SCHENECTADY - A cold wind and dark storm clouds Saturday did little to dampen the enthusiasm of volunteers at spring cleaning events in Schenectady and Amsterdam.
Cleanup efforts were conducted by neighborhood associations throughout Schenectady, and were bolstered by about 30 city employees from different departments, working on overtime, operating garbage trucks, handheld claw litter-picking devices and pickup trucks equipped with miniature trash compactors collecting hundreds of bags of garbage.
City Director of Operations Alex Sutherland said he helped coordinate the cleanup efforts on Saturday. He said many people wanted another cleanup day in April, scheduled the week of Earth Day, to help bolster the efforts of the popular I Love My Schenectady Parks Day, scheduled for May 4.
"I reached out to all of the neighborhood associations to see if we could organize some volunteers, mobilize the troops essentially, to get a neighborhood cleanup going throughout the neighborhoods, which is broader than I love my Parks Day," Sutherland said. "General service [city] crews are coordinating with all of the neighborhood associations to pick up all of the trash, litter and yard waste that is collected today. [Crews are also cleaning] city-owned properties in these neighborhoods."
City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield helped to lead a team of volunteers from the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association and the YouthBuild program of the Social Enterprise and Training Center.
The efforts of Porterfield's group started at Jerry Burrell Park, but then branched out into the streets around the park, including Steuben Street. She said her group of about 20 volunteers, using rakes and brooms and shovels and gloves provided for the cleanup, picked up enough garbage to fill 100 13-gallon black garbage bags.
"I think it went relatively well, given the weather. People still came out and participated, which is really important," she said.
Porterfield said the spring cleaning efforts mostly found plastic bottles, tin cans, fast food containers, plastic bags, at least one dead animal and a generally pervasive penchant for littering.
"It's clear that people are eating, and are just throwing it down on the ground, and really just littering," Porterfield said. "This is a major concern, because we are part of the Thriving Neighborhood Challenge. Our tagline is 'Show love where you live.' So, we're focused on keeping the neighborhood clean. We're going to be putting out new garbage cans."
The Thriving Neighborhood Challenge is a $250,000 initiative aimed at neighborhood improvement projects developed by the residents who live in those communities. The program is funded by the Schenectady Foundation and a city managed Community Block Grant.
One of the Thriving Neighborhood Challenge initiatives is the purchase of 20 to 25 additional trash bins for the Hamiliton Hill area.
"Our installation time for the new trash cans is going to be in May at some point," Porterfield said. "We had hoped it would be in April, but here we are in April and its not. In 2014 the neighborhood association put in some cans that are still there, so we're going to spruce those up and add new cans to them. That's a program we're partnering with the Northside on."
The Northside of Schenectady Cleanup Day, started at Marty’s True Value at 1751 Van Vranken Ave. at 8 a.m., cleaned up part of Van Vranken Avenue as well as Avenues A and B.
"I personally was on Van Vranken today from 8 to 9 a.m., before coming to Jerry Burrell Park and helping that great neighborhood association to work on the streets around it," Sutherland said.
Sutherland said other cleanup activities included:
* volunteers from the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association who met at Woodlawn Park at 9 a.m. to do general cleanup work before setting up some summer infrastructure at the park, including volleyball nets;
* the Eastern Avenue Neighborhood Association, which distributed reusable bags donated by Price Chopper Saturday from Tribute Park to Nott Terrace; and
* the Bellevue Preservation Association, whose volunteers also conducted a neighborhood cleanup.
Ryan Macherone, who was recently appointed the "Lieutenant of Neighborhood Engagement" for the Schenectady Police Department as part of the city's 2019 budget, said he started his day participating in the Northside cleanup before joining with the efforts in Hamilton Hill.
He said the city police department has established an office for him at 400 Craig St., the Electric City Barn, putting his "home base" in that neighborhood. He said it was great to see the volunteers helping the cleanup effort.
"It's the right thing to do," Macherone said.
Trinity Jones, 18, a member of the YouthBuild program, said she's glad her program, which helps young people acquire skills and certifications in the building trades, chose to participate in the cleanup. She said getting a chance to participate in a community cleanup allows her to build her professional skills, interacting with others, and helps out the people of Schenectady.
"YouthBuild helps youngsters out who are basically troubled, high school didn't work out for them. The program helps us get into a professional state, and teaches us how to respect people, and a community cleanup is a great way to do that," Jones said.
Anthony Farina, 21, a graduate of the YouthBuild program, said he decided to volunteer for the cleanup to help out his friends still in the program. He spent part of Saturday's cleanup efforts repainting fire hydrants a bright red color. He said his most recent job was as a cocktail waiter at Rivers Casino, and he isn't yet sure what he wants to do with his life. He said he received a great sense of satisfaction helping the city and his friends on Saturday.
"My friend told me this morning that he was going to a community service project, so I just hopped in the car and came with him," Farina said.
In Amsterdam two spring cleaning events melded together, one organized by District 9 County Legislator Robert Purtell and the other by the city's Tourism, Marketing and Recreation Department, which focused on cleaning up the Chuctanunda multi-purpose recreational trail.
Purtell said his cleanup had 139 volunteers, including 30 employees from custom-sticker manufacturer Sticker Mule and 50 volunteers from the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization.
"It was a good turn out, considering the weather," Purtell said.
Prizes on hand for volunteers helped with the turn out. Purtell said there was a raffle done for cleanup participants and prizes were given away, including: two 40-inch flat screen TVs, $400, six dinner passes for the All American Diner, one dinner pass for Shorty's Southside Tavern, a free guided tour of the Mohawk River by Down by the River Kayak Rentals, and two books written by city mayoral candidate Michael Cinquanti.