SCHENECTADY -- Residents looking to submit proposals for the Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge will have an extra weekend to do so, according to the Schenectady Foundation.
The original submission date of Oct. 19 has been pushed to Oct. 22, according to Schenectady Foundation Executive Director Robert Carreau. He said the timeline was extended to give everyone a chance to submit ideas.
Carreau admitted that when literature promoting the challenge was printed, the Oct. 19 deadline was included in error. As they attended informational meetings about the challenge in September, Carreau said they felt it would be best to give people more time.
“We’re talking about people who likely are working during the week,” Carreau said. “We wanted to give them the weekend, if they’re already working on something, so we can get better-quality submissions.”
The foundation announced details of the challenge on Sept. 18. Carreau announced there would be up to $250,000 available for residents proposing projects that improve their neighborhoods.
Winning projects can be awarded up to $100,000.
The challenge was launched with $100,000 each from the foundation and the city’s Community Development Block Grant, which the city receives through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The rest of the funding for the challenge came from private donors, including the Carlilian Foundation, Neil and Jane Golub, the Wright Family Foundation, MVP Healthcare and Trustco Bank.
The foundation hosted a series of information meetings in September and early October. Carreau said they also visited some neighborhood association meetings.
Carreau said there have been positive responses from residents; they’ve already received 10 proposals, though he hasn’t looked at any of them yet.
He also said there were a lot of ideas shared during the meetings.
A common theme has been a will to create activities that would bring the neighborhood together, Carreau said.
“Even if it’s just a feel-good kind of thing that brings people out in the same space, they get to meet their neighbors and create more relationships that enhance the neighborhoods,” Carreau said.
Some residents also suggested projects to improve the cleanliness of some streets. Carreau said residents wanted to move beyond just doing a cleanup day.
“The larger concern was doing a cleanup day, but 30 days later, having it still be clean,” Carreau said. “They wanted to know how to address it where it’s sustainable.”
Robert Harvey, president of the Eastern Avenue Neighborhood Association, said his group has been working on a proposal, though he said it’s in the brainstorming stage.
He said residents of the neighborhood want to create some sort of youth programming, since Elmer Avenue School closed and there isn’t a Boys & Girls Club facility nearby. There aren’t really any after-school programs for kids in the neighborhood, he said.
Harvey said they are aiming to have programs involving the arts.
“We want to do something that features music, art or dancing,” Harvey said. “Maybe teach kids to play instruments.”
The association has been contacting different organizations, including Proctors and SUNY Schenectady.
“We’re making contacts around town that would be involved in helping with youth programming or at least advising us on what works,” Harvey said.
Carreau said they have learned how to approach the challenge's next round, after hearing some constructive criticism from residents at the informational meetings. Some don’t have access to the internet or know how to use PDF files, the computer format in which the application is available on schenectadyfoundation.org.
So, Carreau said they printed out the application and put hard copies in several locations throughout the city. That includes the several Schenectady County Public Library branches and City Hall.
There’s also a public page on Facebook, titled Schenectady’s Thriving Neighborhood Challenge, which is meant to give residents a forum to share ideas.
After the Oct. 22 deadline, Carreau and his staff will review the proposals and select the most “viable and qualified” projects that can be completed within 12 months of receiving the funding.
Those selected will then be reviewed by the “Challenge Council,” which will be made up of community members, stakeholders and some investors.
Those selected to receive the first round of funding will be announced in January.
Overall, Carreau said the challenge has garnered positive feedback and gratitude from neighborhood groups.
“That’s very encouraging because it tells us that we’re going in the right direction with this,” Carreau said. “People do want to have more of a voice and more engagement in trying to make their community better.”