When it comes to waterfront development, Rep. Paul Tonko, who hosted a big regional conference on the subject at Schenectady County Community College Monday, is no Johnny-come-lately. As an Assemblyman, he brought Riverlink Park to Amsterdam; created the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission; and was a strong advocate for the state canal system.
So he understands the potential of the region’s historic waterways as a lure for tourists and an engine for economic development. It’s not a new idea, and in fact there are numerous examples of old Hudson and Mohawk river towns, Troy and Cohoes being just two of them, capitalizing on their waterfront.
The region has also been pretty successful getting federal attention and grants for things like scenic byways and heritage areas.
But Tonko thinks even more federal resources are available and the best way to get them is to develop a regional plan for waterfront development. That’s a good idea even if it doesn’t lead to more federal grants, because it’s likely to bring better, smarter projects that preserve the environment and heritage of these waterways. And that, in turn, will bring not only tourists but people who want to live in such a place — a place that combines water, an attraction wherever it is, with a history that can be found nowhere else.