A city in New York is hoping recent renovations to its seawall will benefit the local economy in conjunction with other marine-related projects.
In 2011, Hurricane Irene devastated the coastline of the Hudson River, specifically in Troy, a historic city where the seawall hadn’t been renovated since its original construction over 100 years ago.
“We are not an area that typically gets hurricanes; it just happens that it went in this direction,” said Monica Kurzejeski, deputy mayor for the city of Troy. “What happened with Irene is it came in through the Gulf and traveled through the Midwest. It was just significant rainfall. We’re more known for nor’easters, where we get a bunch of snowfall. Unfortunately, we also live in a mountainous area; we have the (Adirondack Mountains … ) and a lot of that mountain stream and flow with all their peaks comes down, and all those tributaries go into the Hudson River so it’s all an ecosystem, and it was kind of like the perfect storm. It was a time of year where we typically wouldn’t get flooding.”
The whole system is designed to accommodate that, but as a riverfront community, the city boasts plenty of flood zones.
“We’ve always had the Hudson River so we’ve grown accustomed to working with it and respecting its water. You try to make your built form be able to accommodate that so you have little damage when the water recedes and you’re able to clean up quickly, and that’s really where our minds are when we’re looking at redeveloping this community. We are just as affected by tides as the ocean is here. We had buildings very close to or adjacent to the Hudson River that suffered a lot of damage from the flood itself,” said Kurzejeski. “When they did some inspections, they found that some of the area below the water had been scoured out; there was one area that actually tilted and suffered movement.”
According to Kurzejeski, some of the caverns were as much as 20 feet deep and 10 feet tall, and divers were brought in to do underwater concrete work. Through the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the New York State Department’s Waterfront Revitalization Initiative, the city rebuilt portions of the seawall as well as anchored the old seawall, designed a new marina, expanded the downtown park and created a walkway. The project began in May 2018 and was finished in fall 2020.
In addition to the seawall project, the new high-tech marina allows docks to move up and down with the tide. The seawall varies in sections, and boats can go up to 14 feet in height. The boats in the marina have the ability to adjust with the height of the river at that time due to the tide.
The project wasn’t without its difficulties.
“The sea wall had to be built before we could put the marina in, but it had to be designed with the marina in mind because they had to fit together, and the park had to be done with the whole other project because you wanted to make sure how you left the seawall would coincide with the way the park was designed,” said Kurzejeski. “It was a really amazing project.”
Funding was roughly $28 million in total. At the time, it was the largest infrastructure project the city had done. Kurzejeski said the project was geared at safety but also for the benefit of the local economy.
“We had success prior to the seawall (project), and now that we have the new seawall and the new park and the new marina, we’re going to see continued success,” she said. “The marina, as much as it is an amenity, it’s also a tourism draw. Because we are on the Hudson River, and we connect to the canal system, and because we also have the connection to Canada through the Champlain canal system, we typically get a tremendous draw through the boater industry, and what that does is it offers another aspect of tourism that we haven’t had since prior to 2011. We are seeing an uptick in our boating traffic, but what that also does is draw more people to this area as well, and restaurants see the overflow of people coming into this.”
It’s a pretty simple concept: keep the boats safe, keep the water out, and bring money to the town.
“If we can help minimize flooding in the future, that helps the existing businesses that are here. The improvement to the physical structure and the land is remarkable to the point where now we have businesses adding onto their buildings; another restaurant added another deck,” said Kurzejeski.
Troy is a historic city of 50,000, and Kurzejeski said the water is an integral part of what kept it going in the past, and it is what will keep it moving into the future.
“When they used the water back in the day, it was for industrial usage; everybody used to drop their waste in the river, but at the same time, it was used for transportation, and it wasn’t necessarily for recreational use back in the Gilded Age or the turn of the century, but now because we are using it as more of an amenity and looking at in a different way,” she said. “This area is more for beautification, recreational use and direct interaction with the waterfront. It draws people to it; it’s an attraction, which also helps bolster the businesses that sit alongside it and the parks, to increase activity around it and hopefully increase property values so we can get great businesses and renovated buildings and be able to bolster them as well.”