The Schenectady County Legislature plans to name a new bike trail at Mohawk Harbor after the American Locomotive Company as the City Council mulls street names on the site.
The Legislature is scheduled to vote on a resolution during a meeting Tuesday evening naming the future bike-hike trail at the old Alco site along the Mohawk River the “Alco Heritage Trail.”
The decision on naming the bike path after Alco, which manufactured locomotives there until 1969, comes as the City Council is faced with a decision on more modern street names within the property.
“Part of the plan for the Mohawk Harbor site has always been recognition for Alco on the site,” said Legislator Gary Hughes. “There has been so much interest in the Alco name since the street naming idea came along that we thought we should remind people that we always intended significant Alco recognition.”
The Galesi Group of Rotterdam is transforming the 60-acre brownfield, renamed Mohawk Harbor, with a casino, housing, hotels, office and retail, and a 50-boat-slip harbor.
The new bike trail will cover the entire waterfront section of the Mohawk Harbor site. The 1.5-mile trail will extend from the Western Gateway Bridge to Freeman’s Bridge.
The county also received funding as part of the state’s Regional Economic Development Council awards to design an extension of the trail to Riverside Park completing the linkage to run the trail from bridge to bridge.
Hughes said the county plans to put historical markers and signage along the bike trail to tell the history of Alco in Schenectady.
“We want to have places to stop and detail how Alco came to be and what was produced there,” he said. “We anticipate a lot of people who aren’t from Schenectady would use that trail. It’s a way to show the large locomotives and tanks that were made here.”
Alco built and sold diesel-electric and steam locomotives as well as engines, generators and tanks. The company was formed in 1901 by the merger of Schenectady Locomotive Works, which was founded in 1848, and other smaller locomotive manufacturers.
Hughes said the county is in discussions with miSci about possibly relocating the museum’s Alco locomotive to the site. The RS-3 engine is a switching locomotive built in Schenectady by Alco in 1953.
The county is also looking to tie in a planned arboretum project spearheaded by miSci CEO Mac Sudduth and Proctors CEO Philip Morris. The arboretum is expected to have as many as 450 trees of a wide variety of species.
The county is talking with Morris about including a homefront tribute area on site, which would be designed to honor Alco and General Electric workers who worked long hours making key military equipment during World War II.
The trail is being built by the county using $340,000 in funding from the state Department of State and $140,000 from the state Canal Corporation, said Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen.
The county plans to issue bids for the construction of the trail later this year with work expected to be completed by sometime next year.
Galesi is providing $100,000 for the cost of construction and the developer plans to grant a permanent easement on the property to the county guaranteeing public access, according to a news release from the county on Monday.
“A very important way to pay tribute to the site is to clean up the site and provide public access,” Gillen said. “A brownfield site was not a good testament to the Alco heritage either. We think improving it and creating public access is very significant and pays tribute to Alco’s history and the people who worked there.”
Last month, Galesi proposed naming three streets within the site Rush Street, Harborside Drive and Mohawk Harbor Way.
City Council members Marion Porterfield and Vince Riggi expressed concerns about the names, particularly the name Rush Street, which is the name of the operator of the future Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor.
Greg Carlin, CEO of Rush Street Gaming, defended the names saying the casino “must be about the future of the site and not the past” and that the name Rush Street is actually the name of a popular street in Chicago.
The two council members are standing behind their initial concerns.
Porterfield said she believes the city should give a nod to Alco’s history along with the county.
“I think it’s outstanding that my colleagues at the county feel it’s important to name something that has to do with the site’s history,” she said. “As the City Council, we should join them in doing that and be able to name something our citizens would like to see.”
Riggi said the decision to name the bike trail after Alco doesn’t change his mind about Rush Street.
“We’re not the county and the city has to act on what we think is right,” Riggi said. “I think that part of Nott Street shouldn’t be called Rush Street. I don’t want to name the street after the casino operator. It could be named Locomotive Lane. If that’s what the people want we’ll find out during the public hearing.”
The council plans to have a public hearing on the street names during its meeting on March 14. The council will then make a decision on the names and vote on a resolution.
Once the roads are built within the site, which is expected by the fall, the council will vote on an ordinance officially naming them and accepting them as city-owned streets. The city would then be responsible for maintenance of the roads.
The $480 million Mohawk Harbor project is ongoing with construction of the $330 million Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, 124-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel and 204-unit apartment building.
Galesi is also planning office and retail buildings, townhouses and condominiums on the site. A majority of the work is expected to be done by the end of next year with the casino projected to open by next March.
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.