The City Council sailed into a stiff headwind Monday when a dozen Stockade residents showed up to fight the proposal for a boat dock at Riverside Park.
Those in favor were badly outnumbered. Only three spoke up in support of the dock, although they also read comments written by two others.
The opponents produced a petition signed by 138 residents.
This was not at all what the council expected last week, when Zoning Officer Steve Strichman said he knew of just one person opposed to the dock. Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden said Monday that the city had relied on information from the Stockade Association, rather than canvassing the neighborhood.
Council members said they will now consider the matter closely.
“I think they raised some very legitimate issues we’ll have to look at very carefully,” said Councilwoman Margaret King, who lives in the neighborhood.
If the council decides the dock will have no significant impact on the neighborhood, one vote to that effect will allow the project to begin. But the council could instead determine that concessions must be made to reduce impacts, which could delay the project or kill it altogether.
No date has been set for a vote.
Council President Gary McCarthy suggested that compromises may be made, citing the possibility of a modified dock or a different location.
Two main issues were emphasized by the opponents: a lack of parking space and the possible loss of tranquility in the park.
Parking was cited more often than any other issue, and to some extent exaggerated, as residents tried to convey the seriousness of the problem.
“If we add one more person, one more car, everything we love about the Stockade will sink into the river, as far as I’m concerned,” said resident David Marhafer.
Others focused on what boaters might do once they tied up at the dock.
“I’ve seen those boaters,” said Stephen Boese, who lives next to the park on Ingersoll Avenue. “There’s a lot of drinking. I’d just as soon they keep moving on.”
Other docks draw drunks, said resident Meredith Anker, who lives near the small Gateway Landing dock.
Last summer, she said, a drunken crowd gathered there daily and started small fires.
“Then they pretended they were dying. Calling boaters over. Boaters came over to help them. And they would throw things at them!” Anker said.
Resident Derrick D’Amico said even a well-behaved crowd of boaters would ruin the atmosphere.
“Some people may say, ‘Gee, in the summertime it’s boring down there.’ Exactly!” he said. “I wouldn’t want to lose the tranquility and ambience of it.”
But others said the dock would encourage passing boaters to tour the historic neighborhood.
“Tourists love history,” said resident Gerald Plante. “The city started out as a waterfront community. Breathe new life into an old docking port.”
The proposal also calls for the Onrust, a replica of the first decked ship built in the Americas, to dock at the park. Bringing that ship to the city’s oldest historic neighborhood is a perfect match, said resident Karen Mallia.
But others predicted that the boat would be marked by graffiti and vandalized.
Those in favor of the dock offered several suggestions to solve the opponent’s concerns.
Plante proposed putting up signs that prohibit non-residents from parking on the side streets near the dock.
Resident Beverly Elander said the city could also enact a curfew at the dock.
“Why not simply try the idea?” she said. “We can always petition the city to remove the dock, should it prove troublesome.”
The Stockade Association board has decided not to offer an opinion on the matter, but instead will hold a neighborhood meeting on April 22 for a community vote.
Categories: Schenectady County