Posted by: David Giacalone | April 18, 2010

help stop the Riverside Park dock [with updates]

Why Oppose a Dock in Riverside Park? Hundreds of residents of the Stockade believe the dock would be Bad for the Park, Bad for the Historic District and Neighborhood, and Bad for the City of Schenectady.  For a brief summary of my position, click this link (which brings you to a short statement near the bottom of this posting).  A 5-page Letter to the NYS Canal Corp., dated April 29, 2010, contains a more comprehensive discussion.

– you can share this posting by using this short URL: –  and see see our posting “Potential environmental effects of the Riverside Park dock” (Sept. 30, 2010).

Above is the Mohawk River location of the proposed 300′ Riverside Park dock (which would be parallel to the bank).

There are many photos below of the now unobstructed views from that part of the Park, and from the many places in the Park where the scene will be adversely affected if a dock is installed – – as always, click on a photo for a larger version, and scroll over it for a description.

– original posting, April 18, 2010:

We interrupt this photo weblog for an urgent message . .

Riverside Park and its Stockade neighbors badly need your help and protection.  Pease click Help Stop the Dock for my letter-size, printable, one-pagepdf. flyer, which opposes placing a 300′ public dock at Schenectady’s Riverside Park, on the banks of the Mohawk River.  The flyer succinctly states the main reasons — beyond the City’s underhanded process —  for opposition to the dock. You can also see the flyer by scrolling down this posting.  It urges participation in the April 22 Stockade Association meeting, at 7 P.M., in First Reform Church parish center, 8 No. Church St.  [Note: As stated in the  update below, Stockade residents voted more than 2 to 1 against the proposed dock (85 to 41) at the April 22 meeting.]

All Stockade residents are welcome at the April 22 Meeting and may voice their opinions and ask questions of the City Planner (Steven Strichman) and Corporation Counsel (John VanNorden).  A vote by ballot will be taken of Association members, and a separate vote will be taken for non-members of the Association, so that their opinion will also be recorded.

– Click for a pdf. copy of the plat of Riverside Dock Construction Plan, which was included last month in the Planning Office’s draft Economic Assessment Form.  (Note: Because the City’s copy is so faint, I have outlined important items and relabeled them to make them legible.)

an international-symbol sign denoting that no docking is allowed update (Friday, April 23, 2010): Last night we finally had the long-anticipated Stockade Association meeting on the Riverside Park Dock, which opened with a presentation by City Zoning and Planning czar Steve Strichman (with quips now and then by Corporation Council, John VanNorden).  It ended with a poll taken of Association members, and a simultaneous one by me of non-members.  The Stockade residents voted more than 2 to 1 against the proposed dock. Here are the results:

. . . Do you support the City’s Dock Proposal? . Yes         No
___________________ Association Members: …….. 39         54
_________________________ Non-Members: …………. 2         31
_________________________ total: ………………….Yes: 41        No: 85

follow-up (June 19, 2010): Schenectady County presented its new Waterfront Revitalization Plan, on June 1, 2010, in a public meeting at the Central Library.  As we have been pointing out since early April, putting a dock in Riverside Park is clearly inconsistent with the Plan, which concludes that Riverside Park’s “limited access and parking . . . inhibits any significant expansion of use other than to improve it as a scenic overlook and to improve pedestrian and bicyclist access and connection to adjoining areas.” You can read the entire Plan by clicking here.  See my Comment to a Daily Gazette article (dated June 5, 2010) for a description of the Plan’s recommendations for Riverside Park.

Below are photos showing the current unobstructed view of the riverscape from the stretch of waterfront where the dock would be installed. Scroll down further for more photos, showing views of the riverbank from throughout the Park that will also be marred by the insertion of a large aluminum dock and any boats using the structure.

As always, click on a photo for a larger version, and scroll over it for a description.]  Below, you will also find a short summary of my position in opposition to the dock, and links to other important documents.


.. ..

– and, here’s a view of the Play Area (with homes close behind it) from the riverbank at what would be the eastern end of the proposed dock:

 [pre-poll] update (April 21, 2010): The Albany Times Union ran an article today headlined “Will dock plan sink in the Stockade?” (by Lauren Stanforth, April, 2010; photos by Paul Buckowski).  The article is fairly balanced, but clearly suggests to me that nothing the residents of the Stockade have to say will stop City Council President Gary McCarthy from forcing a dock on us in Riverside Park.   The article states:

 “City Council President Gary McCarthy said he wants to find a compromise, such as making the dock much shorter to limit outside boat traffic. Stockade Association members will meet Thursday to vote on the project. McCarthy said he’s interested in the results, but hopes residents understand the vote does not determine the fate of the project.”

Please urge the other Council members not to merely rubber-stamp the decision of their leader on this dock.  They must protect the Park and the neighborhood.   (scroll down for email addresses for Council and Mayor)

EMAIL Addresses: If you have something to tell them, here are email addresses for each of the members of the City Council and the Mayor:

Councilman Joseph Allen <>
Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard <>
Councilman Mark Blanchfield <>

Councilman Carl Erikson <>
Councilwoman Denise Brucker  <>
Councilman Thomas A. Della Sala <>

Councilwoman Margaret King <> Councilman Gary McCarthy <>
Mayor Brian U. Stratton <>

More Dock-free views: photo supplement (April 29, 2010):

. . .  as always, click on a photo for a larger version, scroll over it for a description, . . .


. . looking East toward dock location:

. . .above: from Washington Ave dead end and the bank near Governors Lane . .

. .

. above: looking east from on & around the Overlook (at Pump House) .


. . here’s the view from the site of the proposed dock:

– eastward view from the Emily Polachek memorial plaque near middle of the location of the proposed dock –

. . .

– looking west from the site of east end of the proposed dock  –


– looking east from the bank at the site of the east end of the proposed dock –

. . .

. .above: 8 AM view to the west [top] and east from the end of North St. . .

Why I Oppose the Proposed Riverside Park Dock (short form)

Putting a dock in Riverside Park is inconsistent with current and prior plans and reports on the development of the Mohawk River waterfront, and with a 1998 Resolution of the Schenectady City Council, each of which took into account the special nature of the Park and its surroundings.  In proposing this dock, the City’s Planning Office has done an inadequate job evaluating its adverse impact on the Park and the adjacent historic residential community.

A dock would harm both the scenic beauty and relative tranquility of this special urban park, while making existing access and parking problems worse, and reducing the quality of life of those who live close to the proposed structure or in the adjacent neighborhood. It will also create the demand for costly services and amenities (e.g., police, rest rooms, lighting, clean-up), as well as require expenses for maintenance, seasonal installation and removal, storage, etc., and make the City (its taxpayers) liable for serious accidents and injuries on and around the unsupervised dock. That’s why more than 200 Stockade residents signed a Petition against the dock, and why the vote at a special Stockade Association meeting (April 22, 2010) was more than 2 to 1 against the dock proposal.

The shortened dock suggested by some as a “compromise” solves none of these problems and is merely a ploy.  The risk to the Park is too great and the promised tourist dollars too unlikely for the City to approve a dock in Riverside Park merely because it has been offered a Grant originally meant for a dock that would have been built in a far more appropriate location (East Front Street).

– For a more comprehensive explanation, see my 5-page Letter of April 29, 2010 to Carmella R. Mantella, Director of the New York State Canal Corporation, asking the agency to deny the City of Schenectady’s request for approval of the dock in Riverside Park, and to rescind its Greenway Grant to pay for the dock.

– The dock is clearly inconsistent with Schenectady County’s new Waterfront Revitalization Plan (June 2010), which concludes that Riverside Park’s “limited access and parking . . . inhibits any significant expansion of use other than to improve it as a scenic overlook and to improve pedestrian and bicyclist access and connection to adjoining areas.” You can read the entire Plan by clicking here.  See my Comment to a Daily Gazette article (dated June 5, 2010) for a description of the Plan’s recommendations for Riverside Park.

–  My Op/Ed piece in the Sunday Gazette (April 18, 2010, at D1), which explains that dock opponents are neither anti-progress nor opposed to having visitors from outside of the Stockade (so long as they come by land like the rest of us).

– click on the flyer for a larger version –

update (Sunday, April 25, 2010, 12:45 PM): Don Rittner, Godfather of the Onrust (the replica Dutch ship that would make the proposed dock its summer home port), has made quite a stir around the Stockade with his Sunday TU weblog and Facebook posting on “The Schenectady Massacre (of facts)“.  Click the preceding link to read the increasingly flustered and unseemly commentary from the official Historian of both the City and County of Schenectady, who strikes out with insults at dock opponents.  You’ll see my Comment that day, his reply and my response.  The tone at the website is so negative and a real dialogue is so unlikely that I have not been back to the site since April 25th.

Note: Although Mr. Rittner mocks those who want to preserve the quiet, low-key nature of the Park and protect its scenic views, he wrote in a report prepared in 2007 for the City Planning Department concerning a proposed Bike Trail that “Riverside Park is valued as a unique component of the Stockade Historic District offering residents and visitors a relatively tranquil place to enjoy a magnificent view of the Mohawk River from the walking path and park benches.”

update: See our posting “Potential environmental effect of the Riverside Park dock” (Sept. 30, 2010). For a comprehensive set of Comments to the City on the need for full SEQR environmental review of the Dock, click here (Comments of David A. Giacalone, dated Oct. 1, 2010, 13 pp pdf.). And, see a Gazette OpEd column (Oct. 3, 2010, D1)

 follow-up: Is the Dock Dead? (Jan. 18, 2011): Over the past few weeks, many people in Schenectady came to believe that the Riverside Park dock proposal was dead.  First, an article on December 23, 2010 in the Schenectady Daily Gazette reported that a waterfront revitalization project across the Mohawk River in Scotia that would be completed next summer would “host the historic replica ship Onrust.”  Then, on January 6, 2011, City Zoning Officer Steve Strichman announced at a meeting of the Stockade Association that the dock plan at Riverside Park had been scuttled, because there could be no State grant without the Onrust.  However a January 15, 2011 article in the Gazette, titled “Confusion may kill Onrust dock plan,” reported that Onrust’s godfather, City Historian Don Rittner, only planned to bring the ship to Scotia for special events, and quoted him saying “There’s no agreement between us and Scotia. . . . Steve’s jumping the gun.”

To further muddy the waters, an editorial in today’s Gazette, headlined “Don’t give up so fast on dock for Onrust” (Jan. 18, 2011), calls for a dock in the Park despite neighborhood opposition, and urges the City Council to clarify that it is still planning to use that grant for a dock on the Schenectady waterfront.

update (January 19, 2011): Today’s Gazette article, “Schenectady dock grant should be safe; new sites eyed” (by Kathleen Moore, Jan. 19, 2011) reports that “Schenectady hasn’t lost its grant for a dock after all” and that Zoning Officer Steve Strichman had acted prematurely when he incorrectly concluded the Onrust was going to have a home port at Scotia, and the dock grant would therefore no longer be available from the NYS Canal Corp.  The Gazette says Strichman apologized to the City Council last night, but argued against the Riverside Park location.  The article continues:

 “But council members told [Strichman] to press on. In a lengthy three-way discussion between the council, Strichman and [Onrust manager and County Historian Don] 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.”

Rittner apparently also recommended placing the Onrust behind the Schenectady County Historical Society on Washington Avenue, a location that would require 100 feet of dredging.  Council President Gary McCarthy preferred the Gateway Landing site, which Rittner called too remote, worrying about vandalism.  The article asserts that “Council members informally agreed to drop Riverside Park as an option — at least for now.”

– Gateway Landing (January 25, 2010) –

 I’ve long been advising vigilance in the face of obituaries for the proposed Riverside Park dock, and continue to do so. You don’t have to believe in zombies to fear just what our City Council might be digging up next at Riverside Park.

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