Everybody knows Habitat for Humanity as the organization that uses volunteers to build houses for the poor. But it has become more than that in recent years, adopting a holistic approach to revitalizing neighborhoods. Schenectady’s North Side will be the beneficiary this coming Saturday, as Habitat will be marshaling volunteers for a neighborhood cleanup there.
The North Side was once everything a neighborhood should be: quiet streets, well-kept homes (many with vegetable gardens), friendly neighbors who watched out for one another. But it has been changing lately — and not necessarily for the better. On some streets, it’s still the way it used to be. On others, though, many of the homes are now owned by landlords, and showing signs of neglect. Some are vacant, boarded-up, ready to be foreclosed on.
This isn’t peculiar to the North Side, of course. Other Schenectady neighborhoods are suffering the same kind of blight — even worse in some cases. It hurts the city and its tax base; reversing it, as Mayor Gary McCarthy has recognized, is the key to making people want to buy houses and live here.
McCarthy, business leaders and real estate agents see the North Side, with those still-strong streets, with Ellis Hospital, Union College and the new Golub headquarters, as an area of opportunity, a place that can be stabilized and improved. And that interest is why Habitat is getting involved, as part of the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative begun by Habitat International in 2008. (Another part is home repair to help people, especially the elderly, stay in their homes).
The volunteers Saturday will be painting over graffiti, giving homes a fresh coat of paint, making small repairs, landscaping — with up to 10 owner-occupied homes on Foster Avenue and Carrie Street. If you’d like to get involved with a good organization for a good cause, visit Habitat for Humanity Schenectady’s website and sign up.