Calls for “Olympic-sized” Celebration of Hudson River’s 400 Years

The Westchester County Business Journal recently released an article citing Mr. Martin Ginsburg, prominent Hudson Valley developer, in calls for an “olympic-sized” celebration for the Hudson River’s discovery by Henry Hudson, 400 years ago (1609). Celebrations for Robert Fulton’s first steamboat ride up the Hudson, which was in 1809, are also planned. Ginsburg calls the amount of money alloted to the events “pathetic.” He believes that billions of dollars should be spent by the government and by private donations and corporate sponsors to properly celebrate. Ginsburg believes that a celebration of this size is needed to help the financially distressed cities of upstate New York. The article goes as follows:

“For Ginsburg the Hudson is like a string of pearls

Her beauty has faded in spots, and she could use a good makeover.

But as she approaches 400 years since her discovery by the Dutch explorer whose name she still bears, the Hudson River shines in Martin Ginsburg’s eyes grandly enough for him to suggest it merits a celebration. Not just a party, adds the Valhalla-based developer, but a quadricentennial celebration stretching beyond the banks of the 315-mile-long river, even west to the Erie Canal, so that upstaters can also share in the festivities.

“If you can envision a string of pearls on the Hudson River connecting with a string of pearls connecting the Erie Canal, you have the basis for a major tourist industry that can help revitalize the old industrial towns on the Hudson River, but can energize and revitalize a good part of the state,” said Ginsburg, founder and principal of Ginsburg Development Companies L.L.C. “If there’s a focus in creating the destinations and places, you can have a tremendous multibillion-dollar tourist industry that can be activated.”

Albany, he says, should foot the quadricentennial bill: “This is an important enough event that the state should be prepared to put up a billion dollars toward this, most of it going into legacy projects. And if not a billion dollars, they surely should be putting up some serious money into this. It would be a worthwhile investment that would bring back many billions of dollars.
So far the state has created a Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission, marking the 1609 voyages of discovery by Hendrick Hudson and Samuel de Champlain, as well as Robert Fulton’s 1809 steamship trip up the Hudson.

Last time those milestones were celebrated in 1909, dignitaries from royalty to the Wright brothers visited the Hudson; Orville and Wilbur flew their first plane upriver to Grant’s Tomb. The events were captured in a book, “Hoopla on the Hudson.”

According to a status report issued by the commission last December, the state shelled out $100,000 to a committee formed to identify “legacy” projects from New York City to Lake Champlain. The state has also created an “Explore NY 400 Club” to raise private and corporate donations, as well as begun planning local events through committees, one of them a Lower Hudson Valley Committee serving Westchester and Rockland counties.
But Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposed budget for 2007-08 included no funds for the quadricentennial. And Ginsburg calls pathetic the money spent by Albany so far: “All you can do is pay for a bunch of meetings that will produce nothing.”

“If you have a big vision, and then you have events that you can have named for (corporations), someone has to have that type of vision that says, ‘We’re going to make it into an Olympic-type event.’ And if they would do that and promote this, you probably can get private sponsors that would help a lot of this stuff.”

A state Empire State Development spokeswoman could not comment pending word from agency officials that had not arrived by deadline.

Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson Inc., a conservation group based in Poughkeepsie, agrees with Ginsburg that celebrating the Hudson’s discovery is a good idea.

“The anniversary is just two years away, and to have an appropriate recognition of this important historical milestone, it’s critical that the state and the entire community ramp up planning efforts,” Sullivan said. “This is a very important opportunity to recognize the role that the Hudson has played in the history of America, indeed the entire world, and the rich cultural legacy that’s here.”
That history and legacy includes Revolutionary War battles, the school of painting named for the river, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s retreats to Hyde Park for key decisions on combating the Great Depression and waging World War II.

More important than the celebration, Sullivan said, is the need for encouraging development that preserves the river’s landscapes: “We think it’s possible to have positive development and preservation of critical landscapes and cultural resources along the valley. We’re concerned that if it’s only left up to the developers to shape the waterfront, the beauty of the region will be lost.”
Ginsburg says the best hope for reshaping the Hudson would be for Albany to develop a long-range redevelopment program. The state, he said, should create a new subsidiary, a Hudson River Redevelopment Corp. that would assist communities in planning and redeveloping their waterfronts with tourism in mind.

The corporation’s first task, he suggested, would be to create a master tourism development plan for the region around the river. Another key task: Forging consensus between developers and environmentalists through an advisory panel.
In a white paper he prepared last year, Ginsburg detailed a vision for the Hudson that combines plenty of housing with cruise ships running up and down the river and a museum at Ossining’s Sing Sing prison ­ an idea pursued in recent years by county and state officials.

Excluded from the developer’s vision are large blocks of office space, as well as large green spaces like Irvington’s Scenic Hudson Park.
Ginsburg acknowledges that a quadricentennial event is likely to help sales at his numerous projects along the Hudson ­ including the $200 million mixed housing-retail project he wants to build on Peekskill’s waterfront and Harbors at Haverstraw, where some 200 of the 490-unit first phase have been sold to date.

Haverstraw plans call for a 1.5-mile promenade along the Hudson shore with the first phase of a sculpture trail envisioned to run north to Albany or Saratoga. The trail, with its first 100 exhibits, is set to open Sept. 30. The promenade’s focal point is the foot of Main Street, where plans call for a museum, an inn with spa and several restaurants ­ one of them to be opened by Manhattan restaurateur Buzzy O’Keefe.
“The vision of activating the Hudson River by creating exciting places and tourist attractions is inclusive of the environmental vision of preservation,” Ginsburg said. “Without the Hudson River, New York would not be the commercial center of the country. And without the connection to the Erie Canal, New York would have never been the Empire State.”


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