Proposed pedestrian bridge divides opinions in Amsterdam

Posted at: 08/28/2013 4:33 PM
Updated at: 08/29/2013 11:58 AM
By: Bill Lambdin

An artist's rendering of the proposed pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam.
An artist's rendering of the proposed pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam.

AMSTERDAM - The second phase of a controversial park was marked on Wednesday.

It's not the work that's been done so far, but what lies ahead that has some people wondering about the appropriate spending of taxpayer money.

We taxpayers get very mixed messages these days from our elected leaders.

They're always telling us how tight the finances are.

How soaring personnel, insurance and retirement costs are straining municipal budgets.

Then, on the other hand, they're spending more than $16 million for a pedestrian bridge some local residents think is pure waste.

A crowd gathered on Wednesday along the north side of the Mohawk River in Amsterdam to celebrate the latest additions to Riverlink Park.

“In total, they exceed over $2 million. So that’s been our department’s investment. There have been other departments of our state government,” said Cesar Perales, New York's Secretary of State.

They've added two acres to the park, painting some rocks to recognize the Native American heritage of the area and they added some play equipment.

But the two million dollars or so is small change compared to what is in the offing, scheduled for late 2015.

That's a $16 million bridge, or as they're now calling it, a “gateway overlook” that would connect the north side where the remainder of the downtown stores are with the much smaller populated south side. 

"We don't want it. We don't need it. There are other was to do development other than this bridge that's going to go nowhere," said Diane Hatzenbuhler.

She and others gathered about 800 local petition signatures in 2011 trying to stop the project. On Wednesday, she indicated by phone she was resigned to the likelihood it was going through anyway.

Local elected officials are on board, arguing it will build tourism and connect neighborhoods.             

 “Greater access to the waterfront. Create greater opportunity to diverse the waters and celebrate our mosaic,” said Congressman Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam)

Construction has not yet begun on the bridge/gateway overlook, but the mayor and others say more than a million dollars has spent on development.

That leaves $15 million or so that is coming out of money authorized by a 2005 transportation bond act, despite the tough times we keep hearing politicians talk about so much.

NewsChannel 13 was told the overlook should be complete in October 2015.