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Officials seeking funds for overlook

Saturday, August 16, 2014 - Updated: 4:08 AM


Amsterdam officials have been searching for ways to raise money to include artistic amenities that were removed from the original Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook design.

"[The amenities] were pulled before we started construction because the works of art and some of the other pieces in the design made the project over budget," Shane Mahar, Deputy Director of Media Relations at the state's Canal Corporation said. "Obviously we only had a certain amount of money to spend so we took those items out of the budget and stuck with the bridge," Mahar said.

All of the artistic elements eliminated from the original plan total nearly $2 million.

Some of the artistic pieces removed from the original design plan include:

* An eight-foot-tall stainless steel sphere attached to a pedestal located on a painted turtle which would be located on the northern end of the bridge.

The piece of art is estimated at $500,000, Community and Economic Development Director Robert von Hasseln said the piece would represent the Mohawk Valley's Native American history--everyone would be reflected in the sphere, which would represent the world, and the turtle would represent the Native Americans.

* A 12-foot wide mosaic rendition of a Mohawk Mill carpet commissioned around 1940 by the Waldorf Astoria in NYC, which would have been located at the center of the bridge. The piece of art is estimated at $325,000, and Von Hasseln said the piece celebrates the artistry of the carpet industry in Amsterdam.

* A 12-foot wide compass pulling together the themes of the bridge and guiding visitors through the city's past, present and future. Symbols on the compass match symbols along the overlook. This piece of art is estimated at $100,000.

* A 4-foot tall bronze-cased letters reading 'Amsterdam' so that boaters know where they are, costing $35,000.

Mayor Ann Thane said the duration of time from when the design was created to when the project started being built contributed to the elimination of the amenities.

"Because of the elapsed time of the referendum to now, the cost of construction and engineering and materials all went up," Thane said. "So, Canal Corporation had to take out the interpretive elements and now we're trying to backfill where that fell short; we're doing whatever we can to complete the project."

"We're working with the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation for funds to help get these back on the bridge," Thane said. "We really want to see the bridge fully realized from its inception. We want this to be a destination and a transformational project, so we've been working every angle that we can. If you do this only part-way you aren't fully realizing the vision of the project."

Thane said she doesn't know how much money has been raised at this point.

The overlook was funded through the NYS Canal Corporation's Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act which passed a statewide ballot referendum in 2005 and included $16.5 million for a pedestrian bridge over the Mohawk River in Amsterdam.

"It's more than a bridge," von Hasseln said. "It's a park over the river."

Von Hasseln said the design for the overlook took awhile to create with the state's Canal Corporation, Thruway Authority and different consultants, but it was eventually sorted out.

"It's hard to say there's any other structure that looks like this structure in the world," he said. "The city of London, two years after we're done, will have a bridge that's very similar, but again, the concept is a park over the water--in their case it's the River Thames, in our case the Mohawk River."

The 500-foot overlook will include concrete surfaced pedestrian trails, decorative retaining walls, plants, trees and benches--similar to a park.

Originally when the project was advertised for bids, the anticipated cost was roughly $12.5 million and there was hope any remaining money could be used toward decorative displays. However, due to material costs and the unique curved design of the bridge, the final bids came in significantly higher, eliminating the possibility of extra money for any extra aesthetic elements.

Von Hasseln said state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, are all looking for ways to get state and federal programs to help fund the artistic elements for the overlook.

"This will be even more of a tourist attraction with those added elements," he said. "Those pieces will make our unique bridge even more unique."


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