In a page one news story (July 26), The Daily Gazette presented a photo and related article about Schenectady’s historic weigh station.
It was built in the 1920’s and is located in the back of a parking lot on South Broadway in downtown Schenectady. It’s an unusual looking building and Schenectady officials have been unable to find anyone interested in using it for a commercial enterprise because of its small size and the fact that its internal spaces are separated by a breezeway where the old scales were once located.
In 2006, former Mayor Brian U. Stratton said, “The weigh station is one of the most architecturally unique and historic structures in downtown Schenectady.
With all of the development that is underway throughout our downtown, now is the time to seek proposals for the reuse of the weigh station. Our goal will be to preserve, restore and enhance this beautiful building creating another development project for downtown.”
Since that year, nearly eight years ago, the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority has been s seeking a developer who will restore and preserve the historic character of the building adding to the redevelopment of downtown. Currently, plans by Metroplex are underway to spruce up the area around the 1,500 square foot building located at 312 Broadway.
Over the years, Metroplex has funded dozens of projects in the downtown area. For example, in 2011, a new Visitors Center was opened at Proctors funded by a $180,000 Federal Highway Administration National Scenic Byways Grant administered by the state Department of Transportation, as well as a $40,000 grant provided by Metroplex.
A unique feature of the Visitors Center is that it was designed to serve as a revolving exhibit with panels designed to be easily and cost effectively updated. Of course, the major purpose of this resource is to help theatergoers and other visitors to the downtown area to learn about everything that Schenectady County has to offer.
A police station near downtown public parking facilities and entertainment venues can have a significant public safety psychological impact. Moreover, this new use would be extremely complementary and generative for any new and current housing units in downtown Schenectady.
Coincidentally, in July 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice issued a flyer, which noted that “police deter crimes when they do things that strengthen a criminal’s perception of the certainty of being caught. Strategies that use the police as sentinels … are particularly effective.”
In essence, the presence of alert and active police is critical for the suppression of crime and criminals.
However, since police can’t be everywhere patrols must be carefully planned. The use of foot patrols is an ideal way to learn from residents about security concerns and where to deploy police to deter the most crime. The police in New York City are just beginning a new program involving “wellness visits” to reduce crime in city housing complexes.
The NYPD’s new chief of the Housing Bureau, Carlos Gomez, announced that members of his force are going to knock on the doors of recent crime- or accident victims to see how they are doing in order to promote improved citizen-police relationships. According to available crime rates posted at www.neighborhoodscout.com, people living or traveling through Schenectady are about twice as likely to become victims of property crime as their counterparts in New York City and slightly more than twice as likely to be a victim of a violent crime.
The old weigh station would be an excellent community police substation. It would be even more useful if it also served as a command/training center for the deployment of carefully screened and trained members of a new volunteer auxiliary police force.
There are currently about 200,000 citizens in the U.S. who are currently serving as volunteer police officers. New York City has had such an auxiliary force since 1951. In the 1920s, when Schenectady’s weigh station was in daily use, it had a volunteer reserve police force.
Auxiliary police can provide many non-enforcement functions throughout the city including: being community sentinels for the prevention of crime (their most common function in New York City); making sure that children are not left in parked cars; assisting with the proper use of child safety seats; delivering law-related education courses at city schools; augmenting police traffic and crowd control at special events; staffing research-based anti-violence school programs; serving as coaches and role models at after-school community centers; providing a visible police presence at the Amtrak and bus stations; and visiting neighborhoods to ease tensions thereby building bridges between the residents and the police.
Martin A. Greenberg is the director of research and education for the New York State Association of Auxiliary Police, Inc. and author of “American Volunteer Police: Mobilizing for Security.”