Did anyone notice the heated political posturing going on in The Gazette’s Opinion section over the past month and a half? Well I sure did.
I am referring to the argument over which group of people should be credited for the inception and growth of Schenectady Metroplex.
There was even a dispute over what the entity has accomplished outside of the downtown area. The combination of revisionism and grandstanding was most entertaining.
The writers were from all over the political spectrum and included the likes of Schenectady County Attorney Christopher Gardner, Golub Corp. Chairman Neil Golub, City Councilman Vincent Riggi, Metroplex Vice Chairman Bradley Lewis and the son of former Schenectady Mayor Albert Jurczynski.
Each of these gentlemen felt compelled to speak the “truth.” But I’m not going to dissect what was said. That would be a fruitless venture and not a good use of my time.
Instead, I want to discuss what Schenectady should accomplish over the next year.
This wish list — my own New Year’s resolutions for the city — is composed of both small and large goals in no particular order of importance. Think of it as a stream of consciousness.
It is not a just a list for Schenectady leaders to undertake. No, it is for all Schenectadians — young and old. Everyone has their own important role to play.
The first thing that comes to mind is the redevelopment of the Jay Street lots that remain vacant after the deadly and devastating fire last March. Rebuilding would provide some sense of closure and put an end to a tragic chapter in the city’s history. What is the hold-up?
Carver now pops in my head. With the hope that the current tax liens on the Hamilton Hill property will be wiped clean, I expect a buyer, or a group of buyers, to purchase and start renovating the former community center before year’s end. This cannot happen soon enough.
And what is sure to happen sooner rather than later is the appointment of the next Schenectady police chief. I only hope he/she understands how vital their role will be in the community. I want even stronger ties between local law enforcement and residents. The safety of the city’s neighborhoods depends on it.
Mayor Gary McCarthy and the City Council must strengthen ties as well with the community through honesty and transparency. The more readily available information is made to the public, the less potential scrutiny they will face. Simply put, they need to follow the state’s Open Meetings Law and timely fulfill Freedom of Information Law requests.
They also mustn’t forget to begin taking measures against the spread of gentrification once the Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor and other developments at the old Alco site are completed in the next year. Residents of adjacent neighborhoods should not have to worry about being pushed and priced out of the area. The city needs to show loyalty toward its long-standing tenants.
City before party
Speaking of loyalty — new City Council members need only be faithful to their constituents. I want the council and mayor’s office to have a good working relationship. But I don’t want it to be because of party loyalty, which tends to result in rubber-stamping and close-mindedness. Always put your city before your party.
Schenectady City School District Superintendent Laurence Spring and the school board continue to put students first. This is despite the fiscal and social challenges they are faced with. I encourage Spring and the board to responsibly find ways to not exceed the state’s tax cap and push the state Legislature to eliminate the discriminatory Gap Elimination Adjustment.
As I am sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops, enjoying the local fare, I am reminded that every year, small business owners need our help and our support. If your own New Year’s resolution list is missing “Buy Local,” then you know what you have to do. Let’s all do our part to keep small storefronts open in Schenectady.
In a related matter, there is one new storefront that must make its way somewhere into Hamilton Hill. That would be a grocery. This recurring wish is high on the list for many residents. I don’t expect one to be built this year or next, but city leaders need to start pushing Golub Corp. and Hannaford Brothers to develop a plan to get the people what they need.
And last, but probably least, is the repair of the Oak Street Bridge that connects Mont Pleasant and Bellevue. Maybe this is on my list because it has been closed for over two years. Or maybe I forgot it was closed recently and I made a stink about it. Either way, Mayor McCarthy seems to think it can be accomplished before year’s end, and I sure hope he is right.
Now I most likely failed to mention a couple of important things, but my intent was not to provide an itemized list of everything.
This is about opening up a bigger dialogue. So if you haven’t already, you should take the time to think about what you want for Schenectady in 2016 and how you can help achieve it.
What goes on in the city is intrinsically tied to its residents and even many non-residents a like. We should all think bigger than just our own personal endeavors. That’s how positive change can come about in Schenectady.
Robert Caracciolo is a native of Schenectady and a regular Sunday contributor.