Schenectady County

At Riverside, pillars for the park

It looked like there was a garden party at the entrance to Riverside Park on Washington Avenue on Su

It looked like there was a garden party at the entrance to Riverside Park on Washington Avenue on Sunday.

Men in suits and women in summery outfits and wide-brimmed hats chatted amiably beside a well-tended flower garden.

They gathered there for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honor of Schenectady’s newest landmark — the brick-and-limestone entryway to Riverside Park.

A joint effort between the city, the county and the Stockade Association, the new entryway is an addition that can help make Schenectady more attractive to potential home buyers, said Mayor Gary McCarthy during the ceremony.

The two 16-foot pillars of the entryway are the result of one of several rejuvenation projects in the city’s parks.

Other efforts include work on the bathhouse in Steinmetz Park, pool renovations in Central Park, reconstruction of the tennis courts in Mt. Pleasant, and work on the pools in Hillhurst and Woodlawn parks.

Sunday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony did double duty — it called attention to the new landmark and also kicked off the monthly HOMES/Key to the City open house program, which promotes home ownership opportunities in the community.

More than 20 open houses were featured in the city Sunday.

Pending home sales were up 13 percent in May, noted Mary D’Alessandro of Prudential Manor Home Realtors.

The pillar project was paid for by two fundraisers that together generated about $20,000, along with matching funds from the county, said Diane DeMeo, who worked on the committee.

“It brings recognition to the park. All the big parks, they have their entranceways, so we wanted to have one too,” she explained.

The pillars, designed by Stracher Roth Gilmore Architects of Schenectady as a community service, each are topped with an energy-efficient LED lantern equipped with a photosensitive cell that switches them on when the sun goes down.

Recessed panels on the pillars eventually will hold bronze plaques printed with historical information.

The Scotia Bridge once stood nearby and, in the mid-1600s, cargo vessels traveled the Mohawk River west from that same spot, carrying trappers, explorers and military personnel, noted Frank Gilmore of SRG Architects.

The pillars, erected by Mid State Construction of Schenectady, took about a month to build.

They add a bit of grandeur to the garden, said Stockade resident Polly Clements, who helps tend the roses, hydrangeas, sweet williams and marigolds that bloom so beautifully there.

Chief gardener Jennifer Wells was surveying the garden Sunday.

“I did everything except for the pillars, with my helpers,” she said with a smile.

Already graffiti has had to be removed from the new pillars, and there have been times when plants have been taken from the garden, she noted. But that doesn’t discourage her.

“Usually I buy a replacement, and maybe one or two other things,” she said.

“We hope people will consider this a nice place to be and protect it and not do nasty things,” said Stockade resident Lydia Eis, who stood nearby.

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