A new elevator at Walkway Over the Hudson was put into operation Thursday, affording new access and scenic views. Officials hope the elevator helps add to the more than 700,000 Walkway visitors a year.
Democratic State Senator Terry Gipson took the 70-second ride 21 stories up in the elevator that has three glass observation windows.
“It was great,” Gipson remarked. “It’s a very scenic ride. I would highly recommend it. You get to see a very unique view that you can’t see from anywhere else.”
He was among several state, local, and federal officials on hand for the elevator’s grand opening, including former Senator Stephen Saland, who Gipson recognized as having had a large role in Walkway’s progress. Gipson defeated Saland in the 2012 election. Again, Gipson.
“Well now that we have a connection from the Walkway down to the waterfront, I think what we’re going to see is increased traffic along the waterfront of the City of Poughkeepsie. It’s going to allow the restaurants and other businesses that are down here to really experience the benefits of having more people come to the waterfront,” says Gipson. “I think it’s going to really set an example of what we can do if we encourage more people to come to the Walkway and we give them more things to do on the waterfront. I believe this waterfront has enormous potential that has not yet been tapped into. I believe it will be a way that we can not only link people to the waterfront, but also link them to downtown, Main Street, City of Poughkeepsie. I think working from both directions from Main Street and the waterfront is really the way to revitalize the City of Poughkeepsie.”
Also there was former Democratic Congressman Maurice Hinchey, recognized for his significant contribution to Walkway’s success.
The elevator is accessed from Upper Landing Park along Poughkeepsie’s waterfront, a short walk from the Metro-North Train Station. Chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature Rob Rolison says the Walkway elevator is an important addition for tourism.
“It’s critical to getting people up on the Walkway who can now really come directly from Metro-North, a short walk from the train station, and coming right here and going up on the Walkway,” says Rolison. “It’s been a bit confusing for some. As a matter of fact, the other day I was here at the Upper Landing Park, they had a Community Day, and I parked in the train station parking lot. And people would be getting off the train having bicycles, and they’re literally standing around going, okay, which way do I go. And we knew that this would obviously fix that. So now it gives the MTA to even market the Walkway where you can take the train, get off, get on the elevator, go up.”
Walkway Executive Director Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart says it’s all about connections, horizontally and now vertically. She has her eyes set on what’s next.
“I want running water and bathrooms and a nice visitor’s center on both approaches so when people first come to the Walkway, they’re as blown away and as impressed as they are when they get out on the Walkway,” says Waldstein-Hart.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey would like to see the same.
“The gateways to the bridge, I think we can always improve them,” says Harvey. “I think signage is important. I think these trail connectors, the two-county trail systems, I want them to go as far out as they can with Walkway being the central connector, county to county. So I’d like to help in making sure they’re built. And then obviously continued easy access by public transportation.”
It takes money, though.
“And it takes dollars, but we will put some New York, more New York Works dollars into that.”
Democratic Ulster County Executive Mike Hein called the elevator ride beautiful, with doors opening to expanded tourism possibilities.
“I’m excited that it also ties into a strategy that we have to connect the Walkway Over the Hudson to the Ashokan Reservoir and create a world-class tourism destination,” says Hein.
Plus, he says:
“It’s a spectacular connection to 22 million people in the metro-New York area for tourism dollars throughout the Hudson Valley,” Hein says.
Republican Poughkeepsie Mayor John Tkazyik says Walkway has been the single biggest economic development engine in the city. Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro says the elevator should help propel the local economy.
“I think our effort needs to be, Ulster County and Dutchess County, to continue to grow our tourism partnership, really to bring those other tourism assets, those historic sites, village hamlets, small businesses that are all throughout Ulster and Dutchess, and really market them collectively with the Walkway and the Hudson River bringing them all together,” says Molinaro.
The $2.8 million elevator construction project is funded primarily by a $2.4 million federal Transportation Enhancement Program grant. An additional $400,000 comes from an Environmental Protection Fund grant. The Walkway pedestrian bridge opened in 2009. It connects Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County to Highland, in Ulster County.