Schenectady County

Public to speak on Schenectady plans

Last chance. If there’s something in the proposed comprehensive plan that you don’t like, speak now.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Last chance. If there’s something in the proposed comprehensive plan that you don’t like, speak now.

The Schenectady City Council is holding one final public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall. Council members are prepared to make several changes to the plan, but they’re waiting until the public has had its say.

Some residents are marshaling arguments against selling a parks maintenance garage on Oregon Avenue to a housing developer. Others want stricter rules in the plan for institutions, particularly Union College.

And then there’s Jerry Burrell Park.

The plan proposes expanding the park by abandoning a piece of Schenectady Road and turning two vacant parcels across the street into parkland.

But Habitat for Humanity wants to buy those parcels and build four owner-occupied houses, which Executive Director Jeff Clark thinks would be far more beneficial to the park and the community as a whole.

He has argued that placing owner-occupants near the park is the most effective way of getting rid of the criminals who sell drugs amid the swings and slides. It’s something the community has been trying to do for years, but when nonprofits, ministers and teachers go home for the night, the criminals move back in.

The park has been the site of shootings, including the murder of a young man in broad daylight last spring, and children rarely play there on their own. The park is usually full only when nonprofits run an event.

“The general consensus seems to be, instead of more parkland, people would like to see Jerry Burrell Park improved,” Clark said. “Improve the park that’s there, don’t create more space.”

He thinks Habitat houses are the way to do that.

“The people have put sweat-equity into the house and they care,” he said. “We can start to change the nature of the neighborhood.”

But Zoning Officer Steve Strichman, who helped write the plan, said the neighborhood needs more parkland.

“It’s got 14 percent of the city’s population and less than 1 percent of all the city’s parkland,” he said. “You’ve got very small housing lots there. I think the neighborhood needs some parkland somewhere.”

However, he acknowledged that Clark has a point.

“Either one of them would help the neighborhood. If the neighbors want housing, it’s not my call. I think it’s the neighborhood’s call.”

Actually, it will be the city council’s call. The council will make whatever changes it wants and vote on a final plan, possibly as early as March 10.

The final draft of each neighborhood plan, the citywide plan and the zoning plan are available online at http://www.cityofschenectady.com/Schenectady2020/.

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