Every day, as many as eight times a day, Peter Pasternak would drive under the Green Street train overpass, look at all its graffiti and think, “Somebody should do something about that.” Then the assistant property manager was hit with a moment of clarity as powerful as it was brief.
“I AM somebody.”
Pasternak talked to others in his Stockade neighborhood about this eyesore gateway off Erie Boulevard. Phone calls were made. The normal process would be to make various pleadings to municipal officials (or, in this case, Amtrak or other railroads) to get the bridge painted . . . and wait.
That’s not what these neighbors did.
“It was just neighbors who got together who got tired of seeing all the graffiti,” Pasternak said. “It’s been that way for so long. It’s our community — so we decided, ‘Let’s just do it.’ ”
And that’s what a group of volunteers did Saturday, painting over the bridge. Instead of fighting through the red tape, they worked around it.
Stockade resident and property owner Robin White donated paint supplies, as did the city, which also blocked off Green Street to traffic. Property owner Tom Killeen donated a lift and his time. Other volunteers showed up, as did a couple of “taggers” working off community service.
“There is so much apathy in the world today, people waiting for the city to do something,” Pasternak said. “We ARE the city.”
Killeen said the train overpass is significant to the Stockade, since it is the first impression — until Saturday, a negative one — many have of the neighborhood.
“It doesn’t look good for people looking to move into the Stockade,” he said, echoing the sentiments of others that he would like to see the underpass lit for safety and to ward off crime. “If you are coming in to rent an apartment and see a bridge covered with graffiti, it’s not very inviting.”
Killeen said he is seeing more and more community groups doing work on their own that was once left for the city or other agency.
“Don’t you see that? People just don’t want to live and see all this garbage and places getting run down,” he said. “People are getting together and saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ It gets overwhelming for the city.”
Colleen Macaulay, a board member of the Stockade Association and the Schenectady Heritage Foundation, said volunteers Saturday ranged from preschoolers to those in their 60s.
“That is the Stockade,” she said. “When something needs to get done, it gets done.”
The volunteers are under no illusion that taggers will not try to target the bridge again, now painted a dark green. Macaulay said that’s OK: They have extra paint.
“We will get out there right away again,” she said.