Stockade Association board asks for more public input on projects

The board detailed this in a letter given to the mayor and city council members
Stockade Association board members have expressed frustration over some changes made to the plan for Liberty Park in downtown.
Stockade Association board members have expressed frustration over some changes made to the plan for Liberty Park in downtown.

SCHENECTADY — Board members of the Stockade Association have asked the city to be more transparent when it comes to projects in public spaces in the city.

In a letter to City Council members and Mayor Gary McCarthy, the board specifically cited Liberty Park as an example. It said while the original plans for the renovation of the park did include public input back in 2012, the letter notes there have been some changes with the project that were seemingly done in private.

It said there originally was a plan to return many statues and historical markers to the park, but it appeared those plans changed.

“After the final design was implemented, the plan to replace much of the historical information and objects fell to the wayside with little explanation to the public or neighborhood associations such as ours,” the letter said.

Even though the park borders the Stockade and isn’t actually located in the historic neighborhood, the association said it still cares about the preservation of history throughout the rest of the city. The park is on State Street in downtown, across the street from SUNY Schenectady County Community College.

Carol DeLaMarter, president of the Stockade Association, said the group is asking for there to be a process to decide on what goes in to places like Liberty Park. She said it so far appears to be “random,” and that if there are actual guidelines that have been created, they don’t appear to be consistent.

She highlighted the decision made by the City Council to support a temporary art installation proposed by Schenectady Pride earlier in November. The installation would include a rainbow pride public art sculpture that would celebrate the equal rights movement for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community over the last 50 years.

There was a slight back and forth between council members and the people behind the art project about whether the installation would be permanent or temporary.

The project is seeking funding through the Schenectady Foundation’s Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge, and its application originally called for it to be a permanent installation.

Mary Moore Wallinger, the city’s Planning Commission chair and principal of LAndArt Studio who signed on to work on the project, said plans had changed. She said part of the reason was because there wasn’t a process in place to determine which public art pieces would be permanent or temporary in the park, which her company designed.

DeLaMarter believes the lack of a process is why council members seemed unprepared to make a decision on the project.

“[The board] is still waiting for someone to come up with guidelines for installations that don’t surprise people,” DeLaMarter said.

DeLaMarter also criticized the city for not always being too concerned about preserving history of the city. She said she doesn’t think it’s something city officials think about with some of its projects.

McCarthy, the mayor, disagreed. He said it’s always taken under consideration.

In terms of the historical markers mentioned by the Stockade board, he said they had experienced “significant deterioration.” He said the city is trying to figure out how to have them restored.

“We’re trying to do those things in the most cost-effective manner,” McCarthy said

McCarthy said when it comes to developing a process to decide what goes into city parks, that would be something for the City Council to develop. But when it comes to things that are already in the park — or were in the park, such as the Statue of Liberty replica that was taken out of the park while it was renovated — that falls under his discretion.

Councilman John Polimeni has already proposed the creation of a task force that would come up with those types of guidelines. He said it’s something he would look to get input from the community on.

“I think public input is important, that’s why I’m calling for a task force,” Polimeni said. “It doesn’t mean everyone is going to be happy, because that’s impossible. But there would at least be some input and ideas from the community before we establish guidelines.”

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