Council committee gives tentative support to Schenectady Pride art installation

Project is vying for funding through Schenectady Foundation's Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge
Robert A. Carreau, exectutive director of The Schenectady Foundation, speaks at 400 Craig St. on Sept. 18.
Robert A. Carreau, exectutive director of The Schenectady Foundation, speaks at 400 Craig St. on Sept. 18.

SCHENECTADY — The City Council’s City Development and Planning Committee on Monday gave conditional approval for a temporary art installation proposed for Gateway Park.

The art project, proposed by the Schenectady Pride, was announced Friday as a finalist in the Schenectady Foundation’s Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge. The council said it would give the organization approval to build its sculpture in the park, but only if the foundation agreed to fund it.

The temporary installation would include a rainbow pride public art sculpture in the park. It would celebrate the equal rights movement for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community over the last 50 years, according to the application submitted for the project.

The sculpture would feature eight wooden frames — painted pink, red, orange, yellow, green, teal, blue and purple — with words that highlight various milestones reached over the 50 years of the movement.

This includes the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York in July 2011, the various marches over the years that celebrate LGBTQ culture and demanded equal rights, and the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village in New York City in 1969.

Chad Putman, former deputy city clerk and one-time candidate for state Senate, presented the project to the council on Monday. The original application for the installation asked for $43,000. But that’s because it originally called for steel or aluminum frames, not wooden ones.

With wooden frames, Putman said the installation could cost approximately $20,000 less.

Putman was joined by Mary Moore Wallinger, chair of the city’s Planning Commission and principal of LAndArt Studio, who has signed on to work with Schenectady Pride on the project.

After the presentation, Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo was quick to note the application before them was for a permanent installation.

Wallinger explain they wanted a temporary one because this would be the first public art installation at newly reopened Gateway Park, which her company designed. She said there hasn’t been a process to determine which public art pieces would be permanent or temporary.

Putman did note that he was unsure if it would impact their project’s chances of being through challenge if they informed the foundation their installation would be a temporary one.

Putman also said he was instructed by the foundation to go to the city for approval on the project because it would be located in a city-owned park.

Robert Carreau, executive director of The Schenectady Foundation, said if project is proposed on public property, it would be incumbent upon those involved in the project to get the city’s permission.

“They have to make sure it’s OK with the property owner,” Carreau said. “If they don’t like the idea, there’s no sense for us to work on it.”

Carreau announced Friday the foundation selected 23 finalists from the 48 proposals it had received.

Those 23 projects represent a total of $1.04 million in requested funding, Carreau said. The foundation has said there is up to $250,000 in funding for projects, with a maximum grant size of $100,000.

A Challenge Council made up of about 20 to 25 community members, stakeholders and investors will choose which projects receive funding. That announcement is expected to come in January.

There are a few different projects proposed to be done inside city parks. This includes a proposed $50,000 splash pad at Wallingford Park in Mont Pleasant and a $100,000 spray pad cooling area at Woodlawn Park.

Carreau said whether projects proposed on city land need to be approved by individual departments or the city council is up to the city to decide.

Some council members, include Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas and John Polimeni, shared concern that the council’s approval for the project would make it appear they were supporting one project over the others.

Perazzo, though, noted the council did approve a ceremonial resolution for the Schenectady Creative Arts Network’s proposed $48,000 “Schenectady and Me” project — which includes installing tiles made by community members onto sculptural benches — in October.

The council’s Administrative Efficiency Committee also unanimously approved a resolution on Monday that included the corrective action plan. The plan features different improvements the city has made to its Bureau of Code Enforcement following a critical audit from the state Comptroller’s Office.

Many of the recommendations in the audit have been implemented, except for one that asks for the council to review reports of the department’s inspection program.

Those reports will be sent to the council starting in the first quarter of 2019, according to the city’s corrective action plan.

Both resolutions are scheduled to be voted on by the full council during its Nov. 13 meeting.

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