SCHENECTADY — Weeds were yanked and graffiti painted over Wednesday at the old Carver Community Center, in the latest step toward its rebirth as Miracle on Craig Street.
The cleanup had the dual purpose of involving the community in the resurrection of the neighborhood center and making visible progress toward that goal, said Rosa Rivera, executive director of Miracle on Craig. “[It was about] letting them know we’re working to reopen the center. A lot of people know that we’re doing that but some people still don’t,” she said.
The building is solid, but seven years after it shut down it needs extensive functional and cosmetic work to reverse water damage and vandalism.
The total wishlist will cost about $1 million, Rivera said, but the essential portion of the work will make the building safe, functional and code-compliant for $500,000.
Miracle on Craig has raised $350,000 and has a line of credit for $150,000, so it can cover the $500,000. It expects to start and finish the essential work in the remaining months of this year and hopes to open the doors in the spring of 2021.
“We’ll do the dream stuff after,” Rivera said.
A crowdfunding drive is live at
The city of Schenectady in December 2019 deeded the site over to the nonprofit organization, with the provision that it get the building up to code within two years, so it’s on track to make the deadline with time to spare.
Wednesday morning’s cleanup made a difference in the public face of the building. There’s more to be done on the exterior, but nothing like the task ahead inside, where windows are smashed and water leaks have damaged many surfaces.
The Carver Community Center shut down in 2013 amid financial troubles exacerbated by a large unpaid tax bill. It was one of numerous Schenectady nonprofits in that era that neglected to register their nonprofit status and were taxed on property that should have been tax-exempt.
Rivera said she also thinks the leadership of Carver grew disconnected from the community it served and relied too heavily on grants for its operating budget.
She said Miracle on Craig will be able to avoid the same fate. Most of the people leading the initiative are closely connected to the community — she and fiancee Rae Frasier, who painted the mural on one side of the building this spring and was painting the front doors Wednesday — own a house nearby.
Also, Miracle on Craig will have a more diverse revenue stream than Carver did. It has already heard from people wanting to rent space, ranging from therapists and social workers to a juice maker.
“As far as sustainability, what I’m seeing is we really need to make this space more of a cooperative space where there’s different partners, individuals, entrepreneurs that are utilizing this space as a resource and investing also,” Rivera said.
She said current events could cut both ways for Miracle on Craig: The restrictions imposed by state officials and the worries felt by many members of the public may limit use of the facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. But support for initiatives serving the Black community is increasing amid the Black Lives Matter movement, and that may boost fundraising efforts.
Miracle on Craig has also received support from the Boys and Girls Club of Schenectady, which debuted an all-new facility of its own late last year.
The two aren’t in competition, Rivera said — their missions aren’t as similar as they might seem.
“What we’re looking to do here is more around family resources and focus more specifically on wellness, and they’re more youth-oriented,” she explained.
Rivera is a city native who moved a lot in her childhood, alternately closer or farther from Carver. She visited the community center a few times to go to the library or see friends play basketball but she was not a regular presence there.
“I was one of those youths that … it was hard to engage me, I guess. It was hard to capture me. It would have been hard to get me in this building,” she said.
Rivera, now 29, said ideally the younger version of herself will find more of a connection with Miracle on Craig than she did at Carver.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why people like me and Rae have to be here and do this work,” she said.
“I think what it’s really about is connection, and figuring out what the points of connection are. I think I’m really good at that, Rae’s really good at that, a lot of the people involved are good at that.”