State, city officials mark ‘new day for Oswego’s waterfront’

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, center, gets good height on her dirt toss for the ceremonial groundbreaking at Wright’s Landing Marina on Friday. Part of the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, a portion of the city’s west side shoreline will receive more than $6 million in improvements, renovations and investment aimed at attracting more pedestrian traffic to “finally” take advantage of the waterfront, Mayor Billy Barlow said. Above from left: Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez, Barlow, Hochul, Department of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito, State Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay.

OSWEGO — City and state officials broke ground on more than $6 million of Wright’s Landing Marina improvements Friday morning, ushering in what leaders called “a new day for Oswego’s waterfront.”

Funded as part of the state’s $300 million Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, better known as REDI, the Wright’s Landing Marina project is one of dozens across the Great Lake shoreline aimed at both hardening shoreline infrastructure and boosting local economies. The current effort includes elevating the marina roughly two feet, renovating bathroom facilities, installing a new pavilion, connecting the marina to Breitbeck Park and making the entire area ADA-accessible.

Joined by state agency chiefs and a myriad of local representatives for the official groundbreaking ceremony, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul praised Port City leaders for their commitment to improving a waterfront and city with “incredible potential” that is “poised for greatness.”

“This is really a special community and you have so many assets,” Hochul said. “Never, ever take for granted the charm that you have here, but my view is you can always up the game.”

In June, the city started construction on the Breitbeck Park and Wright’s Landing Marina projects, which in all total a roughly $16 million transformation of the Port City waterfront. In addition to the REDI funds, the city received other funding through the state and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help pay for the projects.

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow called the groundbreaking “a new day for Oswego’s waterfront,” and said the funds would “make a significant difference.” Barlow compared REDI to the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), which infused $10 million into Oswego’s downtown corridor starting in 2016. The imminent improvements to other parts of the shoreline, which with Wright’s Landing will total more than $12 million could have the same impact as the DRI funds, Barlow said, as REDI funds will allow the city to fully capitalize on its waterfront for the first time.

“We’re about to take advantage, finally, of this wonderful asset we have,” Barlow said.

The entire marina area was closed earlier this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and impending construction.

Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay, R-Pulaski said the marina improvements would increase boat traffic, make visitors and residents feel more welcomed on this corner of  Lake Ontario and spur additional economic activity and investment.

“This state-funded infrastructure investment in Wright’s Landing will benefit generations to come,” said Barclay, who was part of the ceremonial golden-shovel groundbreaking.

The Wright’s Landing transformation will create “a world-class destination” for boaters and tourists, in addition to hardening shoreline infrastructure, according to state Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez.

“It’s really going to increase opportunities for all the residents and all the tourists to take full advantage of this spectacular waterfront,” she said.

The project also includes repairing docks at the marina that sustained flood damage in recent years. Docks and slips are slated for a redesign and expansion to serve more boaters.

Officials said the work is scheduled to be complete by October 2021.

Hochul noted the project and the REDI funds were secured in response to Lake Ontario flooding in 2017 and 2019 and the resulting damage in shoreline communities.

“It was painful to see people’s lives disrupted and businesses who don’t know if they’re going to make it,” Hochul said. “We are going to seize this opportunity, whether it’s coming back after devastating flooding on Lake Ontario, or whether it’s coming back from a global pandemic.”

City officials tabulated that the waterfront incurred more than $5.5 million of damage to public spaces from high water and flooding.

“There’s no way a community, the size of Oswego, with our limited resources, would ever be able to repair that damage, not to mention move our waterfront area forward in such a significant way,” Barlow said, crediting Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state officials for seizing the opportunity presented to “take what could have been an absolute nightmare for this community, and turn it into one of the best things that have ever happened to this community.”

The REDI funds are also slated to transform the International Pier from a gravel drive into a pedestrian-friendly boardwalk with a $6.5 million investment. The Wright’s Landing and International Pier improvements are expected to complement other recent projects, such as the restoration of the West Pierhead Lighthouse, renovations to Breitbeck Park, a newly installed fueling station and a new boater services building.

A separate project to install self-adjusting docks at the Port Authority Marina has been “substantially completed,” according to state officials.

REDI funds have also allowed for dredging projects slated to occur later this year in North Sandy Pond, in addition to improvements at the Port Authority of Oswego and resiliency efforts at Sandy Island Beach State Park.

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