Treasure Moore and Jalyssa Terry, both 8, moved their hips as Pharrell’s “Happy” blasted from the loudspeakers on Duane Avenue in Schenectady’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood.
A crowd of neighbors kept their eyes on the hula-hoops circling the two girls. Even when the DJ called an end to the minutes-long contest by declaring both girls the winners, the hoops kept spinning.
“I just move my hips,” said Jalyssa, the hula hoop she won in the contest still spinning around her waist.
Jalyssa was at the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association block party with her older sister, Rosa Rivera, who wore a yellow T-shirt to show she was a volunteer. The back read: “Creating a neighborhood of choice.”
“There’s a lot of people who are very isolated and kind of not trusting of other people, so we’re trying to break that and reach out to our neighbors and show them that we’re here and we’re here for them,” said Rivera, 23, who lives in the neighborhood. “We don’t want to fight with them. We want to have a good time together.”
From Avery Place to Backus Street, Duane Avenue bustled with neighbors doing just that Saturday afternoon. Burgers and hot dogs sizzled on a grill as children had animals painted on their faces and a clown kept them entertained. There was art and poetry, and Electric City Bike Rescue performed repairs.
The block party, hosted once before, in 2012, made a return this year after too few people volunteered to make the event possible last year, said Marva Isaacs, president of the neighborhood group. Volunteers like Isaacs and Rivera were helped by other neighbors, as well as Union College students.
“I’m a fighter, and I fight for this neighborhood,” said Isaacs, who has lived in Hamilton Hill for 25 years. “I want to see this neighborhood come together.”
Isaacs paused for a second to look at an empty white house with boards on its first-floor windows and doors.
“I want all these houses like this to come down, you know what I’m saying? This has been boarded up for how long? This is what I’m fighting for,” Isaacs said.
Rivera — who is earning a master’s degree in social justice and community development from Loyola University and is on track to finish her last semester online in the fall — said many of her neighbors “actually do want the same things.”
“We want it to be healthy and friendly, and we want to be able to come outside and not have to worry about violence and things like that,” she said.
Mario Moore, Treasure’s dad, was happy to see his neighbors, the kids especially, out on the street and having a good time. At his side were Treasure, hula hoop in hand, and his 7-year-old son, Kemarion.
“I think it’s good for the kids, for them to have activities for the kids and for the kids to interact with other kids,” he said.