Categories: Schenectady County
In a neighborhood where parents are afraid to let their children play outdoors in daylight, families gathered Saturday evening for old-fashioned summer recreation, including a water balloon toss, an egg relay and dancing to live music.
Wearing T-shirts with the logo “ZTZ,” which stands for Zero Tolerance Zone, a group of volunteers welcomed people to a vacant lot along Fremont Street on the block between Washington and Forest streets for a block party. Known as a spot for criminal activity, the ZTZ founders are determined to return the cluster of homes and connected sidewalks to a safe environment for their children.
“We’re sick of our street being this way, with the police having to come in every time you turn around,” said organizer Lori Glynn, who has raised two children in the neighborhood. “People come in here that don’t live here to start trouble, because they know this is the bad part of town.”
Mothers of small children growing up on the street also voiced their worries.
“We want to send a message to criminals that our neighborhoods are organized and fighting back,” said Melissa Burns, who is raising her children, Lissa, 6, and Michael Jr., 4, on Fremont Street. “We shouldn’t have to keep them inside all day even in the summer because you never know when a fight will break out on the street right in front of them.”
The block party, which included a potluck dinner shared on paper plates, began with a cleanup of the street by volunteers of all ages.
“We picked up everything you can imagine: broken glass, beer bottles, even cigarette butts,” said Jennifer Rote, who launched ZTZ with Glynn about two months ago. “There are two or three kids living in most of these houses, and I can’t tell you the kind of things they’ve seen and heard.”
Olivia Magielda, 20, recently moved onto Fremont Street, where most of the homes contain rental apartments.
“My mother won’t even come here to visit me because she’s too scared,” Magielda said. “I’ve gotten out of bed at 3 a.m. when I hear fights, and I’ve taken little kids off the street when something happens.”
The women said they’re concerned about weapons, vulgar language and the criminal acts their children are hearing about on the street.
“My son came up to me and told me he was going to throw a brick through someone’s windshield, and he’s 4 years old.” Burns said. “I’m really afraid I’m going to be saving bail money, not college money.”
About 25 people came and went through the event’s early hours, mostly women and children.
“Our husbands support us, but it would be nice to convert more men,” Rote said. “You have to start somewhere. At least we’re reaching the younger generation and maybe they’ll remember this when they’re teenagers.”
The group of about 12 members bought supplies like watercolors to paint characters on children’s faces, as well as the balloons for games.
“We’d love to get some donations to do more and organize into a non-profit,” Glynn said. “People give us $5 along the way, and we appreciate it a lot. Every little bit helps.”
a lot of fights
Wearing a New York Yankees shirt, Craig Ambrosino stood in line to have a black scorpion painted on his face. As if talking about the weather, Ambrosino chatted about trouble he had observed on Fremont Street.
“I’ve seen a lot of fights, dog fights, kids and teenagers,” Ambrosino said. “Mostly it’s adults; they just drink too much and fight over money.”
The volunteers plan to keep spreading the word that they won’t allow the violence to escalate on their street, by posting neighborhood watch signs and keeping an eye on what’s going on outside their homes, day and night.
“We’re banding together,” Glynn said. “Our goal is to have everyone in Gloversville know we take pride in our neighborhood, and they should too.”
Rote said she would also like to see peoples’ perceptions about the neighborhood change.
“My kids grew up here, and they own houses and are raising kids, so you can’t say no one who grows up on Fremont Street will go anywhere in life,” Rote said.
“Once this block party is over, we’ll see whose eyes are open.”