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Cleanup of Schenectady's shuttered Carver Community Center begins

Cleanup of Schenectady's shuttered Carver Community Center begins

Students from the Schenectady-WIN program part of the efforts
Cleanup of Schenectady's shuttered Carver Community Center begins
Pictured are Dong Quan, Keenan Chandler, and Shamecca Norfleet cleaning up the main lobby area.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY -- Cleanup of the shuttered Carver Community Center took place on Tuesday as the group behind its renovation was getting it ready for contractors to walk through.

Several students from the Schenectady Working In Neighborhoods program -- also known as Schenectady-WIN -- were on hand assisting in the effort. Much of their responsibility was to clean and gut the building to get it prepared for renovations.

It’s a project that Qaadir Islam, a life skills coach who works with the program, said many of the students were happy to be apart of.

“They’re excited about it and want to have the opportunity to do something in the community that’s progressive, pro bono,” Islam said.

There were 18 students at the community center doing the work. They are part of a program that combines hands-on and classroom work to give under-educated, low-income adults skills and training in the construction industry.

Students are able to obtain different certifications required in the industry and the program lines them up with employment after they have completed it.

The cleanup effort was just one part of the three-year process the Miracle on Craig Street group has gone through to try and reopen the community center since it closed in 2013.

Its closure had a great impact on the community, including one of the students who was there on Tuesday to help in the cleanup efforts.

More: Photos from the Carver Community Center cleanup, Nov. 27, 2018

Nichole Powell, who is in her mid-40s and previously spent time collecting and selling scrap metal as a means to support herself and her children, said it was devastating for the Hamilton Hill neighborhood when the community center closed.

“When it closed down, it changed a lot of people’s lives,” Powell said. “There is no major daycare facility in Hamilton Hill. This was the only one. Everyone used it.”

Powell said she recently moved to Mont Pleasant after living in Hamilton Hill for several years. She said she would bring her kids to the daycare facility at the community center. When it closed, she said there was still the Boys & Girls Club that was on Craig Street. But that closed down as well, with the building being sold to The Community Builders in December 2017 for its community redevelopment project.

Helping clean out the community center to get it ready for renovations was exciting for Powell. Especially since some of her kids still attend the nearby Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School on Stanley Street and could go there after getting out of school once it opens.

“It would be awesome,” Powell said. “I’m excited and kind of happy to be apart of it. This is a great program.”

Rosa Rivera, board chairwoman of Miracle on Craig Street, said the plan is to open the community center in the fall of 2019. First, they have to raise the remaining $120,000 needed to reopen the facility and do any necessary repairs.

Rivera said they currently have $180,000 on hand, with $150,000 of that coming from a federal Community Development Block Grant that was awarded to it by the City Council in July.

More: Photos from the Carver Community Center cleanup, Nov. 27, 2018

The council also approved a resolution in April that allowed the group to enter into an option agreement to purchase the building, along with five adjacent parcels.

Rivera previously said the agreement went into effect on Oct. 22. It gave the group six months to raise the necessary funds to purchase the building. It's not clear how much the building will cost.

During the cleanup, Rivera could be seen broadcasting the moment on Facebook Live with her cellphone.

Being able to have actual community members help in cleaning up the center spoke to what the Miracle on Craig Street’s efforts have been since 2015.

“I think from the beginning, this project was a grassroots project and it really came from inside the community.” Rivera said. “All of us who are part of the project, and people who have been a part of the project, even if it’s been on a volunteer basis, we all either live in the community, work in the community, or have families or children in the community.”

There were a lot of residents who came through the building while they were doing the cleanup, according to Rivera. Some of them threw out ideas of different programs they’d like to host in the center once it’s opened, while others just wanted to reflect on its history.

“Somebody stepped into the gym today and said, ‘I never thought I would be standing in this gym again since the doors closed. This is very surreal for me.’” River recounted.

After several years of fundraising, and with the option to purchase the building in April, Rivera could only describe what was happening on Tuesday as “magical.”

To donate to the project, visit gofundme.com/miracle518

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