Editor’s Note: Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch delivered these welcoming remarks when NYCOM, the New York Conference of Mayors, convened Sunday, May 6, at The Otesaga, for its three-day annual conference.
I have had the opportunity over the past year to welcome several groups to Cooperstown – but I have to say this is one of the more intimidating as I am facing a room of peers – elected officials who have all had to provide similar welcomes in their own communities.
But welcoming NYCOM here is a task I wanted, because it is also a chance to say “thank you,”
because in the eight years I have served in village government, I have truly relied on the expertise, guidance and training provided by NYCOM staff. I have also benefited from the experience and knowledge shared by other elected officials.
Cooperstown is governed by six trustees and one mayor. I served as a trustee from 2011 to 2018, and a year ago in March became mayor. I am only the second female mayor since our village was established 233 years ago by Judge William Cooper, the father of novelist James Fenimore Cooper.
I know NYCOM committees have met in Cooperstown numerous times before but allow me to give a little village history.
Our Village was founded in 1786 so it probably won’t surprise you that the village has two National Historic Register listings – one being the Glimmerglass Historic District, Glimmerglass being the name author James Fenimore Cooper called Lake Otsego in several of his books.
The Village of Cooperstown itself is the other National Register Listing, with over 560 contributing structures including this beautiful hotel, The Otesaga which was constructed in 1909. One year before the founding of NYCOM in 1910.
I know the Conference agenda is pretty full, but I hope in addition to a productive gathering you also have the opportunity to walk about our historic Village and visit some of our unique attractions. The Fenimore Art Museum, in addition to its renowned Native American Collection, is currently featuring the Rock Portraits of photographer Herb Ritts.
That portrait exhibit is on loan from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – in Cleveland. I won’t confess how many times I have strolled through the gallery admiring the images of a young David Bowie.
Or perhaps you will enjoy visiting our most famous museum, the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Our Village has a lot to offer and we host thousands of visitors annually. This year’s Hall of Fame Induction Weekend when the Hall of Fame will honor, among others, former Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera, is expected to draw over 80,000 visitors alone. Keep in mind Cooperstown has a population of 1,800.
The industry of Cooperstown is tourism and we in village government recognize that and work hard to maintain and improve our infrastructure so that visitors can enjoy their time in our community.
We have several projects underway currently – a $2.2 million grant-funded, federal TEP project for Downtown Pedestrian Improvements, providing more accessible sidewalks, pedestrian street crossings, the addition of decorative lamp posts, benches and even solar-powered compacting trash receptacles.
I will apologize if you have to detour around some sidewalk construction this weekend. But in keeping with our tourism focus, all work will be buttoned up and construction crews will disappear by the Thursday before Memorial Weekend, so we can welcome visitors.
Also underway are $5.8 million in grant funded improvements to Historic Doubleday Baseball Field. People are often surprised to learn that the Village owns and maintains Doubleday complex including the WPA-era grandstand constructed and dedicated in 1939 for the Centennial of Baseball.
Improvements will include improved pedestrian access from Main Street and replacement of the deteriorated third-base bleachers with a two-story building and accessible bleachers and bathrooms.
And in case you are feeling sorry for village taxpayers, I will note that village government has not increased the tax levy in the past six budget cycles. Cost cutting and creating new revenue streams including paid parking on Main Street in the summertime and aggressive grant applications have allowed us to not burden our property owners.
Have I convinced you to move here?? And I haven’t even mentioned our premier medical center in our village – Bassett Hospital, a 180-bed facility associated with Columbia University. It is the major employer in our community employing over 2,500 people on the Cooperstown campus.
Obviously, you will just have to keep scheduling your meetings in Cooperstown. I appreciate this opportunity to welcome you, to offer some highlights of our village and to thank you for scheduling your conference here.