Schenectady County

Stockade Walkabout in need of a director

The domino effect of Stockade Association President Joseph Fava’s sudden resignation is now threaten

The domino effect of Stockade Association President Joseph Fava’s sudden resignation is now threatening the historic neighborhood’s annual Walkabout.

When Fava resigned four months ago, vice president Lyn Gordon took over. But that meant she had no time to organize the Walkabout, which she has supervised the past four years.

Quiet recruitment has failed and now she is searching urgently for a successor.

“Nobody has stepped up to the plate,” she said.

The Walkabout will be Sept. 27 this year, which sounds like plenty of time to find an organizer, but Gordon said the work is piling up. She needs someone soon.

“Yesterday would’ve been nice,” she said.

She’s trying to sell the post as a gentle introduction to Walkabout leadership.

“It’s a good year for people to get their feet wet. Half the work’s done,” she said. “We have everything so organized in notebooks, I think it would be easy … but to step in, in a month of two, you’d have to play catch-up. The sooner someone volunteers to do it, then the easier the job is.”

The annual Walkabout showcases the historic neighborhood. Ticket-holders can tour several restored houses, chat with re-enactors and watch artisans create their wares. The Waterfront Faire portion of the event will still be run by Fava.

But even if no one agrees to run the Walkabout, Gordon said health concerns have made it impossible for her to do the job.

“To do the presidency right takes a certain amount of time and energy,” she said. “I just can’t support the stress of both. My doctor said, ‘Pick one.’ I picked the presidency.”

The organizational dilemma comes at a difficult time for the neighborhood association, which reorganized the Walkabout last year. The association’s partners, the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp. and the Schenectady County Historical Society, stepped down to lesser roles.

The change nearly tripled the association’s profits, because it no longer needed to split the profits equally with DSIC and the Historical Society. But the deal required the association to shoulder more of the responsibility.

“The DSIC partnership was wonderful because they taught us how to do it,” Gordon said. “They raised sponsorships, their crews did the signage, they got the permits.”

DSIC also used to handle the ticket sales. Now the Historic Society, which had also been an equal partner, sells tickets.

“When they stepped back, the Historical Society no longer wanted to get volunteers for the nitty-gritty but they could do the tickets,” Gordon said. “They became a junior partner rather than an equal partner.”

Under Gordon’s leadership last year, the reorganization ran smoothly. DSIC was paid $2,000 for staff work, while the Historical Society got 15 percent of the proceeds for its contributions. The neighborhood association ended up with a whopping $10,596 — a big change from previous years in which the association saw a $4,000 profit.

The association may have the biggest budget of any neighborhood group in the city, spending up to $30,000 each year. But the neighborhood needed more money than usual last year — it hired attorneys to fight the proposed zoning change of the Mary Hill House, a historic house in the neighborhood. The house is owned by the YWCA, which places homeless women there but wanted to house mothers convicted of nonviolent felonies instead. Many residents objected strenuously to the proposal, and it was denied by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals in November. The influx of dollars from the Walkabout came at just the right time to help pay the association’s legal expenses from that battle.

“We spent a lot of money fighting the Mary Hill House,” Gordon said, although she declined to give a figure.

The association also spent more than $1,000 last year on plumbing and faucets at Lawrence the Indian and Riverside Park, so that the gardens could be more easily watered.

Much of the rest was socked away for future needs.

“By stockpiling some of our money every year, then we do have money in reserve if the Mary Hill House comes up, or a house — if it’s in great need of repair and is threatened, we can work with the Heritage Association,” Gordon said. “Preservation, preservation, preservation.”

In that vein, the association bought construction plans for a deteriorated house on Green Street to help the owner fix the property after he was denied permission to just knock the structure down. Neighbors and the Schenectady Heritage Foundation wanted the house saved.

The association also plans to buy new street signs that delineate the neighborhood as a historic district and may kick in some money for several costly projects organized in the Stockade by the city’s historian.

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