More than a dozen Schenectady residents pushed for federal funding for local nonprofits during a City Council public hearing on Monday evening.
The city received a little more than $2 million in Community Development Block Grant funding to distribute in 2016-17 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city also got about $185,000 in Emergency Solutions Grant funding and $357,000 in HOME Investment Partnerships funding.
The City Council held the public hearing regarding its 2016-17 proposed action plan to distribute funding for economic development, housing assistance and neighborhood revitalization.
The proposal includes a total of $89,500 for Bethesda House, $111,936 for Better Neighborhoods Inc. and $25,000 for the Hamilton Hill Arts Center.
Several people advocated for additional funding for the Hamilton Hill Arts Center, saying it provides a place for children to go after school, on weekends and during vacations.
“I feel the loss of the arts center would really destabilize the community,” said Victoria Cooper, a Hamilton Hill resident. “We cannot afford to lose another safe place for our children and they deserve a place to go.”
Jessica Hunter, who is on the board of the arts center, said the facility has stayed open in large part thanks to the CDBG funding.
She said the center’s dance classes have nearly tripled in size in the last few months and that the center is considering expanding the program.
“There is a real need for the arts center and the community is invested in it,” she said.
The $25,000 would be used for the center’s Project ArtReach, which provides cultural and educational programming for low- and moderate-income youth in the neighborhood.
The proposed action plan also includes $30,136 for the Boys and Girls Club of Schenectady and $9,000 for the Schenectady Basketball Club.
Shane Bargy, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, said the funding would be used for programming in city parks.
The funds would be distributed for arts and crafts, sports programs, swimming lessons and family programs along with special events at Quackenbush Park and the management of Steinmetz Park.
The $9,000 for the basketball club would be used for program-related expenses, like rent and supplies.
Kanema Haynes said the basketball team provides a positive activity for individuals under the age of 18. She said the program keeps them busy and out of trouble.
“Our kids are our future so if we don’t invest in them now they will be standing on the corner,” she said. “The time is now and we have to do it now.”
A proposed $60,000 for Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County would be used to build two, two-story homes in partnership with the Capital Region Land Bank, according to Executive Director Madelyn Thorne.
TBU Productions is listed to receive $10,000 for its “Cradle” project, which Prince Sprauve said would be a film that addresses the high rate of teenage pregnancy in Schenectady.
Hope Edwards said the TBU youth program gives her the opportunity to express her emotions and that the group has become like family.
“TBU has allowed me to get more in touch with my emotions,” she said. “I always felt as a kid I had no one to talk to and no one to understand me. I would keep everything to myself. TBU has been my shoulder to cry on when you need someone to lean on. It has shaped me into the person I am today.”
The proposed action plan allocates $30,000 to the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region to operate a satellite office in Schenectady, $60,000 for the Community Land Trust of Schenectady to assist 10 eligible homebuyers with housing rehabilitation services and $70,000 for the Schenectady County Youth Bureau for park programming.
The 2016 plan also includes $51,000 for the Schenectady County Office of Affirmative Action. The seven-member Affirmative Action Advisory Committee recently recommended that the city have its own affirmative action officer.
Committee member Ellie Pepper, speaking on behalf of the chair, said Monday that the committee believes the city should re-establish its own affirmative action office, rather than relying on the county.
“Our recommendation is simply a reflection of the reality of the issues facing the city to be more diverse in hiring and contracting,” she said. “The current structure is unable to meet the demands necessary. The city constituents deserve greater attention.”
The council will vote on the 2016-17 action plan during its meeting on May 9. The application is due on May 15.