New York Gov. Cuomo plugs Catskills with Robert De Niro

Above: A poster promoting Lake Wawaka in the Delaware County hamlet of Halcottsville, one of six ads that will promote the Catskills region in the NYC public transit system this summer. To see all six posters, click here. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo pulled out all the stops to promote the Catskills region this week. As his staff bombarded social media with a media blitz about the charms of the Catskills region, the governor spent a day hitting Catskills tourism hotspots, at one point appearing with movie star Robert De Niro at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Sullivan County, the site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival.

De Niro, who owns 78 acres in the Ulster County town of Gardiner, cracked Borscht-Belt-style jokes while extolling his love of the Catskills.

“I wanted to change my name from Robert De Niro to Rugelach De Goldfarb De Niro Steinberg, and spend the summers in the Catskills telling jokes,” De Niro said, according to the Times Herald-Record.

Above: Robert De Niro delivers a tribute to Borscht Belt-style jokes. Video via New York

“If there is a region of the state that has more potential for tourism activity, it is the Catskills,” Cuomo said, according to a transcript of his remarks issued by his office. “Mr. De Niro and I were talking on the way up, it is still basically a secret for generations of New Yorkers.”

Above: Actor Robert De Niro, who has a home in Ulster County, delivers one-liners at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on June 30 as part of the Catskills Challenge. Photo via the Gov. Andrew Cuomo Flickr page. 

On Wednesday, June 29, Cuomo was scheduled to take a “Ride the Catskills” motorcycle ride from Windham to Roscoe, stopping at Woodstock Harley-Davidson and Belleayre Mountain Ski Center along the way. But, according to the Catskill Mountain News, Cuomo himself wasn't in the convoy of bikers that made the trip. 

On Thursday, June 30, the governor did show up at the “Catskills Challenge,” a day of activities modeled after a similar event his administration launched in the Adirondacks three years ago.

The Catskills Challenge began with the appearance with Robert De Niro in Bethel and ended with the governor racing state legislators in rafts on the Delaware River. (Naturally, the governor won, according to the Times Herald-Record.)

Above: Gov. Andrew Cuomo goes rafting on the Delaware River on June 30. Photo via the Gov. Andrew Cuomo Flickr page. 

It’s the second time in a year that Gov. Cuomo has visited the Catskills to promote tourism in the region. Last October, he rode his motorcycle to the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper to attend an event that was closed to the public. 

In the midst of all the hoopla this week, the governor debuted a new $5 million ad campaign promoting the Catskills that will run in New York City and up and down the East Coast this summer.

The subway ads feature Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel; Lake Wawaka in Middletown; Zoom Flume in East Durham; OPUS 40 in Saugerties; the Roscoe Company in Roscoe; and Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith.

Above: A subway poster for the Roscoe Beer Co. in the Sullivan County town of Roscoe, one of six ads that will promote the Catskills region in the NYC public transit system this summer. To see all six posters, click here. 

The television ad promotes Hunter Mountain’s Zipline Tour; the Birthplace of American Fly Fishing in Roscoe; the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope in Mount Tremper; Bethel Woods Center for the Arts; and Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland. To see all the ads, see the top of this story or click here. Click here to see the TV commercial promoting the Catskills. 

Above: A television ad promoting the Catskills that will air this summer on east coast TV stations. Via Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.

Cuomo used the Catskills Challenge yesterday to announce that the state will nominate Bethel Woods and the historic Woodstock Festival grounds to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

He also used the occasion to take credit for a slew of various grants that are coming to the Catskills this year, which include $223,000 in Smart Growth Implementation Grants, 500,000 in Local Assistance grants and improvements to various campgrounds. For a breakdown of the grant money, see the bottom of this article.

The governor’s gambit worked: Newspapers nationwide carried stories about the Catskills yesterday after the Associated Press wrote about De Niro’s appearance at Bethel Woods. From ABC News:

Robert De Niro is conjuring the legacy — and the stand-up jokes — of comedians like Rodney Dangerfield, Henny Youngman and Milton Berle while praising the natural beauty of New York's Catskills region.

Cuomo’s media team put together a highlight reel of Catskills Challenge events, which you can see below:

Grant money coming to the Catskills, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

$223,000 in Smart Growth Implementation Grants:

  • Town of Prattsville – $53,683 for a pavilion at Conine Field Recreation Area;
  • Mountain Top Arboretum – $24,875 for a project to improve safe entry to the facility;
  • Village of Tannersville – $20,500 for a main street visitor information kiosk project;
  • Town of Andes – $64,500 for the historic andes hamlet secondary water source project;
  • Town of Shandaken – $28,450 for improvements to town parks, solar lighting and landscaping; and
  • Catskill Center for Conservation and Development – $30,992 for the Catskill Interpretive Center Interior Design.

There will also be $500,000 in Local Assistance grants coming to the Catskills:

  • A Comprehensive Park Recreation Plan to compile and update previously developed plans in the Catskills to produce an integrated plan for economic development and infrastructure improvements to enhance tourism and recreation in the Catskill region;
  • Improved mountain bike trails, hiking trails, parking and access to Forest Preserve lands;
  • Expansion of the Summit Stewards Program, to place stewards on mountain tops in the Catskills to teach visitors how protect the fragile mountain top environment;
  • New signage to identify trails and paths, in addition to new education kiosks;
  • Major Parking Improvements at Overlook, Prediger, Roaring Kill, Platte Clove, Kaaterskill Falls, and Giant Ledge

On Friday, July 1, Cuomo’s office issued news of more money coming to state parks in the Catskills region:

  • Delaware County - Bear Spring Mountain Campground: Installed a new playground and ADA Accessible fishing pier.

  • Ulster County - Kenneth L. Wilson Campground: New facilities include a nature trail including a pedestrian bridge and an observation platform, hand launch for paddlers, 0.25-mile observation trail with a footbridge, fishing access site and picnic area.

  • Greene County - North-South Lake Campground: Upgraded electrical service to include electric and water at the South lake pavilion.