Groups raise money to help reopen Carver Community Center in Schenectady

Goal to reopen center by fall will require $400,000
The Ill Funk Ensemble performs at a benefit concert for the Carver Community Center on Saturday.
The Ill Funk Ensemble performs at a benefit concert for the Carver Community Center on Saturday.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

SCHENECTADY — The next generation of city nonprofit groups were on display Saturday night, as the Schenectady chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America organized a fundraiser at the Electric City Barn to help reopen the Carver Community Center. 

Laura Welch, chairwoman of the Schenectady Democratic Socialists formed in January, said her group helped put together a benefit concert featuring The Ill Funk Ensemble and Geek Musica to help raise money for Miracle on Craig Street, a nonprofit seeking to reopen the former Carver Community Center  at 700 Craig St., closed since 2013.

Welch said the concert, which ran from 5 to 9 p.m. with tickets costing $10, raised $500, short of the organizers $700 goal. She said the concert also raised awareness of Miracle on Craig Street’s campaign, titled “The Final Countdown,” which as of Saturday night had raised $1,510 of its $120,000 goal. 

“We’re trying to bring the good work that the Capital District DSA group has done, here to Schenectady, which is where I live. Basically, we’re trying to improve the lives of working-class people, so we do that through direct action like community service, or through electoral work, supporting candidates or political education type stuff,” she said. 

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The Electric City Barn, located at the former St. Columba’s School at  400 Craig St., hosted the concert. Electric City Barn Board President Julianna Obie said her organization was created using seed money from the Schenectady Foundation and the Wright Foundation. She said Electric Barn doesn’t own the former school building, it leases space in it from The Community Builders, a non-profit real estate development company which rents out the Hillside View Apartments, located in the top floors of the building. 

Obie said the Electric City Barn opened on Nov. 3 and is modeled after the Albany Barn. She said the Electric City Barn is a community collaborative work space and “maker space.” For a membership fee, local woodworkers, crafters, coders and ‘makers’ can use equipment and space inside the Electric Barn to work on projects or train others.

She said the Electric City Barn can also rent out the former gym space as an auditorium for musical fundraisers, which is what it did Saturday night. 

“Our idea is bringing all of the small organizations in Hamilton Hill together to be able to provide the most opportunities and experiences for the people who live here, especially because the Hamilton Hill area has often been forgotten, and it takes a village to do that. So, we are are all for [Miracle on Craig Street’s] efforts, and we were glad to offer space to them; and we’re hoping that when they are able to get their site open, we’ll be able to do cross-programming here,” she said. 

Miracle on Craig Street Board Chairwoman Rosa Rivera said her organization has about $300,000 of the estimated $700,000 they believe it will take to renovate the Carver Community Center. She said her organization expects to acquire ownership of the building soon and has applied for grants that could raise the remaining money needed for the project within the next couple of months — with the goal to reopen in the fall. 

“We’re hoping to be able to get the building on the National Register of Historic Places, which would open us to grants from New York state,” she said. “As far as renovations we need to, it’s a lot of aesthetic things. The floors need to be done over, the carpets; it needs to be repainted, new furnishing and new mechanical engineering.”

The Carver Community Center was once home to a daycare center, summer day camp, youth services program, food pantry and clothing program.

Larry Lee, who described himself as professional break-dancer, stood outside the fundraiser concert Saturday night, displaying a video on a cellphone of his break-dancing routines. He said he learned to break-dance at the Carver Community Center. He said he was sad when it closed.

“They had a gym floor. We played basketball. We had parties. We’re still trying to get it open. $700,000 is a lot, but this is a start. I dance for a living, and Carver kept kids out of trouble, gave ’em somewhere to go, have parties, not alcohol that is,” he said. 

Ryan Macherone, a Schenectady police officer who lives in Scotia, attended the fundraiser Saturday night. He said he’s been friends with the organizers for Miracle on Craig Street for years, ever since they organized a basketball tournament with the police.  

“The music tonight was really good. I really enjoyed it. I think the goal that they have is great, and they’ve been working towards it for years. They’ve got the drive to make it happen,” he said. 

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