Project Included $11.1M State Investment with Funding from NYS Bridge Authority, NYS Department of Transportation, NYS Department of State and Empire State Development I LOVE NY
Hudson River Skywalk Region Designated Last Spring by Governor Cuomo
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the opening of the Hudson River Skywalk to commemorate National Trails Day. Following an $11.1 million investment by the State, the completed project extends the historic and scenic walkway along the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to connect the two founding sites of America’s first art movement: the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Olana State Historic Site. The Hudson River Skywalk includes new pedestrian viewing stations on the bridge that allow for stunning views of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains, as well as safe pedestrian access to the two historic sites and a new visitor parking area on the east side of the bridge.
“With today’s opening of the Hudson River Skywalk, New Yorkers and visitors alike can visit two historic sites with safety and ease,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Olana State Historic Site already act as economic engines for the region, and with the addition of this new project, the Skyway will serve as a regional attraction benefitting the Hudson Valley for generations to come.”
The Hudson River Skywalk is the centerpiece of the newly designated Hudson River Skywalk Region, which includes the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Olana State Historic Site, the City of Hudson, Town of Greenport and Town of Catskill. The Region was designated by Governor Cuomo in March 2018 to underscore the extraordinary tourism opportunities of the area.
To mark the opening, a ceremonial ribbon-cutting was held today, with state and local dignitaries in attendance, along with members of the public.
“The New York State Bridge Authority has worked hand-in-hand with all of the community partners to see this economic tourism project come to fruition,” said Richard A. Gerentine, Chairman of the Board of the New York State Bridge Authority. “The support from Governor Cuomo has been instrumental to seeing this project through, which the region will benefit from as a whole for future generations to enjoy.”
“Governor Cuomo has supported this project from inception to completion to allow the Hudson River Skywalk to open on time and on budget for the public to now enjoy in its entirety,” said Tara Sullivan, Acting Executive Director of the New York State Bridge Authority. “The Bridge Authority is gratified to have worked with all of the partners on this project, where the public will be able to draw inspiration from for years to come.”
New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, "This new transportation infrastructure does more than move people safely from one place to another; The Hudson River Skywalk connects two important cultural sites that will draw more visitors to visit the historic sites and the beauty of the Hudson River valley, with all it has to offer. Governor Cuomo's leadership in using road and bridge improvements to stimulate local economies enhances safety and access while reviving upstate communities."
State Parks Acting Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "The completion of the Hudson River Skywalk is a reflection on the Governor's commitment towards expanding outdoor recreation opportunities for New Yorkers and visitors alike. This provides an even greater scenic route to the picturesque grounds and mansion of Olana State Historic Site and further boosts tourism throughout the region."
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Our strategic support and investments in projects like the new Hudson River Skywalk are giving New Yorkers, and all visitors, greater access to the state’s one-of-a-kind waterfronts, breathtaking landscapes and cultural destinations, while boosting New York’s booming tourism economy.”
“New York’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program is made for projects like this, and we are honored to play a part in bringing the Skywalk to life,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “By supporting important infrastructure and development projects that literally bridge communities and attractions, we are making New York State more attractive than ever before.”
Capital Region Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, University at Albany President, and Ruth Mahoney, KeyBank Market President, said, “On behalf of the Council, we are proud to have supported a project that will introduce even more visitors to the natural beauty of the Hudson River valley, the Catskill Mountains, and the many significant historic and cultural destinations across the Capital Region.”
Senator George Amedore said, "The Hudson River Skywalk establishes an important connection between two historical sites that have played such an integral role in the region's history. At the same time, it provides an enhanced opportunity for residents and visitors alike to enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty of the river and surrounding areas."
Assembly Member Didi Barrett said, "The birth of America's first art movement and, arguably, the birth of America's first land conservation consciousness can both be traced to this stunningly beautiful spot in the Hudson Valley where landscape painters Thomas Cole and Frederic Church each had homes on opposite sides of the river. This designation of the Hudson River Skywalk Region connecting these two historic sites is a fitting recognition for this iconic location and its inspirational views."
The two historic sites provide ideal settings for exploring the transformative role that the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains have played – and continue to play – in the history of American art. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site presents the home and studios of Thomas Cole (1801-1848), founder of America’s first major art movement, the Hudson River School of landscape painting.
Olana State Historic Site is the greatest masterpiece of Frederic Church (1826-1900), Cole’s legendary student and America’s first international art star. The City of Hudson and Town of Catskill are picturesque Hudson River waterfront communities with walkable downtowns and popular shops, restaurants, inns and arts venues. Easy access to both is provided by the Amtrak station in downtown Hudson – with Catskill less than 10 minutes away by taxi.
The occasion celebrated the extraordinary economic potential of the Hudson River Skywalk in its own right and as the focal point for tourism to the Hudson River Skywalk Region. An economic analysis by Saratoga Springs-based ELAN estimates that new visitor spending generated by the Hudson River Skywalk in Columbia and Greene counties is expected to be approximately $4.53 million annually at local businesses, including restaurants and lodging. That will produce more than $270,000 in new tax revenues annually for the two counties combined.
Those figures are in addition to the economic impact that the two historic sites already generate. Recent analyses by Business Opportunities Management Consulting in North Greenbush found that the annual economic impact of the Thomas Cole Site and Olana combined totals approximately $11.6 million and supports 274 jobs in the local economy.
The Hudson River Skywalk will add $4.53 million annually and an estimated 66 jobs – for a total of $15.73 million annually and 330 jobs. It will also create a new economic engine built around the unique combination of pivotal history, stunning vistas, and a connecting walkway, all set within a region bustling with artistic energy and many other attractions.
To help market this regional tourist attraction, Governor Cuomo announced last year the creation of the Hudson River Skywalk Region. This was supported by a $225,000 Market New York grant awarded to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in partnership with Olana through the Regional Economic Development Council initiative. This award helped to create the recently launched Hudson River Skywalk website that will invite visitors to the area.
“These two historic sites – representing Thomas Cole and Frederic Church – have been connected by history for nearly two hundred years,” said Elizabeth Jacks, Executive Director of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. “With the construction of the walkways of the Hudson River Skywalk, that historic and thematic connection has been made into concrete and steel, creating one spectacular unified destination.”
“The Hudson River Skywalk is the centerpiece of a major new tourism region linking not only Frederic Church’s Olana and the Thomas Cole Site but also the artistic energy of Hudson and Catskill,” said Sean Sawyer, the President of The Olana Partnership. “The Hudson River Skywalk Region will be a key economic engine for the two counties and the entire Hudson Valley.”
Greene County Legislature Chair Patrick Linger said, "With the help of Governor Cuomo's leadership, the Hudson River Skywalk is now a crown jewel that will draw thousands of tourists to the area annually to see our historic landmarks and natural beauty."
Village of Catskill Board of Trustees President Vincent Seeley said, “The Hudson River Skywalk project, under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, has come to fruition and will be a boon for both communities on either side of the river.”
Town of Greenport Supervisor Kathleen Eldridge said, “This is now a wonderful destination for all who visit our beautiful region and we would like to thank Governor Cuomo for his dedication to making this project possible. DOT and our State partners have been very receptive to the communities needs and suggestions.”
The New York State Bridge Authority
The NYS Bridge Authority operates the Bear Mountain, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson, Kingston-Rhinecliff and Rip Van Winkle bridges and owns and maintains the structure of the Walkway Over the Hudson Bridge. The Authority is funded principally from bridge tolls and receives no state or federal tax monies for bridge maintenance and operation.
Olana and The Olana Partnership
Olana is the greatest masterpiece of Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), the preeminent American artist of the mid-19th Century. Church designed Olana as a holistic environment integrating his advanced ideas about art, architecture, landscape design, and environmental conservation. Olana's 250-acre artist-designed landscape with a Persian-inspired house at its summit embraces unrivaled panoramic views of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains and, today, welcomes more than 170,000 visitors annually.
Olana State Historic Site, a historic site administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Taconic Region, is a designated National Historic Landmark and one of the most visited sites in the state. The Olana Partnership, a private not-for-profit education corporation, works cooperatively with New York State to support the restoration, conservation, and interpretation of Olana State Historic Site. To learn more about Olana and The Olana Partnership, click here.
Thomas Cole National Historic Site
Thomas Cole National Historic Site is the birthplace of American art, presenting the original home and studios of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, the nation’s first major art movement. Located on six acres in the Hudson Valley, the site includes the 1815 Main House, Cole’s 1839 Old Studio, the recently reconstructed New Studio building, and panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains. It is a National Historic Landmark and an affiliated area of the National Park System. The Thomas Cole Site offers guided and self-guided tours, special exhibitions of both 19th-century and contemporary art, printed publications, lectures, extensive online programs, activities for school groups, the Cole Fellowship program, free community events, and innovative public programs such as the Hudson River School Art Trail—a map and website that enables visitors to visit the places in nature that Cole painted. The goal of all programs at the Thomas Cole Site is to enable visitors to find meaning and inspiration in Thomas Cole’s life and work. The themes that Cole explored in his art and writings—such as landscape preservation and our conception of nature as a restorative power—are both historic and timely, providing the opportunity to connect to audiences with insights that are highly relevant to their own lives.