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City, Schenectady Foundation launch second ‘Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge’

City, Schenectady Foundation launch second ‘Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge’

Applications due Oct. 25 for next round of projects
City, Schenectady Foundation launch second ‘Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge’
Tyrell Outlaw is seen in the small park at the corner of Windsor Terrace and Landon in Schenectady.
Photographer: Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer

SCHENECTADY — What’s your idea for improving your community?

The application process is now underway for the second round of a citywide initiative designed to empower neighborhoods to conceptualize and execute community projects.

The Schenectady Foundation formally launched the second round of the “Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge” on Tuesday. 

Organizers are again offering $250,000 for the next round of projects.

“We expect 6 to 12, but we don’t know until we see what comes in,” said Robert Carreau, executive director of the Schenectady Foundation. 

PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Robert Carreau of the Schenectady Foundation kicks off the Thriving Neighborhood Challenge at the Electric City Barn on Craig Street Tuesday, September 17, 2019.PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Robert Carreau of the Schenectady Foundation kicks off the Thriving Neighborhood Challenge at the Electric City Barn on Craig Street Tuesday, September 17, 2019.

Twelve projects were awarded funding last year out of nearly 50 applicants, several of which were on display to potential applicants at the Electric City Barn in Hamilton Hill on Tuesday night. 

Completed projects include a LGBTQ pride sculpture at Gateway Plaza, a splash pad at Woodlawn Park and sculptural benches dotted throughout the city by Schenectady and Me. 

Other neighborhoods, including Hamilton Hill and the Boulevard Appreciation Neighborhood Association (BANA), have focused on providing trash receptacles.

Chris White, BANA treasurer, said the effort tightened neighborhood ties by galvanizing interest from people who wouldn’t have ordinarily gotten involved in community projects. 

“Trash cans brought us together,” White said. “It’s kind of crazy, but it worked.”

The East Front Street Neighborhood Association opted for a project designed to promote the neighborhood as one that is distinct and unique from the neighboring Stockade with its own rich cultural legacy. 

“Our goal is to make people aware of our neighborhood," said Mary Ann Ruscitto. "We’re not the Stockade."

The tiny five-street neighborhood is sandwiched between the Stockade and Rivers Resort & Casino.

As part of the “Reawakening East Front Street” project, a local artist is painting a mural on the railroad bridge that divides the two neighborhoods. 

PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Kristi Miller of the Schenectady Foundation discusses the Thriving Neighborhood Challenge at the Electric City Barn on Craig Street Tuesday, September 17, 2019.PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Robert Carreau of the Schenectady Foundation kicks off the Thriving Neighborhood Challenge at the Electric City Barn on Craig Street Tuesday, September 17, 2019.

One side will be dominated by a locomotive, symbolizing American Locomotive and commemorating the fact that the area was a destination for immigrants from Italy and Poland who came to America to build the railroad.

The mural will also depict renowned neighborhood figures, including boxing legends Tony Barone and Joe “Pep” Cassillo, as well as businesses like the now-shuttered Mastrianni’s Bakery on Mohawk Avenue and Perreca’s, which was previously located on John Street before relocating to its present location on North Jay Street.

The neighborhood association has limited funds, said Ruscitto, making the initiative — and its $8,900 investment — critical. 

Each winner is also partnered with an anchor organization to aid with financial planning and budgeting.

“Everyone has been so wonderful,” Ruscitto said. 

DEADLINE NEARS 

Several prospective applicants attended Tuesday's session, including Robert Dobbs, who wants to take control of the Bellevue Little League fields at Hillhurst Park and offer a variety of youth programming. 

“I love it,” Dobbs said. “I’ll be here for all of it. I’m going to stay on top of it — I’m not the type to let things fail.”

Proposals must be submitted by Oct. 25. 

Organizers are intent on funding at least one youth-led project this year, Carreau said.

The Schenectady Foundation will facilitate additional informational workshops and sessions to assist prospective applicants to develop their ideas and applications.

Consultants and city staff will be on site to lend their expertise. 

The next events will be held Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. at the Mont Pleasant Branch Library; Wednesday, Oct. 2. at Bornt Branch Library; and Thursday, Oct. 10. at the Hon. Karen B. Johnson Schenectady County Public Library main branch. 

Applications are based on a point system and officials will weigh metrics like community need, neighborhood impact, sustainability and community engagement.

“We want to make sure we’re not going to give you money to make it happen and then it dies,” said Kristi Miller, director of grants and community programs at the Schenectady Foundation.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said he enjoys watching communities come together to display their creativity and problem-solving abilities. 

“They’re exciting and they bring value to the neighborhoods,” McCarthy said. 

The project is funded by the city with investments from MVP HealthCare, Trustco Bank, the Wright Family Foundation, the Carlilian Foundation and the Little Family Foundation. 

For more information, visit schenectadyfoundation.org.

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