I was not surprised recently when Schenectady squelched plans for a hostel across the street from Ellis Hospital to lodge families of hospitalized children, along the lines of the Ronald McDonald House in Albany.
Compassion for families in that situation is one thing, single-family zoning is something else, especially when the neighborhood in question is the most handsome and the most prestigious in your city, as the GE Realty Plot is in Schenectady.
It’s a neighborhood of stately old houses built by and for General Electric executives in the early days of GE’s dominance, with grand shade trees and well-maintained lawns and gardens. All well and good to accommodate people whose kids are in the hospital and who can’t afford to stay at the Holiday Inn a few blocks away, but ahem, please do it somewhere else. That was the sentiment. Not in our backyard, as they say.
It’s hard to imagine a use more benign than the lodging of families with hospitalized children, but never mind. First you have this “medical hospitality” house, and the next thing you know it will be halfway houses for drug addicts and violent criminals. Slippery slope, as one opponent warned.
Everyone agrees such facilities are desirable, but they’re not desirable next-door.
The family of Assistant Police Chief Jack Falvo wanted to do it in memory of his son, Jack Falvo III, who died in a personal-watercraft accident in 2005 at the age of 21. The owners of the house they wanted, at the corner of Nott Street and Wendell Avenue, former corporation counsel of the city of Schenectady Michael Brockbank and his wife, were willing, but the neighbors were not.
The house is a big old half-timber job that would not be out of place in the Rhine Valley. A law office has been added, so it already has some non-residential use, and it looks out on the hospital across the street. The location could hardly be better for the intended purpose, but it’s not going to happen, and the Falvo family is reportedly looking elsewhere. Somewhere in the Ellis Hospital orbit, but not in the Realty Plot.
I’ll tell you one thing I have never encountered in my years of observing local affairs: I have never observed neighbors coming together and welcoming any kind of group residence, whether for disabled people, recovering drug addicts, ex-convicts, or now, the families of hospitalized children. Maybe it has happened somewhere, but I haven’t seen it. I have seen furious opposition aplenty, but never a welcome party. I think it tells you something about human nature.
As I have previously noted, former superintendent of Schenectady schools Eric Ely has been shopping for a new job after just a year and a half in his new gig in Southbridge, Mass.
Most recently he popped in for an interview in the small town of Dracut, Mass., to which I was alerted by a scout, who also sent me some “tweets” from a local newspaper reporter. One of those informed us that Ely told the Dracut interviewers that “Schenectady quality dropped steeply after he left.”
I thought anyone who followed Schenectady school affairs while Ely was in charge would enjoy that.
As a footnote, he did not get the job.