Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B8

Date: Thursday, November 13, 2003

The city is planning to restore the Black Bridge on Delaware Avenue as part of a biking and walking trail and add a small waterfront park along the Hudson River.

The bridge is also known as the Delaware Avenue or Cohoes-Green Island bridge. The nearly $1.5 million project is just in the beginning phase, and will take about two years to complete, said Ralph Pascale, the city's director of community and economic development.

Although it's officially closed to the public because of safety concerns, some people still walk or bike across. ``Right now the bridge is not in the best of conditions. There's some overgrowth and no real place for bikes to have a lane of their own,'' said council member Dan DeChiaro.

The trail would provide a continuous path linking Waterford, Cohoes, Green Island and Albany. ``It's a great opportunity to pick up a couple miles. It's not a lot, but if you're biking through Green Island or Watervliet, it's an opportunity to take an alternate route and go to Peebles Island or cross the bridge to Waterford,'' said Common Council president Joseph Koval.

An exact location for the park hasn't been determined, Pascale said. As part of the city's brownfield assessment, ``We need to investigate the sites to see if they are contaminated or not, and if so, to what extent,'' he said.

The city will receive some funding from the Capital District Transportation Committee for the bridge and trail restoration, Pascale said. His office has also been working with the Open Space Institute to acquire the property from the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Company.

One benefit to opening a trail and waterfront park would be to give Cohoes residents public access to the waterfront for the first time. Green Island and Watervliet have parks overlooking the river, but property along Cohoes' waterfront is all privately owned. ``If you wanted to put your kayak on the Hudson River, you can't do that,'' Pascale said.

Last year, the city changed the zoning along the waterfront from industrial to a mixed use of residential and commercial. Mayor John T. McDonald III said the trail and park are a vital part of the city's waterfront development plan, which includes adding a 210-unit apartment complex and 105 condominiums.

``The bike/pedestrian trail will be a nice accompaniment to that,'' he said.