Watervliet ( or ) is a city in Albany County in the U.S. state of New York. The population was 9,536 (1,360 5-18 year old residents) as of the 2010 census. Watervliet is north of Albany, the capital of the state, and is bordered on the north, west, and south by the town of Colonie. The city is also known as "the Arsenal City".
The explorer Henry Hudson arrived in the area of Watervliet around 1609. The area was first settled in 1643 as part of the Rensselaerswyck patroonship, under the direction of Kiliaen van Rensselaer. In 1710 Derrick van der Heyden operated a ferry from the Bleeker Farm (near 16th Street) across the Hudson River to Troy. Troops during the Revolutionary War used this ferry in 1777 on their way to Bemis Heights and Stillwater for the Battle of Saratoga. In 1786 a second ferry was started at Ferry Street (today 14th Street) over to Troy. The town of Watervliet was founded in 1788 and included all of present-day Albany County except what was in the city of Albany at the time. Because so many towns had been created from the town of Watervliet, it is regarded as the "mother of towns" in the county. In 1816 the first post office was erected, corner of River and Ferry streets (Broadway and 14th Street), it took the name Watervliet.
In 1865, present-day Watervliet was included in the Capital Police Force within the Troy District. This attempt at regional consolidation of municipal police failed and in 1870 the West Troy Police Force was organized.
By 1895 what was known as the town of Watervliet was reduced to the present-day city of Watervliet (village of West Troy at the time), town of Colonie, and the village/town of Green Island. Colonie would split off in 1895, and the city of Watervliet was incorporated in 1896 at the same time that Green Island became a town of its own.
In the early 19th century Watervliet became a major manufacturing community much like its neighbors Cohoes and Troy, thanks to bell foundries. The first was located on Water Street (Broadway), between 14th and 15th Streets, by Julius Hanks, and the first bell foundry in Gibbonsville was established in 1826 by Andrew Menelly, Sr. This would be the genesis of the Meneely Bell Foundry, which made thousands of bells that are still in use today from Iowa to the Czech Republic.
The main route of the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany ran through Watervliet, and because the canal bypassed the city of Troy, the business community of Troy decided that a "short cut" was needed for convenient access to the Erie Canal without having to go through the Albany Basin. A side-cut to the Hudson was located at Watervliet's present-day 23rd Street (the Upper Side cut) finished in 1823, and another just south of the Arsenal (the Lower Side cut). A weigh station and a center for paying canal boat operators was located here as well. As a result of canal boat crews being paid at the end of their trip, the areas around the side cut was once famous for gambling, saloons, and prostitution; there were more than 25 saloons within two blocks, with names like The Black Rag and Tub of Blood. The neighborhood around the side cut had the nickname of "Barbary Coast of the East", Buffalo being the "Barbary Coast of the West". In the 1880s Watervliet had a reputation for over 100 fights a day and a body once in the week in the Canal.
Also linking Watervliet to the transportation network of the region was the Watervliet Turnpike and the Albany and Northern Railway. The Watervliet Turnpike Company in 1828 built present-day New York State Route 32 from the northern boundary of Albany north to the northern limit of Gibbonsville (now Broadway and 15th Street). The Albany and Northern Railway was built 1852 connecting Watervliet to Albany, with a depot on Genesee Street; a few years later a new depot was built on Canal Street (Central Avenue) but was abandoned in favor of returning to the original location in 1864.
The current mayor of Watervliet is Michael Manning, elected to his first term in 2007. Mr. Manning, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Mayor Robert Carlson in a rare Democratic primary election in September 2007. Mr. Carlson had served as mayor of Watervliet for ten years.
St. Patrick's Church controversy
In September 2011, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany decided to close St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, which was claimed by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese to be physically deteriorating; the church announced that it was unable to afford rehabilitation, which would have amounted to an estimated $4 million. In March 2012, a developer filed a proposal to rezone the property from residential to business status so that it could raze the church (as well as an attached rectory, former school building, and six private residences) in order to make way for a Price Chopper grocery store.
St. Patrick's Church, which is the tallest point in town, is closely modeled on the Upper Basilica in Lourdes and many consider it a defining piece of Watervliet's architecture. Some members of the community have responded with criticism, and have formed a group opposed to the demolition of the church, Citizens for St. Patrick's. The group has obtained a statement by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that the church is eligible to apply for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Planning board meetings have taken place regarding the developer's proposal. On November 20, 2012, the Watervliet City Council voted unanimously to rezone the St. Patrick's Church property for business use, thus "clearing the way" for the redevelopment of the property and the deconstruction of the church.