The Boys and Girls Clubs of Schenectady may sell its Craig Street building so that it can build a new club at Quackenbush Park, Executive Director Shane Bargy said.
“We’re still very much in the dream phase,” he said. “We need to go where the kids are.”
Early projections indicate that a club at Quackenbush Park would draw more than 200 children every day, Bargy said. The Craig Street site draws about 70 children a day.
While that huge building, a former school, is under-utilized, other clubs in Schenectady are filled to capacity. The difference, Bargy said, is that the other clubs are near schools.
Children leave school and go straight to the club, where their parents often sign them up as a means of childcare. For parents who work until 5 p.m., the Boys and Girls Clubs are an inexpensive way to arrange after-school care.
It’s a “high-quality after-school program,” Bargy said.
And he’s sure that a club at Quackenbush Park, between Pleasant Valley Elementary School and Mont Pleasant Middle School, would satisfy a huge need.
“We just want to provide a safe location,” he said. “This is a controlled environment. We’re taking them off the street.”
The new club would have a strong teen program to attract Mont Pleasant Middle School students, he said. The teen center would have its own entrance as well as its own programs.
He added that he’s envisioning a club that would be top-of-the-line.
“This would be the crème de la crème,” he said. “This would be the one that we want to have [to create] a big impact, because it’s between two neighborhoods that are having a lot of trouble.”
And he thinks he would reach more Hamilton Hill neighborhood children there than he does at his current site, which is in that neighborhood.
By his calculations, 320 Hamilton Hill children attend Pleasant Valley and Mont Pleasant.
The new site would also be closer to Martin Luther King Elementary School, the main elementary school for the neighborhood.
“It’s four blocks from King,” he said.
The total move would be about 6.5 blocks, he added.
“This is not a big move,” he said.
But he’s already heard rumblings of dissent from neighbors who don’t want the site sold.
Community Builders is proposing two apartment buildings in the neighborhood, both on Craig Street. The agency is focusing on the former Schenectady Family Health Center, which has been empty since 2005, when the health center moved to State Street.
But they’ve also had discussions with Bargy about the Boys and Girls Club.
“We would love to do more than a single building,” said Sue McCann, New York director of development for Community Builders. “It’s best for the sustainability of the project and it’s best for transforming the neighborhood.”
She said the sticking point was the funding — but also stressed that she wouldn’t pressure Bargy to move out. The purchase would only happen if the club decided to move.
The club’s board has voted to explore the option of selling the site and building a new one at Quackenbush Park. Bargy said unofficial discussions with the city have also occurred, revolving around whether the club could get permission to build on parkland.
There is also an undeveloped lot behind Pleasant Valley Elementary School, adjacent to the park, that could be purchased, he said.