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Albany Mayor Proposes $2 Million Investment In Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park
Jesse King
Albany's Lincoln Park is one of three major parks in the city.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan is proposing a $2 million investment in Lincoln Park as part of her next budget. 

The proposed improvements to the sloping 68-acre park in the city’s South End include a hillside outdoor theater, pavilion, and fitness area. Sheehan says the theater was one of the community’s top requests during a host of surveys last year.

“And almost tied with that was the creation of usable space at the overlook along Morton Avenue, and [to] create a space with some workout equipment and the ability for people to come out and really utilize that space without having to go down into the bowl," she adds. 

"The safest place to be under COVID is outside."

Sheehan says a number of infrastructure improvements around the perimeter of the park – crosswalks, speed bumps, and rounded-out curbs – are also included in the plan. The city already secured funds for improvements to the east-side basketball courts, another highly-requested project, last year.  

Sheehan says New York State Assemblymembers Pat Fahy and John McDonald, fellow Democrats, have committed a combined $450,000 in state funding this time around – welcome assistance, considering the city faces an up to $20 million budget shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fahy calls the plan a worthy investment.

“The safest place to be under COVID is outside," says Fahy. "It is so important – it’s not only the safest place to be under COVID, it’s the healthiest place, is to be outside.”

Albany has focused on the outdoors in its recent initiatives. A new “Adopt a Tree” program launched earlier this month pledges to restore the city’s urban forest and plant 2,025 trees by 2025. Over the summer, the city debuted its weekly “PlayStreets” event, giving kids in various neighborhoods room to play outdoors by closing some streets down in the afternoon.

Sheehan says her administration has refurbished 20 of the city’s playgrounds since she took office in 2014. The Ridgefield, Westland Hills, Mater Christi, and Washington Park Playgrounds are next in line, with funding for their upgrades also expected in Sheehan’s 2021 budget. Daniel McEneny is the president of the Washington Park Conservancy:

“It coincides with next year being the 150th anniversary of the park," he notes. "Through the Bender Family Foundation, we are very fortunate to have secured hiring TWM Landscape Architects to come up with consulting plans…what we liked about them the most is [that] they want to reach every single community.”

Lincoln Park
Credit Jesse King / WAMC
Sheehan proposed the $2 million plan in Lincoln Park on Tuesday.

A number of local officials were at Lincoln Park to praise the proposal Tuesday – particularly for its reliance on community input. In addition to hosting community forums, Sheehan says researchers for the Lincoln Park Master Plan consulted the Lincoln Park Alliance, kids, and local residents. Albany County Legislator Carolyn McLaughlin, the former longtime president of the Albany Common Council, remembers being stopped by researchers during one of her regular walks.

“And they asked me, ‘What would you like to see here?’ Now here it’s coming," McLaughlin smiles. "This is truly a neighborhood park. For a while, it was being taken over by the suburbanites — yes it was. But what you’re doing now is gonna return it to the neighborhood.”

Sheehan plans to release her full 2021 budget Thursday. In addition to its basketball courts, Lincoln Park is home to the city’s only outdoor pool, football and baseball fields, the James Hall Office, and the Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology. 

Jesse King is the host of WAMC's national program on women's issues, "51%," and the station's bureau chief in the Hudson Valley. She has also produced episodes of the WAMC podcast "A New York Minute In History."
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