Von Hasseln makes economic case for bridge artwork

Community and Economic Director Robert von Hasseln made two presentations on Tuesday, one in the morning, and the other in the evening, on the potential economic benefit that the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook (MVGO) pedestrian bridge and the proposed additional artwork could bring to the region.

“It’s not a bridge to nowhere, it connects the south side, and right now, Riverlink Park,” said von Hasseln at the morning meeting. “Even more important, it’s a connection between all of our existing attractions and all of our future ones.”

Von Hasseln said the “Riverwalk” project is currently in the planning stages and would be a walkway along the shore of the Mohawk River that connects the Riverlink Park, the MVGO, and Guy park Manor. Another project in the early planning stages is to build a new passenger train station and transportation hub in the downtown area, which could also connect to the bridge.

He also hinted at potential developments nearby in the Town of Florida at the site that was part of the failed casino bid last year.

“See, you’re starting to build this tipping point, this balance of attractions, giving people reasons to come to Amsterdam,” said von Hasseln. “And that will be very significant but even more so when it works in conjunction with the gateway overlook.”

To project the estimated economic impact on the regional economy, von Hasseln said he looked at numbers from several other successful pedestrian bridges such as the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY, and the Bridge of Flowers in Shelborne Falls, MA.

Von Hasseln based his lowest estimate for yearly attendance at 30,000 to match the actual number of guest book signers per year at the Bridge of Flowers. He said that given Sheborne’s lower regional population, greater distance from a major highway, and lack of any other major attractions in comparison to the Amsterdam region, that he saw no reason why the MVGO shouldn’t at least be able to draw the same numbers.

He said that based on a 30,000 attendance rate per year, and using statistics from the Erie Canal Way National Historic Corridor studies, he was able to estimate the inflow of funds to the region from additional tourists at $10,210,460 per year. He said that figure includes direct sales by local businesses to tourists, indirect business to business sales increases, and increased property values. Based on that figure, he estimates an increase to sales tax revenue to the city of $64,121 per year.

Annual visitors Regional economic impact County sales tax revenue City sales tax revenue Maintenance and debt service Net tax revenue to city


$10,210,460 $408,418 $64,121 $23,250 $40,871


$15,316,000 $612,642 $96,185 $23,250 $72,935


According to von Hasseln, the increase in tax revenue would more than cover the $12,450 yearly maintenance cost for the bridge, as well as the $10,800 per year cost to service a $325,000 bond to match a NY State grant to install additional pieces of artwork on the bridge. Proposed elements include a circular “Wheel of Life” mosaic, a circular compass or “story mark” piece, markers chronicling the history of Amsterdam, and engravings on the concrete deck celebrating notable people and places in the various neighborhoods in the city.

Von Hasseln’s table shows that a 50% increase in visitors would result in a 78% increase in additional revenue. Another table shows how over 40 years, the potential impact on net city tax revenues could be nearly $3 million if the bridge achieved a 45,000 per year attendance rate.

Annual visitors

City revenue at 40 years

Maintenance and debt service at 40 years

Net city revenue at 40 years


$2,564,840 $930,000 $1,634,840


$3,847,400 $930,000 $2,917,400


For that reason, he said it was vital that the Common Council approve borrowing for the additional elements within the next few days in order to make sure the bridge was attractive as possible and to meet a June 15 deadline for certain construction decisions to be made.

“These key items that are part of telling the whole story…if we don’t put them in we may never be able to put them in…it makes the whole experience less desirable,” said von Hasseln.

He said that the engravings on the deck were particularly critical because major decisions as to the sub-strata of the bridge have to be made based on whether there are funds for the engraved decking or not. Once the deck is installed, von Hasseln said it would not be feasible to add the engravings later and more expensive to add the concrete bases for the circular pieces of artwork.

The Common Council may vote on a capital projects borrowing resolution at special meeting at 5:45pm tonight.

Community members have organized an online petition and a demonstration in favor of funding the additional artwork pieces to be held at 5:30pm outside city hall.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.