Schenectady County

Progressive illness puts Schenectady councilwoman on sidelines

City Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard, who has a progressive neurological illness, has been hospitaliz

City Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard, who has a progressive neurological illness, has been hospitalized.

Blanchard has been fighting the illness since at least 2009, when she was forced to begin using a walker. Later, as symptoms progressed in an illness she has not publicly identified, she began using a temporary wheelchair, and recently bought her own wheelchair.

But until last week, she remained active on the City Council and in running the Schenectady Greenmarket, as well as taking vacations and other trips.

Early last Wednesday morning, however, she was taken to Ellis Hospital, where she spent six days, though not in the Intensive Care Unit, and then was transferred to Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital on Monday.

“That’s a big step,” said her husband, Art Edelstein. “It’s too soon to know what course this will take.”

He asked the public to wait a week or two for things to become more clear.

“I really don’t want people to come see her so she can focus on getting better,” he said.

Edelstein noted that Blanchard has chosen not to discuss her health publicly, but he said he didn’t think it would be fair to the many people concerned about her to simply say her health was a private matter.

“The family is well aware that people are concerned with her welfare, and the family appreciates the support,” he said.

But there’s not much people can do, he added. Her illness has worsened slowly for years, despite the efforts of many doctors.

“If I knew what people could do, I’d have them do it,” Edelstein said.

Blanchard, a Democrat, was elected to City Council in 2005 and re-elected in 2009. Her second term ends next year.

She sponsored the Livable Cities series that taught hundreds of residents how to change Schenectady into a more pedestrian-friendly city. She was a founder of ReTree Schenectady and the Greenmarket, and has been a strong voice in the fight to preserve historic buildings. She was a member of the Historic District Commission before being elected to the council.

On the council, she has often pushed hard for environmentally friendly city policies. Just this year, she persuaded her colleagues to vote against operation of some gas-guzzling city vehicles, to support more recycling efforts, and to ban smoking in city parks.

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