On September 26, New York State’s Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was at Amsterdam’s City Hall to announce that the city had been awarded a transformative $10 million grant from the State to upgrade and revitalize its historic Downtown. Once a center of textiles, carpets and dolls (Coleco Industries, Inc., which produced the red-hot Cabbage Patch Kids brand, was headquartered in Amsterdam until 1988, when the company filed for bankruptcy), this marks the city’s third attempt and first time winning the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), which was created by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016. The statewide grant is one of ten handed out annually and is based on a Downtown area’s potential for transformation as selected by the State’s ten Regional Economic Development Councils.
“It’s a huge project that will last long after I’m out of office and gone,” says Mayor Mike Villa about the proposal that won the grant. Villa hopes the grant will help the city grow, with the plan being to build a new library, community center and city recreation center, as well as rehabilitate Downtown Amsterdam’s business district. Also in the works? Moving the train station closer to Downtown. “We’ve partnered the Overlook Bridge with everything we’ve planned,” says Villa of the pedestrian bridge that spans 511 feet over the Mohawk River. “The bridge has become kind of the centerpiece of the revitalization plan—making the whole city one big walkable hub.”
One of the factors that convinced the DRI to award Amsterdam the grant was the city’s ongoing effort to revitalize the Mohawk riverfront. In 2016, after nearly $18 million and more than a decade of planning, Amsterdam opened the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Pedestrian Bridge, connecting Riverlink Park on the north shore of the river with Bridge Street on the south shore. The pedestrian bridge features live trees and other plants as well as plaques and engravings containing cultural and historical information about Amsterdam and the surrounding area. But the Overlook Bridge is just one part of the city’s push not only to revitalize their Downtown area, but also to beautify it.
In May of this year, the city unveiled a new bronze sculpture, Mother and Child at the Mohawk River, located at the entrance of the Overlook Bridge from Riverlink Park. The 12-foot-tall statue was designed by award-winning Bulgarian-American artist Dimitar Lukanov, and was part of a three-piece commission from the city for public works of art around the Mohawk River and pedestrian bridge. Lukanov couldn’t be happier for the city. “Congratulations to Amsterdam for the magnificent win,” he says. Since saratoga living reported on Lukanov’s first sculpture, he’s completed a second, entitled Entrance to Now, which opened to the public this past July. “The sculptures are telling a testimonial of what can be achieved in this country in very short period of time, and are a manifested expression of a seamless collaboration between the city’s leadership and an artist, entrusted with a significant facet of urban renewal.”
Lukanov’s Entrance to Now is a 4,000-pound stainless steel sculptural gate literally serving as the entrance to the Overlook Bridge from Bridge Street, South of Amsterdam’s main thoroughfare. The gate is constructed of 800 feet of carefully bent tubing that undulates, shimmers and moves, invoking the Mohawk River in front of it. Lukanov says that he’s in the process of producing a third piece of art, DreamRiver, to be installed on the north bank of the bridge. Lukanov says that the piece could be installed as early as fall 2018 or spring 2019.