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Check out the “Bridging the Divide” on WMHT

Documentary focuses on impact of the Collar City Bridge

A dividing line joke:

What did Zero say to Eight?

Nice belt.

It’s a visual joke, one that calls to mind the Hudson River Crossing known as The Collar City Bridge. Less like a collar and more like a belt, the bridge at the base of Hoosick Street in Troy created a north and a south. The construction of the bridge took out streets and displaced many. After the bridge opened to traffic in 1980, Hoosick Street was effectively a chasm that divided a neighborhood.

The bridge and its volume of traffic created dangerous conditions for anyone not travelling the area in a car. Foreseeing this, the project, decades in the making, was opposed by residents. Chief among the opponents was John Henry Lyons, of Troy Area United Ministries (TAUM). John’s wife, also a vocal opponent, was Mary Jane Smith, a founder of Unity House. John and Mary Jane lived in Troy. In their lifetimes they were each (and together) great advocates for social justice. John and Mary Jane saw great needs in the neighborhood. They also saw great promise in the neighbors and in the built environment.

Advocates still work to create better conditions, working toward more ‘complete streets’ that take into account the needs of all users of an area. It’s an uphill battle, literally – Hoosick Street is a long incline stretching from the banks of the Hudson River, east to the interior of Rensselaer County.

On the ground, the Collar City Bridge came to stand more for division than anything else. For this reason, projects like the Uniting Line are a breath of fresh air. The project involves public art, painting new life onto the supports of the bridge. With a goal of reclaiming community space, the project is one of hope, optimism for change, and a declaration of unity, instead of division. It also looks really cool, the start of place making.

John Lyons and Mary Jane Smith did not live to see this art, but one can imagine they’d like it. Likely, they would still shake their fists at the sky about the divider, but they would so so in the shade of the bridge, with neighbors, enjoying a space made brighter and more accessible, in part, by public art.

You can learn more about the Uniting Line in the WMHT documentary, Bridging the Divide here. You can see more about artist Jade Warrick’s fantastic designs here. Tune in to WMHT on social media to stay up to date on the chances to engage with the project, including a chance to ask the artist a question that she’ll then answer on air!

Kudos to neighborhood stakeholders who made this project a reality, competing for and ultimately winning a prestigious Bloomberg Philanthropies Asphalt Art grant. It’s inspiring when cool people work together to bring great ideas to fruition: TAP, the Arts Center of the Capital Region, the Hillside neighbors, and artist Jade Warrick  have done a tremendous job. The art is not only a great addition to the neighborhood, it is also an inspiring reminder of power of possibility.