Schenectady County

History and Pokemon intersect in the Stockade

The Stockade is bursting with history and, lately, it’s been bursting with Pokémon.
Pokemon Go players watch their smartphones at South Church and Front streets in Schenectady's Stockade neighborhood on Tuesday.
Pokemon Go players watch their smartphones at South Church and Front streets in Schenectady's Stockade neighborhood on Tuesday.

The Stockade is bursting with history and, lately, it’s been bursting with Pokémon.

Old homes, historic churches and local landmarks dot Ferry Street, Union Street, Church Street and Washington Avenue, making it a prime destination for Pokémon Go players.

“You walk around, you check out the scenery and you catch some Pokémon. It’s a good time,” said Joe Haessig, who has played in the Stockade a few times since downloading the game when it came out.

On the Go … in the Stockade

POKÉSTOPS: Memorial marker for the Massacre of 1690, First Reformed Church, Carley House, Robert Sanders House, John Glen House, County Historical Society

POKÉMON GYMS: St. George’s Church, Civic Players Theatre, South Gate of the Stockade

Since the game’s release at the start of July, users have flocked to the Stockade to take advantage of its numerous PokéStops and gyms.

The free app is programmed so that gaming features are clustered around historical sites and monuments. As a result, players young and old have clogged the sidewalks, often at night, bringing new life to the historic district. It’s been good for camaraderie, business and catching Pokémon, though there are drawbacks for Stockade residents.

Pokémon Go has exploded in popularity in the past month, garnering more users on Android devices than Twitter

It uses augmented reality to allow a player to travel around and catch the virtual creatures that, using their smartphone’s camera, are superimposed into real world surroundings. PokéStops are used to gather in-game items, while gyms are places where users can battle each other with the Pokémon they’ve caught.

It’s difficult to make a trip down Ferry Street without seeing a few people with their eyes glued to their phones, occasionally swiping at the screen to throw a Pokéball at a Pidgey, Drowzee or whatever else has appeared nearby.

Most say it’s most common to see large crowds in the evening, when dozens of gamers roam the neighborhood. Haessig, who is from Mariaville, was playing the game Tuesday with his friend from Rotterdam.

“Everybody’s making friends and losing weight,” the Rotterdam resident said with a smile.

Tommy Bleyl, 8, said he comes to the Stockade area a few times a week for the game. He said it’s better than other local spots because it has more PokéStops. The sidewalks are sometimes packed with kids out of school for the summer, said Bleyl, a Glenville resident.

“He’s been asking me for a couple days now to take him down here,” said Carol Simmons, Bleyl’s grandmother.

Good for business

In addition to providing a boost for a gamer’s Pokédex, the game has been beneficial for local businesses. The Schenectady County Historical Society has hosted Pokémon Go themed walking tours that combine PokéStops and in-game features with facts about the landmarks where they’re located.

Arthur’s Market, a staple on North Ferry Street, has seen its business roughly double since the game’s release, said Richard Genest, who works at the café.

“We’re very grateful to Pokémon Go,” he said.

There have been groups of people out at night playing the game that stop in for a snack or drink, which has led to the café extending its hours until 11 p.m., Genest said.

Resident reaction mixed

However, the hordes of people swarming the Stockade has been a mixed bag for residents. Carol DeLaMarter, president of the Stockade Association, said she’s mostly enjoyed seeing families out and about playing the game and exploring the neighborhood.

“For some of us who may like to be walking later at night it’s created a greater sense of safety on the street because there’s others on the street,” she said.

DeLaMarter said she hasn’t had many people come to her complaining about the game, though she’s aware of some residents who are annoyed with side effects of the crowds.

Periodically there are cars parking illegally, or drivers spotted with their phones in hand, she said. That can cause problems, as some roads in the Stockade are narrow, one-way streets. In addition, she said some residents become concerned when gamers are loitering outside their apartments late at night.

One resident referred to “parking shenanigans and tailgating” taking place in church parking lots, where players tend to congregate at night. The game displays a message when opened telling users not to trespass while playing.

While DeLaMarter said she thinks some users need to maintain a sense of boundaries, she views the game as a positive.

“I still think it’s terrific to have people out walking and young people finding something safe to do,” she said. “As long as they’re not doing damage and as long as they recognize they’re in a neighborhood.”

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