Foss: Schenectady’s Electric City nickname worth keeping

Schenectady’s General Electric at night - File

Schenectady’s General Electric at night - File

The first thing that caught my eye when I stepped into the Schenectady Trading Company on Wednesday morning was a DVD titled “Historic Views of the Electric City.”

Just a few hours earlier, I’d read about Golub Corp. Chairman Neil Golub’s proposal to retire Schenectady’s longtime moniker, and replace it with Schenectady Metro. 

Now, wandering through the Union Street store, which sells all manner of locally-made goods, I couldn’t help but notice all of the items that proudly bore the words Electric City: pint glasses and shirts, coffee from the Schenectady-based company Electric City Roasters, the novel “Electric City” by Schenectady-born author Elizabeth Rosner. 

Nicknames only catch on if people want to use them, and Electric City is still very much in use. 

Local organizations such as the Electric City Bike Rescue and Electric City Barn have incorporated it into their names, as have a number of local businesses. The Electric City apartment complex, which welcomed its first tenants in 2019, occupies one of the city’s most prominent intersections. 

Looking around, I’m not sensing much of a public clamor for a new nickname. 

If anything, people seem pretty attached to the one Schenectady already has, and it isn’t hard to see why. 

Electric City is lively and dynamic, and it highlights the city’s rich history without sounding dated.

One doesn’t need to be especially knowledgeable about Schenectady’s onetime status as “the city that lights and hauls the world” to find appeal in the word electric, which can be used to describe anything powered by electricity but also a kind of contagious excitement. 

In an hour-long presentation to the Schenectady City Council on Tuesday night, Golub suggested that the city needs a new nickname, the aforementioned Schenectady Metro, that recognizes the accomplishments of the past three decades, and how the city is much more than a company town built around the rise and fall of General Electric.

Golub is right that Schenectady would benefit from marketing and outreach that promotes all that the city now has to offer. 

And he isn’t wrong to think that Schenectady ought to be known for more than its industrial history, or that there’s a danger in becoming so enamored with the past that you fail to progress. 

But to some extent, the work Golub is talking about is already being done. 

Last year, I sat in on some of the workshops aimed at soliciting ideas from the public on how to best spend Schenectady’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Improvement grant from the state.

One of my takeaways from these meetings was that there’s actually a lot of enthusiasm for celebrating the city’s history, while also figuring out how to make the concept of lighting and hauling the world relevant and meaningful for those too young to remember Schenectady in its industrial heyday. 

Residents voiced support for doing more to illuminate downtown, with one attendee even remarking: “Let’s light up the Electric City.” 

Electric City might harken back to the past, but there’s no reason it can’t be part of the city’s future.  

It’s already part of the present, and I suspect most people will want to keep it that way. 

That said, I’d like to hear from readers

What does Electric City mean to you? Do you love it? Hate it? Don’t care? Let me know! Email me at [email protected]


Categories: -News-, Opinion, Sara Foss, Schenectady County


Full support, Sara. Electric City is what it is and rightly so. Alcoa was big, but not as big as Edison.
But Schenectady was also a frontier of sorts way, way back at the beginning (for the White settlers, anyway). Kind of a Base Camp 1 for excursions out of Fort Orange westward. In that regard it was a real melting pot for the Whites and the already-established Native American communities, and I think that needs to played up more. Not as in a museum, or a gift shop, but more visible like a city emblem, or flag, or something.
The establishment of Schenectady and indeed, westward expansion was facilitated by Native American tribes. To not acknowledge that seems a bit arrogant.

(Full disclosure: I’m the 13th generation of Harman Albertse Vedder, one of the original magistrates and mayor who was also censured for trading with the Mohawk and as it’s recorded, married a likely Mohawk woman. So I’m biased. But still…)

B Bachand
The Union Pacific operates Big Boy 4014 and 844 two locomotives built by Alco in the Schenectady shops during the war years. They operate excursions throughout the western U.S. They keep the name of Schenectady and Alco alive as the city that hauls the world. We shouldn’t lose that history.

I agree completely. No name change. Neil Golub is entitled to an opinion but he doesn’t get to decide. BTW, he lives in Niskayuna.

David Bianchi

He and Metroplex were obviously behind stealing my Mom’s property on Barrett Street.
Lawyers threatening me to sell my Families Land or They would just go through the City and Take it!
Improper probably Illegal and or Violating my Constitutional Rights by ordering a Tax payment return after it was agreed upon and accepted.
The City doing Eminent Domain on several vacant lots with no buildings on them that I kept mowed and calling them Blight! (With plenty of actual Blight buildings I don’t see the City doing Eminent Domain on!)
Doing a bogus Abandonment trial on one property that the City was never in and that I checked on daily.
All this after the Two separate threats by the lawyers. To sell cheaply or else!
I find it kind of Amazing that a City’s nickname can cause more of an uproar or outcry by citizens then when Property Owning Rights were trampled on!
And Yes I agree! The Electric City is the Best Name Ever!!! Especially with me being an Licensed Electrician, along with my Father was also a Licensed Electrician
In which my Father grew up on Barrett Street. My Uncle and Grandfather Both worked at GE and Alco. And the Land the City took through Eminent Domain and the Abandonment Trial that was taken was in my Family for 100 years! Which was also done because they couldn’t foreclose on for Unpaid Taxes!
Do I still respect the Golub Family, Absolutely! Do I still Love Schenectady, Absolutely!
Do I still Love Our Country, No question about it…
Do I believe in Our Constitution and No One is Above the Law? I sort of do as long as One can afford proper Legal representation with Property Owning Rights.(kind of scary!) Not that it matters that much because it has been so long. You can google, (Schenectady gate) to read much of the story.

David Bianchi

My Mom, SCHENECTADY – Cecelia K. Bianchi, 93, entered into eternal peace on Thursday, October 12, 2017.
Cecelia was born in Elizabeth, PA on August 15, 1924 a daughter of the late Vincent and Wladyslawa Kwiatkowski. Cecelia graduated from Draper High School in 1942. She began working during WWII at Mica Co and later as a secretary for Lou Golub, before retiring from the Army & Air Force Exchange Services in Albany. Cecil was lively spirited woman, devoted to her family and friends.
(I Love You Mom!)

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