For The Sunday Gazette
When we created Schenectady 2000, our downtown was a business disaster.
Ray Gillen, head of Metroplex, later said It was the worst downtown in New York state.
General Electric, under Jack Welch, eliminated some 35,000 jobs, which created chaos for our residents and the entire geography.
Schenectady was still recovering from a corrupt police department during the 1990s and an infestation of drug dealers who had moved into the neighborhoods.
The glory years of GE & Alco all but disappeared. Those clouds hung heavily over Schenectady.
As leaders of Schenectady 2000, we realized we had to accomplish a number of things. At the time we were not very optimistic, but we were determined and committed.
First we did an analysis of our community assets, and were pleased to find we had much value available.
We knew that to make any progress, we had to accomplish three major elusive objectives:
1. Clean up the city and freshen our downtown and our assets.
2. Engage a cadre of community leaders.
George Robertson from SEDC gathered 14 task forces to aggressively attack the opportunities.
After three years, progress was very visible.
Roger Hull, then president of Union College, offered the campus for what turned out to be the Schenectady 2000 Galas over four years. Up to 600 citizens attended, telling us we were heading in the right direction.
3. Economic development.
This was by far the most difficult challenge. Until this moment, we had not a clue.
Then Bob Farley posed a “what if?” to me: Create a state-mandated public authority. It would be a “bitch,” he said. And it was. But we did it.
We wrote legislation (Farley was an expert) and borrowed our name, Metroplex, from Dallas, Texas.
With a lot of lobbying, we got it passed through the state Senate and Assembly, and Gov. George Pataki signed the Metroplex Development Authority bill in 1998.
Now here we are some 20 years later and more than $1.5 billion has been invested. And look at what we have become.
The growth and development in Schenectady has been amazing.
New hotels and restaurants; a waterfront Mohawk Harbor; thousands of new living units; a remodeled city; an amazing new casino and railroad station; hundreds of new and remodeled businesses; the largest industrial and business park system in New York state; lots of new business employment; a leading entertainment center in the Capital Region; and a convention center business.
Most significant is the growth of our medical sector between Ellis, Sunnyview Rehab, Bellevue Woman’s Center and Roswell Park Cancer Center.
We can now talk about a new brand for our combined Schenectady hospitals: The Medical Centers of Schenectady.
Schenectady has lots to be proud of. I believe we have earned the right to update our name from Schenectady to “New Schenectady.”
We can make a historic change in the city’s reputation by adding one word to our name: “New.”
Over the past 30 years, Schenectady has modernized and cleaned itself up to the point where most citizens would acknowledge that the dramatic changes are very visible and welcomed.
It is impossible to change the name of a city — and even harder to cleanse a tainted reputation.
“Schenectady is as Schenectady was” is no longer true. We can see the changes. But how do we convey that wonderful things have happened?
We are proposing an addition to our name. A simple adjective that calls attention to our renewal without complication. Let us start calling our city … “New Schenectady.”
People who live here will understand. Those who don’t will ask, “What does ‘New’ mean?”
That then opens the door to Information about what we have become.
No politics involved, no acts of Congress. We can just do it!
Let’s change our reputation by calling our city “New Schenectady.” It’s just that simple, and we can start right now.
Be part of our reputational rebirth. From now on, we live in “New Schenectady.”
We are New Schenectady!
Neil Golub is chairman of Golub Corp.
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