Before you dismiss the notion of a gondola carrying commuters and tourists among Beacon, Newburgh and Stewart Airport, think back to the time when somebody started talking about turning that old, damaged railroad bridge across the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie into a walkway.
Absurd, costly and a waste of time were some of the reactions, and they were among the kindest.
But the people with the vision persisted and we know how this turned out. The Walkway is not only a wonderful experience for anyone who has gone there, it also is a major tourist attraction as well as a critical link in a series of trails on both sides of the river. It is a prime example of the kind of vision and inspiration that we often praise in theory, revere in hindsight, yet ridicule when it confronts us.
This latest notion comes with a bonus because it is being suggested by none other than Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the Cold Spring Democrat who won re-election this month and is now poised to join the majority in the House of Representatives.
He mentioned the gondola, throwing in the possibility of an extension to the top of Mount Beacon as an added tourist attraction, in a post-election call to reporters. And while the gondola was the unavoidable headline, he also had some more practical suggestions for improving mass transit in a region that could use some more.
They include more links between bus lines that serve more rural areas, and rapid transit as well as rail service that would link Port Jervis to Beacon with stops along the way in Middletown, Stewart and Newburgh.
Those, too, will be questioned by people who will wonder how we can build or afford such projects when we can’t seem to keep our roads and bridges repaired right now.
But the links he envisions are not all that new. A trolley once regularly brought people from western Orange County into Newburgh, trains ran regularly up both sides of the Hudson and boats and ferries carried thousands of passengers for business and pleasure to and from New York City.
It can’t hurt to imagine how we can reduce our dependence on cars and it especially can’t hurt if the person promoting that vision is going to be in a position to get the money needed to start studying these ideas to see if they are feasible.
Maloney knows how to raise funds. We saw that this fall as he ran for attorney general and the House and had no trouble bringing in millions of dollars in a short time. Now, he is one of four seeking to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the body that will seek to keep the party in the majority. Maloney makes a compelling case for that job:
"I beat a Republican incumbent and I have won a Republican/Trump district four times by communicating effectively with the very voters we need to expand our majority.”
If he wins, he will be working with people who have the kind of money that could make this gondola dream a possibility, if not a reality.