SCHENECTADY -- A new fountain in Woodlawn and an art walk through Hamilton Hill are among the winning projects in the Schenectady Foundation's Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge.
At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, representatives of the Schenectady Foundation and Mayor Gary McCarthy will be at the Electric City Barn in Hamilton Hill for an information session to help the 12 winners understand the grant requirements and assist them through the process. A partnership between the Schenectady Foundation and the city, the Neighborhoods Challenge is investing $250,000 to help clean up neighborhoods. The city is providing $100,000 of the program's funds.
Schenectady Foundation Executive Director Robert Carreau, who said the winning projects include providing trash receptacles, recycling education, street murals and free libraries, was overwhelmed by the community's interest in improving the city's appearance.
"The Challenge has been successful well beyond our hopes," said Carreau, who announced the Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge in September. "Being the first time we've done something like this, we weren't quite sure what to expect. The response was pretty amazing and actually a bit frightening, given the immensity of the response.
"We had 48 initial entries submitted, which would have been well in access of our budget or our capacity to respond to that many projects. We had our own challenge to whittle down the very best of the projects, and we landed with 12."
The Foundation asked city residents to step forward and propose ideas to improve their neighborhoods.
"In some cases, we got people representing the different neighborhood associations in the city, and other times, it was just a group of people," said Carreau. "It was an interesting mix."
On Wednesday, winners of the grant will be provided with planning assistance to complete their projects.
"We're also going to make sure they are aware of other resources they could avail themselves of," Carreau said.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy applauded the work of the Schenectady Foundation.
"Schenectady's Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge is an exciting new initiative that will help make our neighborhoods stronger, healthier, safer, greener and more sustainable," he said in a press release announcing the winners.
The largest single grant was for $55,000, awarded to a project named "Spray Pad Cooling Area," which will install a water feature to give Woodlawn residents a "fun, safe way to cool off and enjoy the summer months."
The second-largest grant was $44,000 for a project named "Show the Love Where You Live," in the Hamilton Hill and Vale Cemetery areas. That program will "decorate trash receptacles to encourage usage instead of littering, and will also educate the neighborhood to change the mindset of those who litter."
Another grant of $38,500 was awarded to a project named "Phoenix Walks," which will create an art walk through the Hamilton Hill neighborhood that will include street murals, sculpture, flower gardens and historical signage.
The Schenectady Foundation was formed in 1963 as a charitable trust to "benefit the health and well-being of people who live and work in Schenectady County."
"A lot of these projects have some commonality, such as dealing with litter and recycling," said Carreau. "So, we're going to work with these groups. It won't be just, 'Here's your grant money; off you go.' We're going to be in touch. We're going to be assisting them. And then later this year, we'll be focusing our attention on launching a new Neighborhood Challenge."