One complaint I consistently hear from Schenectady residents concerns the city's neighborhoods.
Typically, the complaint goes something like this:
"Sure, downtown looks great, but the neighborhoods are looking worse than ever. When is the city going to do something about the neighborhoods?"
Now, it isn't entirely fair to say that nothing's been done to improve the city's neighborhoods.
Some fairly significant projects, such as the library branch planned for Mont Pleasant or the two new apartment developments on Hamilton Hill, are transforming the community in undeniably positive ways.
But there are plenty of places that remain untouched by the city's renaissance -- where vacant homes and poorly maintained properties are a fact of life.
People who live in these places are right to be concerned -- and right to wonder why more isn't being done to check the gradual deterioration taking place right before their eyes.
I have no idea what will come out of the Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge, the intriguing new initiative that will invest $250,000 in neighborhood improvement projects.
But I'm excited, and hopeful.
I'm excited because Schenectady's neighborhoods have myriad needs, and $250,000 could go a long way.
I'm hopeful because the organization spearheading the Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge, The Schenectady Foundation, seems genuinely interested in finding out what residents want for their neighborhoods and implementing the best proposals.
To that end, the Foundation is holding a series of informational meetings to educate the public about the challenge.
It's an opportunity people should take advantage of, because opportunities to provide input into how large pools of money is spent are rare.
The funding for the projects will come from The Schenectady Foundation, which will contribute $100,000; the city, which will contribute $100,000 in Community Developing Block Grant funding; and a number of private investors.
Residents from different neighborhoods will be able to apply for the funding by going to the Foundation's website and filling out a form. Foundation staff will review the proposals and select the winners. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 19.
I have my own thoughts on what the city's neighborhoods need, but I'm more interested in hearing what residents want.
I'm confident that if the process works as intended, the ideas that emerge will be good ones -- innovative and worthy of support. The end result will be a city that's better off -- more civic-minded, more engaged, more beautiful.
It's an exciting prospect.
What's not to like?
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]