The windows of our study afford an idyllic view of Stockade rooftops dominated by the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church.
Its gilded peak can be a bellwether of sunny days, glistening like gold in the morning mist, but it’s sometimes a false promise as the clouds that gather later will attest.
There does always seem to be a storm brewing in the Stockade, which in many ways, some good, is like a village unto itself, separate from the rest of Schenectady. The Stockade is known for the interest residents take in their neighbors and their neighborhood.
Reporter Kathleen Moore pointed out that trait in her series on Schenectady’s neighborhoods last year. In the Stockade chapter, she quoted Joe Fava, a longtime resident of the neighborhood, as saying geography — natural and manmade — tends to keep Stockaders in the Stockade. There’s the Mohawk on two sides, and Erie Boulevard and State Street on the others. All of them are tough to get across on foot.
Right now there’s a controversy about the danger to pedestrians who try to cross Erie Boulevard. If you want to go downtown on foot, you have to cross Erie, and it’s a scary prospect.
A Green Street resident, Larry Meyerhoff, collected neighbors’ signatures on a petition to the mayor and City Council, asking that something be done to make crossing the busy thoroughfare safer. His petition resonated with Stockaders after the recent death of a young community college student who was struck while trying to cross the highway.
Meyerhoff led a small delegation of residents to City Hall to present his petition to Mayor Gary McCarthy.
Meyerhoff later expressed frustration with the answers he got. His impression was that McCarthy was uninterested in the safety of pedestrians and would do nothing to impede the flow of traffic on Erie.
The topic spurred a lively discussion at last week’s meeting of the Neighborhood Watch group, where walkers complained about drivers who run the lights and about a lack of police enforcement. It came up again at the Stockade Association meeting where McCarthy was the guest speaker.
Answering questions from Sylvie Briber, editor of The Stockade Spy, McCarthy cited plans for improvements to Erie Boulevard. Work is to get under way in May and will take two years to complete, he said.
Some of the improvements will make pedestrian crossings easier and safer, he said. In the meantime, McCarthy said, the city’s traffic engineer is re-examining the signals at Erie crossings to determine if adjustments to improve safety are possible now.
The mayor also disputed the impression that police are not enforcing traffic laws. He said they’re busy writing tickets every day.
The subject is not likely to go away anytime soon.
Many Stockade residents do not drive and get around only on foot, some by choice and some of necessity. It’s hard to empathize with pedestrians trying to get across busy thoroughfares if your perspective is exclusively from the driver’s seat of your car.
But, it’s a real problem, which we’ve observed anytime we’ve walked downtown. We don’t do it often. It just seems too ironic to risk our lives crossing Erie while trying to get to the green market to buy fresh produce.
We still walk, but mostly as captives within the confines of the Stockade.
Irv Dean is the Gazette’s city editor. Reach him by email to email@example.com.