August 28, 2014, marked the two-year birthday of the Path through History. It’s pregnancy was a long and troubled one with a delivery date long after the original May target. I attended the birthing of the program. I still have the paperweight distributed at the meeting. I still have the two slick glossy pamphlets distributed at the meeting. I even still have an unused napkin from the Executive Mansion reception where I met the Governor and two of his daughters. Didn’t we all have such hopes for the project then!
Now at the two-year anniversary, who will blow out the candles on Path through History birthday cake on August 28, 2014? Logically one would expect the head of the project to do so. Who is the head of the project?
As it turns out, no one is head of the Path through History project. Some people might think Mark Castiglione is. He certainly appeared at a number of Path meetings throughout the state in 2013 so it was easy to think he was in charge of it. At the NYSHA conference at Marist in June at a session on Hudson Valley tourism, Mary Kay Vrba, Dutches County tourism director and a major player in Hudson Valley tourism, stated that the Governor had put Mark, her fellow panelist, in charge of the whole Path project. I was curious to hear how Mark would respond since at the recent New York History Roundtable called by State Legislator Engelbright, he had introduced himself as working for the Hudson River Valley Greenway and a “liaison,’ his term, to the Path project. Sure enough when it was his turn to speak at the NYSHA conference, he gently corrected Mary Kay: he is not the director or manager or leader of the Path project.
So to return to my original question, who is the head of this signature project of our Governor? It is not Ken Adams who is responsible for the entire Empire State Development (ESD). It is not Gavin Landry who is responsible for ILoveNY within ESD which later did take over the Path through History project.
We recall when the 10-region Path map of the kickoff which included the Mohawk Valley became the ILoveNY map of 11 regions including the world-famous “Central New York”. When Obama visited upstate New York, he even referred to the Leatherstocking District. So the demise of the Mohawk Valley and the triumph of Central New York may be considered the moment when ILoveNY assumed control of the Path project and had the political sway to put Mark on the front lines without giving him any power, staff, or money to make the project work.
Another possibility is Ross Levi, VP, Marketing Initiatives, ESD. He spoke at the “Tourism Marketing: Partnership and Collaboration” session at the MANY conference on March 31. According to the program bio,
“he helps coordinate the state’s tourism efforts, with a particular emphasis on overseeing specialized marketing events and campaigns, including niche tourism. After joining ESD in 2012, Ross played a leading role in the launch of the inaugural Adirondack Challenge, Governor Cuomoi’s 2013 Tourism Summit, the Path through History heritage tourism initiative and I LOVE NY LGBT. Previously, Ross was Executive Director at New York’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization, served as legislator director in the New State Senate and did marketing in the film industry for companies including Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Miramax. He holds a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, and a B.S. from Boston University where he received local and national recognition for filmmaking and commercial writing.”
Nothing is this bio indicates any particular interest or knowledge in history or New York State history. His appearance at MANY may have been his one public presentation to the history community. If he has presented in any regions, please let me know. I asked him after the session if he would write a post for New York History and he agreed. Several weeks later I received an email saying it would be forthcoming. While he certainly has been involved in the Path project, there is nothing to indicate that he is charge, that it is his primary responsibility, or that he is even working full-time on the project.
One final name which comes to mind is Eric Scheffel, also of ESD. His name appears on some of the ten or so eblasts in April and May encouraging organizations to list events for the Path through History weekends in June. That hardly appears to be a full-time job even during those months yet alone year round. To the best of my knowledge his contact with the history community of New York State like that of Ken Adams, Gavin Landry, and Ross Levi, is non-existent or superficial.
I have been told that people who have contacted Gavin Landry directly about the project have been referred to Mark Castiglione. I will also add that in response to my post on China, I received some emails from people wanting to get involved somehow, I have been referred them to Gavin. Technically, that is not a Path project but an ILoveNY project although it may be that the Chinese could develop and interest in New York State history.
To sum up, the answer to the question who is in charge of the Path through History project is that no individual works full time on the Path project and no one has sole and exclusive responsibility for it. Does Governor Cuomo know this? Does he care?