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Schenectady dock grant should be safe; new sites eyed

Schenectady dock grant should be safe; new sites eyed

Schenectady hasn’t lost its grant for a dock after all, Zoning Officer Steven Strichman told a relie

Schenectady hasn’t lost its grant for a dock after all, Zoning Officer Steven Strichman told a relieved City Council Tuesday.

Strichman had told the state that the city was no longer interested in the grant, based on a misunderstanding that the full-size replica of the historic ship Onrust had agreed to dock in Scotia. The ship is actually going to dock there only for special events.

Council members said he should have talked with them first, and he apologized at Tuesday’s committees meeting.

“Yes, I should have come to the council first. I apologize,” he said.

He also e-mailed the state to say the city still wants the grant, and he told the council he thinks the grant is safe.

But first he argued against the dock, saying that the proposed location in Riverside Park was too controversial.

“It seemed we were losing more support as time went on,” he said.

Residents in the historic Stockade neighborhood, who use the park, have been split on whether the city should build a dock there.

Strichman also said he is now no longer certain that the state Canal Corp. will allow a dock there — although the corporation itself selected the site.

And he dismissed other possible locations for the Onrust, saying that Onrust manager Don Rittner wanted a highly visible site to stave off vandalism.

But council members told him to press on. In a lengthy three-way discussion between the council, Strichman and Rittner, they agreed that the dock could be built at the county’s Gateway Park, on the river near the Glen Sanders Mansion or outside the Waters Edge Lighthouse Restaurant, where the dock would replace a private dock that isn’t strong enough for the Onrust.

Council members informally agreed to drop Riverside Park as an option — at least for now.

Rittner was enthusiastic about an option the council didn’t put on Strichman’s list. He and Councilman Thomas Della Sala floated the idea of placing the Onrust behind the Schenectady County Historical Society on Washington Avenue.

The small waterway would have to be dredged for 100 feet or more, but Della Sala said the Canal Corp. might do the work.

“It would seem we would have a win-win if we could pull that off,” he said.

Rittner agreed.

“That would be a beautiful spot,” he said. “It’s a little cove. That whole cove, dredged out, could make a beautiful tourist attraction.”

But Councilwoman Margaret King noted that the avenue is lined with houses and residents might object to having a tourist attraction in their backyards.

Council President Gary McCarthy said the Onrust should go to Gateway Landing instead.

“The difference is what, 500 feet?” he said, noting that dredging would be costly. Gateway Landing likely would not have to be dredged.

Rittner said Gateway Landing is too remote.

“I’d be really worried about vandalism. In terms of security, I’m not very happy with that spot,” he said.

But he warmed to it when council members began suggesting sites that were much farther from the Stockade.

“If we had some good lighting there, so people could see the boat, and cameras so we could remotely watch it, that would be fine,” he said.

He was more enthusiastic about replacing the private dock outside Waters Edge Lighthouse Restaurant, where the Onrust docked last year.

In October, the boat was nearly pulled downriver during a flood. But a stronger dock designed with the Onrust in mind would solve that problem, Rittner said.

None of the proposed locations are in the city. Schenectady would have to transfer the state grant to the county, Glenville or Scotia to build the dock, Strichman warned.

But that’s better than losing the boat to Kingston, Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard said.

The Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston has offered office space, exhibit space and docking to the Onrust. But Rittner has so far refused, saying he wants to keep the boat in the county where volunteers built it by hand over the course of three years.

“I don’t want to lose ‘Schenectady’ on the back of that boat,” Blanchard said, referring to the home port painted on the Onrust’s hull. “Scotia is better than Kingston.”

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