FLETCHER: 'Herald's sidewalk' worth the wait

Opinion column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

The less I seek my source for some definitive, The closer I am to fine.

— Indigo Girls

We here at The Albany Herald now have the Taj Mahal of sidewalks.

OK, it’s really not ours, belongs, I believe, to the city of Albany. Plus, technically, the walkway also fronts the Art Park, Cool Scoops and The LeVee, so they have a right to stake their own claim. Also important to consider: Taxpayers “own” the city’s various properties, and the money that’s spent by said entity comes out of those taxpayers’ pockets.

But we’re the ones who walk on it every day, trudging to and from our parking lot, so we’re going to lay claim to our share. As an added bonus: It’s a structure anyone would be proud of.

The Zane Grace Construction crews are not quite through with the extensive project yet, a project that has carried on despite torrential rains, a flooded basement, a couple of adjacent street festivals and just about every other obstacle or stumbling block that could have been thrown up to slow progress. When they do get through, I’m thinking the city would be smart to add a trip down Pine — from Front to Washington, or vice versa — to any Paula Deen, Ray Charles, Ray Stephens, Field Mob or Dallas Davidson tour planned.

“They still have to put in the trees, finish the brick paver crosswalks and do a few little things here and there,” Downtown Albany Manager Aaron Blair, who as president of the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority is overseeing the project, said last week. “But they’re definitely getting close. And with each little element they complete, it looks a bit more awesome.”

Of course, our Taj Ma-sidewalk should look awesome. When all is said and done, what with extensive drainage pipe, decorative lighting, tree and irrigation system installations, it will have cost around $425,000. And, yes, that includes the thousands needed to clean up this newspaper’s flooded basement, an element of the project that’s still under contention.

Another reason we at The Herald — and presumably, the folks with the D’town Arts Coalition, Cool Scoops and The LeVee — feel we’re entitled to claim our share of the elaborate walkway (which has so many step-ups and step-downs and rails that a map may be needed to prevent confusion) is that it took so dad-gummed long to get the thing built.

What started in January as a “temporary inconvenience” morphed into a find-another-parking-spot, dodge-the-traffic, wade-through-the-mud (in which I lost both shoes on one particularly wet afternoon … luckily I was able to wash off my sandals, the bottom of my jeans and my feet in the small lake that develops in the newspaper’s side parking lot with the slightest rainfall), bare-with-us-a-little-longer aggravation that even the most patient of us (not me) started to kinda resent a little as the project’s planned May 31 finish date came and went.

But now, looking out my second-story window at the almost-finished product, I have to admit I’m impressed. All the several inconveniences, viewed through the filter of time passing inexorably by, don’t seem so bad after all. Whether the citizenry — the real owners of this Taj Ma-sidewalk — will deem the cost money-well-spent remains to be seen. But I’m betting there will probably be quite a few who’ll come out on the side of the disgruntled. In fact, it’s pretty much a given.

When they do, I’ll understand. We have more pressing needs. And when you try to explain to citizens — as officials like Blair and others have done, often, to little avail — that certain pots of money have been set aside for particular projects and can’t be spent on anything else … Well, you see the dilemma in standing behind such seemingly pretzel logic.

Still, while I’ll understand and sympathize with the complainers, I’m going to have to count myself among the gruntled on this one.