Schenectady residents request Central Park Casino revitalization

FILE - The casino across Iroquois Lake in 2021

FILE - The casino across Iroquois Lake in 2021

SCHENECTADY — A group of Schenectady residents are requesting the city take action to revitalize the shuttered Central Park casino building.

The site, which has been vacant for the last decade, is the previous location of a cafe and restaurant in the heart of Central Park.

A proposal last December from Schenectady United Neighborhoods and ECOS: The Environmental Clearinghouse to convert the casino site into an environmental center was not chosen by the city council to receive American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding from the city.

The Iroquois Lake Environmental Center proposal, which requested the city fund $85,000 of the $99,400 project cost, was not picked by the council last summer when the board chose 33 city projects to receive a total of $25.9 million in ARPA funding.

The Iroquois Lake Environmental Center would sponsor programming targeted to area youth that is designed to provide perspective on environmental justice inequities that exist within the city.

During the council’s Dec. 12 meeting, Schenectady resident Thomas Ambrose told the council he supports the ARPA proposal to convert the casino into an education center.

“A dilapidated building in the middle of Schenectady’s crown jewel is not a good look,” Ambrose said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “But more importantly for the city residents, it is a risk. It’s attracting unwanted activity now because it’s empty. There’s vandalism, break-ins. It’s only a matter of time before something happens if it’s left the way it is.”

Tom Carey, President of Schenectady United Neighborhoods, said that the casino’s central location in the park makes it prime for redevelopment.

“It’s right in the middle of probably our most heavily used public space,” he said during the meeting. “There are playgrounds on either side and there’s a picnic area right there, so it’s really visible to any resident or anyone who uses the park.”

Carey added that he commended Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, the parks department and police for monitoring the casino site.
The vacant building is covered in plywood, which Carey noted was breached by vandals during a recent incident.

“The building isn’t generating any revenue,” he said. “The building must be secured better because you don’t want someone to get in there and start a fire or something. Even the deck on the front of the building is going and that should be fenced off or something.”

McCarthy said the city is exploring potential solutions for the shuttered city property.

“We’re looking at different options,” McCarthy said following the Dec. 12 meeting. “We’ve been talking with Tom [Carey] about that. So hopefully we’ll be able to package something within that building.”

The council allocated $4.5 million for the construction of a new modern pool facility within Central Park and $500,000 in repairs for the Central Park tennis courts during the ARPA selection process last summer.

Council President Marion Porterfield was noncommittal about revisiting the Iroquois Lake Environmental Center proposal.

“That’s a decision for seven people (on the council), so I can’t speak to that definitively,” she said after the Dec. 12 meeting. “Also, the Department of Development, who took a look at the various projects.”

Carey noted that the project would target city youth directly affected by the pandemic, the target population that ARPA funding is intended to help.

“If you’re not going to fund our proposal, please do something with the building,” he told the council. “Please get it back into productive use.”

Categories: -News-, News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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