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An effort to reawaken Schenectady's East Front Street neighborhood

An effort to reawaken Schenectady's East Front Street neighborhood

Resident wants area's history to be known
An effort to reawaken Schenectady's East Front Street neighborhood
16 Jefferson St. is vacant and owned by the city of Schenectady.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

A vacant building I wrote about last year will likely be demolished this fall, in part because doing so will complement an effort to spruce up the neighborhood and highlight its history. 

The building, 16 Jefferson St., is located in what's known as the East Front Street neighborhood. 

Nestled between the Stockade and Mohawk Harbor, the neighborhood was the recipient of a $9,000 grant that will pay for new garbage cans, streets signs and larger, banner-type signs welcoming people to the neighborhood. 

It will also pay for a historical marker that tells the story of the immigrants who settled in the neighborhood and the painting of a mural depicting its history. 

The mural will be a timeline that begins with the Native Americans, shows the arrival of different groups of immigrants and ends with the development of Mohawk Harbor and Rivers Casino.

One of the goals of the project is the make people aware of the East Front Street neighborhood as a place that's distinct and unique from the Stockade neighborhood. 

"People don't really know where East Front Street is," explained Mary Ann Ruscitto, 71, who has lived in the neighborhood her entire life and helped spearhead the East Front Street project, known as Reawakening East Front Street. 

When applying for the grant from The Schenectady Foundation's Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge program, Ruscitto created a presentation that charts the history of the East Front Street area, and tells the story of her family's arrival in the neighborhood. 

A new neighborhood logo, featuring the image of a locomotive, draws upon the fact that the area was a destination for immigrants from Italy and Poland who came to America to build the railroad. Ruscitto's grandfather, Nicola, moved to the neighborhood in 1901 from Naples, Italy. 

"These are the people who were the backbone of Schenectady," Ruscitto's grant proposal states. "They are the ones who built this great city by building the Railroad, Erie Canal, American Locomotive and the General Electric." 

Asked about 16 Jefferson St., Ruscitto said, "It's gotten very dangerous. I'm glad it's coming down." 

She added, "We have some other properties we're hoping will come down." 

The neighborhood is on the upswing, Ruscitto said. 

"Things are getting better, they really are," she said. "The casino and the Mohawk Harbor development have helped." 

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