Mayor Lovely A. Warren renamed the Port of Rochester terminal after former Mayor William “Bill” A. Johnson, Jr., Friday.
Johnson family members from three generations, groups of organizations and friends, gathered at the Port in Charlotte to hear remarks from Council President Loretta C. Scott, friends Clayton Osborne and Paul W. Smith and Senator Joseph Robach.
While recounting what he called a 30-year evolution of riverfront investment from Lake Ontario to Henrietta, Johnson said, he was honored at the renaming of the port in his name and he hopes it is a step in the right direction to set the record of events straight.
“All this is knitted together,” he said. “There is a lot of work that people either were not aware of—or have chosen to forget.”
Johnson was mayor of Rochester from 1994-2005, and was widely known to be outspoken and an expansive-thinking leader. During his tenure a wide variety of challenges existed in the city where he envisioned a better community by seeking creative solutions.
“Today, I am choosing to reclaim his name, his honor and his legacy, which gave credit to his willingness to tackle a vision that had been shelved for years,” Warren said at the dedication ceremony.
During the late 1990’s, the Johnson administration was approached by an outside entity that expressed interest in restoring ferry service at the Port of Rochester. The proposed plan described a high speed ferry that would operate between Rochester and Toronto.
After years of neglect, the condition of the Port had deteriorated and fallen into disrepair. Due to lack of funding, a waterfront revitalization plan had not come to fruition which had been developed years earlier.
An effort was made to consider the possibilities offered by this new ferry proposal by the Johnson Administration. It seemed to be a worthy risk and Mayor Johnson decided to move forward. There was a large issue concerning the ferry service and that was to establish an international port of entry between the United States and Canada. A decision was made to redesign and restore the dilapidated old warehouse into the current terminal building.
Success resulted under Johnson’s leadership in securing several federal and state grants of $150 million to restore this building, in addition to the surrounding areas of the Port and sections of the Charlotte community. Additional expenses of $27 million added to the total, included construction of the Marina and related improvements.
In May, 2004, the Port of Rochester Terminal building opened as a modern multi-use facility while preserving portions of its historical architecture.
Mayor Robert Duffy shut down the effort when he assumed office in 2006—The Johnson administration had presided over two failed ferry runs in 2005 that lost millions in tax-payer dollars.
“I’m not ashamed of us or anything that we did,” Johnson said. “We wish that things had turned out better. … (But) we still have a vibrant port, and I think that is the positive story here.”
“So, Mayor Johnson, I want you, your family and your friends to know, that 20 years from now, when your great-great-grandchildren come to this place, the plaques and the building that bear your name will hang with pride,” Mayor Warren said. “and none of them will ever think about the fast ferry, because today, we reclaimed this place as the William A. Johnson, Jr. Terminal Building at the Port of Rochester for all your great works as a citizen, as a man, but most of all, as mayor of the city of Rochester.”