Montgomery County

Amsterdam council delays vote on bridge art funding

The Common Council voted Wednesday to table a resolution to fund artwork on the Mohawk Valley Gatewa
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The Common Council voted Wednesday to table a resolution to fund artwork on the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook, increasing speculation there will be no mural on the pedestrian bridge when it opens to the public.

The council has until June 16 to match a $325,000 grant from the state to fund artistic elements on the bridge, which city officials say will attract additional visitors.

Dozens of protesters rallied outside City Hall on Wednesday, urging the council to approve the funding.

Issues surrounding the $16.5 million bridge — and its construction — have become politicized in the city, with Democrats repeatedly throwing their support behind waterfront revitalization and Republicans unsure the bridge will have a positive impact on the local economy.

The artwork that needs to be funded by June 16 includes a ripple design along the deck that will mimic the view of the water and incorporate two circular plazas branching out from the main deck of the curvy, 475-foot span. The plazas will provide a bird’s-eye view of boats traversing the river and Erie Canal below, and an open space in the center will be large enough to accommodate performances. Once that is completed, several other artistic elements are expected to be included in the bridge.

“We only have one opportunity to make this thing great,” said city Economic Development Director Robert von Hasseln. “We don’t want people coming once and telling their friends that all they saw was a concrete slab with a few markings on it. We have to make this as great as we can.”

He said the funding must be approved shortly because construction of the bridge must stay on schedule.

“For the artwork to go in on the deck, it needs to be done before they put the joints in,” he said.

Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler, a Republican, said she plans to vote against funding for the artistic elements of the bridge.

“We have no idea where we are with our finances, and before we bond for such a large amount, we should get everything settled,” she said Thursday. “This project is not a priority; we have other things in the city that we should be focused on first before we begin to look at this. We have to fix our roads, provide transportation and make sure we keep our residents safe before we do this.”

Money was set aside for the bridge in the $2.9 billion Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act of 2005, which funded infrastructure projects throughout the state. Though the proposition received a majority of yes votes in a statewide referendum, it was voted down in Amsterdam and Montgomery County, a point opponents are quick to highlight.

“The state told us we have to have this here, so they should be the one that should foot the bill for the artwork,” Hatzenbuhler said.

The council meets again Tuesday, when they plan to vote on the funding.

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