managing the Catskill Fund for the Future as a revolving loan fund. It was initially capitalized by a $59.7 million appropriation by New York City pursuant to the Watershed Memorandum of Agreement settlement, and has always been wholly managed by the CWC. This money is no longer the City’s and was provided to CWC to settle the lawsuits filed by the watershed towns.

Since its inception in 1997, CWC has striven to reduce adult unemployment in the Watershed. CWC has invested $60 million dollars of the fund in loans and has worked with over 300 small businesses in the West of Hudson (WOH) Watershed towns. These projects leveraged an additional $80 million for a total investment of $140 million. CWC also manages and services all of our loans, and we know every borrower.

In lending funds, CWC keeps in close contact with economic development officials from Delaware (Glen Nealis), Greene (Warren Hart), Schoharie (Alicia Terry), Sullivan (Marc Baez), and Ulster (Suzanne Holts) Counties. We work closely with these county officials as well as local banks and industrial development agencies to identify economic development projects where CWC can participate. CWC also subsidizes the salary of a small business development counselor at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). This counselor is available to assist new and existing businesses in developing business plans and provides counseling, all at no cost to them. As you know, business plans are essential in seeking financing from any lender, public or private. All of these officials and lenders know CWC and know our parameters – that the business must be located in a watershed town.

After tropical storms Irene and Lee, even though CWC’s office was also severely damaged by flooding, within two weeks we quickly put together a Flood Recovery Program, and on the 25th day after the flooding CWC issued the first checks to small businesses. CWC was the first to assist 183 small businesses in their flood recovery efforts and provided over $3.1 million in flood grants. CWC also offered six month interest free forbearance to every single borrower affected by Irene and Lee. Although the new grant program and helping existing borrowers took an enormous amount of time and resources to create and administer, no other organization, agency, or bank acted quicker than CWC after Irene and Lee.

The Catskill Watershed Corporation Board of Directors and staff have worked diligently over the past 17 years to invest wisely and are charged with keeping this fund in perpetuity. CWC is effectively using our limited resources to support qualified economic development projects in watershed towns across five separate counties.

CWC staff has also met with Mike Oates, CEO of Hudson River Ventures, and reached out to him in the past to discuss projects, but to no avail. The CWC would be happy to work with Hudson River Ventures on projects within the watershed towns and invites all current and future business owners within the Watershed Towns to consider the Catskill Fund for the Future for their funding needs.

Very truly yours,

Alan L. Rosa
Executive Director
Catskill Watershed Corporation