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Watervliet’s mayor optimistic 787 study could move city closer to reconnecting with its waterfront

Watervliet Mayor Charles Patricelli (D)
Dave Lucas
Watervliet Mayor Charles Patricelli (D)

The mayor of Watervliet is hoping the Albany County city could one day reconnect with the Hudson River waterfront.

Democratic Watervliet Mayor Charles Patricelli, a former city councilman, ran unopposed in November 2019 when Mayor Michael Manning did not seek a fourth term in the city of about 10,000.

When Interstate 787 was built in the 1960s, Watervliet lost several neighborhoods along with its riverfront presence. Democratic 109th District State Assemblymember Pat Fahy has been leading the drive to reimagine the highway.

"We've got $5 million to do a serious feasibility study of cost-benefit analysis, resiliency, climate resiliency, and you name it, to really look at how we begin to fully reimagine the highway, as well as look at the canals that have been proposed, as well as looking at a land bridge going over," Fahy said.

Patricelli says 787 has been a "hindrance to development, adding that its modification would likely have a positive effect.

"Anything at all to improve our access to the river and, and that way, I think would be absolutely phenomenal for the city waterfront, really, I mean, we're at right now, the only access we have is Hudson Shores Park and we're really working very hard to try and develop that," Patricelli said. "We're working on putting in a restaurant doing a little bit more trails, we've been putting in, we put in our docks this year, we've got crew teams, you know, from RPI, now, we just got it from Emma Willard. So we're actually working very much on trying to get more and more people at the park. But yet that doesn't, you know, give us the whole length of the city. So anything at all with 787, you know that way would be a very, I think it would be very beneficial to the city."

When COVID hit, he had only been mayor of the Arsenal City for four months.

"COVID did do a number on us," said Patricelli. "We really, you know, we really didn't know how we were directing. But I think in the past two and a half years, we did an enormous amount of work here. We got the new splash pools, we've been paving roads. We've been we just finalized our, let's say our license with the federal government on our hydroelectric plant, which took almost four years, I think to actually, you know, to get that to, you know, completion. We've been working on projects up at the filtration plant. So we've been really very busy. And I think the city is headed in a great direction. Our sports programs, our parks, have been great. We've been getting donations from from private individuals that were unheard of before.

Financially, the city has been in very good financial state. We came out of COVID in a very, very small, I think it was over a little over $700 in the positive. I'll take it you know, when we were facing almost a million dollars in the deficit. I was absolutely, I didn't know what I was gonna do. I was beside myself. I couldn't tell you how what we're gonna do about it. And nobody else could tell you. So everybody says 'well helps on this way,' but never really came until like way way after."

Patricelli says Watervliet's finances have improved.

"Right now we're in process of preparing our budget for next year. Last year, we had no, no increase in our budget," said Patricelli. "And, and the right now the water and sewer looks like we're okay. Water is actually, will be even, maybe we might be a couple of cents more in the sewer bill. And we're still working on our general fund budget, and I think it's going to look very well."

Patricelli says he plans another run for mayor when his present term expires in 2023, but after that he'll step aside. When that day comes, he hopes to have built a legacy of community spirit, involvement and pride.

"I think more and more people are disenfranchised," Patricelli said. "They don't really know where they live and they don't want to be a part of it. My, I think my goal has been, to try and get those people involved and be part of the city you know, and like it. I think that's the case, not everybody is going to be happy or anything like that, but we'll learn to do the best we can to make you know, the make things good. And make them at least proud to be able to say they live here."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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