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‘Miracle’ group continues fight to reopen Carver center

‘Miracle’ group continues fight to reopen Carver center

City's foreclosure of building provides opportunity
‘Miracle’ group continues fight to reopen Carver center
Schenectady’s Carver Community Center.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

The leaders of an effort to reopen Schenectady’s Carver Community Center, now closed for more than three years, are hopeful they might soon see some progress as the city’s foreclosure process runs its course.

Carver’s closure in December 2013 left one of the city’s most underserved areas without a true community center. After multiple failed auctions, the building has remained empty and deteriorating.

Miracle on Craig Street, an organization consisting of nine core members and more than 100 volunteers, has in that time been steadily accumulating funds, rallying support and working with city leaders to reopen Carver as a collaborative community space. As they wait for an extended legal process to play out, project leaders are getting their ducks in a row so they can move forward if they are able to possess the building.

“It’s really just moving along and chipping away,” said Damonni Farley, one of the leaders of the Miracle on Craig Street core members. “People understand this isn’t something we’re doing for a certain demographic of people. It’s about improving the quality of life for anyone who is interested in being a part of this community center.”

Carver, located at 700 Craig St., housed a day-care center, after-school programs and youth services, among other things in its roughly 40-year history.

Now, those who hope to reopen it are waiting, as they have been for months, for the city to take control of the property. Farley and other Miracle on Craig Street members have met with city officials, and are hopeful the group can obtain the building once the city has site control, which could be within a month, he said.

City attorney Carl Falotico declined to comment on the process of taking control of the property.

In the meantime, Miracle on Craig Street leaders have reached out to multiple architecture firms about design plans, Farley said. A significant building rehab or a demolition and rebuild are possible, he said.

“We’re really relying on professionals and the architects to let us know what plans are the most feasible,” Farley said, noting that the organization is hosting open meetings in the coming weeks to provide updates and gather feedback.

The full cost of the project, which will include site clean-up, design and construction and other expenses on the inside and outside of the property, is yet to be determined. Miracle on Craig Street will host more fundraisers before moving forward with anything official, Farley said.

To date, the group has raised tens of thousands of dollars, with $7,850 coming from a December 2015 telethon at Proctors, and just over $1,200 coming from a March 31 “Paint for a Purpose” event.

“Those fundraisers aren’t just about raising funds, they’re about continuously engaging the community,” he said. “One of the byproducts is staying connected to the community, and letting them know that we know it’s a lengthy process.”

Getting Carver’s doors back open has been a daunting and at times arduous process, but Farley said Miracle on Craig Street has maintained a commitment from more than 100 volunteers who periodically help with fundraising and other events.

As the plan to reopen the center stretches into its third year with an unclear end date, the group has fashioned itself as an underdog, Farley said. That mentality resonates with the surrounding neighborhood, he said, which has in recent years been underserved and has contended with higher rates of blight and crime than other parts of Schenectady.

“This is about community transformation,” Farley said. “If we can do it in a place where people are a little more disenfranchised, then obviously we can do it other places in the community.”

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