Make investments that draw people to the Hudson

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Here we are again, with the shibboleth that Interstate I-787 is blocking people’s access to the banks of the Hudson River, thus justifying its demolition and rebuilding, as Chris Churchill noted in his recent opinion piece, “connecting the city to the Hudson River.” . ”

He’s not the only one championing the notion, and it has become a virtual mantra for many when it comes to Albany Coast-related matters.

Unfortunately, the concept just doesn’t work out. There are compelling reasons to rebuild 787, but the notion that such a project will somehow allow people to reach shores they can’t now is a fallacy.

For more than 15 years I programmed with the replica ship Half Moon off the Albany coast. Although I faced many difficulties, getting people to the water was never a problem – despite 787.

On a typical weekend we would attract 1,500 to 2,000 visitors a day – and that was before any walkways or other facilities were built to improve access. We were always fully booked on weekdays for dockside tours of schools in the area.

Special events that we organized increased the number of visitors even more. A historical encampment and festival we organized with the Mohican tribe, descendants of the indigenous people of this area, featured cultural dances and performances, re-enactors portraying European settlers, demonstrations of historical military exercises and artisans displaying historical wares. More than eight thousand visitors came to see the exhibitions and activities.

The reason people came to visit the ship and our events was simple: we did things that caught people’s attention and imagination.

This doesn’t happen by accident; It requires a significant investment in programming and human capital. Rebuild all the roads and sidewalks and it will still take creative program developers to host the kind of activities and displays that will draw significant numbers of visitors and visibility to the shore.

One of the Albany Waterfront’s most undervalued assets is the Albany Rowing Center. Located within a chain link fence below the deck of the 787, the Albany Rowing Center survives thanks to a core group of dedicated members who enlist old and young rowers.

The center’s premier annual event, the Head of the Hudson meeting, draws competitors and their families from across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Out-of-town rowers and their families will find the course and the organization of the center first class, but much more could be done to engage spectators from other areas with facilities – such as an attractive club/boathouse for the center – and promotions could take the out -of-Towners to make a return visit to Albany.

The new skyway should provide more options for those going from downtown to the water. A little attention to street cleaning and waterfront signage could help people who live north and south of downtown head to the Riverfront Preserve and Vest Pocket Park at the south end of Broadway — a little-known but wonderful gem of one Parks in at the foot of Broadway.

But ultimately, if we as a community desire greater use of our waterfront, we must take seriously the investment in human capital that is required to organize the types of active events and exhibitions that draw significant numbers of people to the waterfront and in particular People are drawn from out of town to visit and spend their tourist dollars here.

William Reynolds lives in Selkirk.

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