SCHENECTADY -- Joe Aragosa, owner of Marty’s True Value Hardware on Van Vranken Avenue, each spring organizes a cleanup day across the Goose Hill neighborhood on Schenectady’s northside. Volunteers pick up cans, bottles and other litter by the bagful.
“We filled a dumpster,” Aragosa said of last April’s effort.
But Aragosa and Margaret Novak, another longtime Goose Hill resident, decided if they could raise money to place a few new trash cans in the area, they may reduce the amount of garbage waiting to be picked up after the snow melts each spring.
As that idea emerged, the Schenectady Foundation announced $250,000 in community grants targeting revitalization efforts driven by local people in neighborhoods across the city. The Goose Hill team won a $24,000 grant to place 50 trash cans throughout the neighborhood, with new trash cans now lining Van Vranken Avenue and other commonly walked streets throughout Goose Hill.
The trash cans are emblazoned with anti-littering artwork produced by third-grade students at Yates Elementary School, work the students did during the city school district’s summer enrichment program.
MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
A new trash can is seen on Van Vranken Ave.
The students think the trash cans will help the neighborhood – for obvious reasons.
“Because people won’t litter anymore,” said 9-year-old Zonilay McClinton, one of 30 students whose artwork was chosen to appear on the trash cans.
Jeremiyah Thompson, 9, detailed his painting now displayed on a trash can outside of Yates school. He painted a fish in a river threatened by a floating water bottle: pollution meets nature.
“When you just drop stuff on the floor, the wind can push it and it can go into the river and kill the fish,” Jeremiyah said. “The fish is saying, ‘Please, don’t litter in my river.’”
Novak, who led the Goose Hill project, said involving students was a way to encourage young people to begin thinking and talking about the importance of recycling and throwing trash away. The trash cans are positioned up and down Van Vranken and in other parts of the neighborhood used for walking. The Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority purchased the trash cans on behalf of the neighborhood team to maximize how far the grant would stretch, more than doubling the number of trash cans from what the team originally thought it could afford.
“The message is we should pick up our trash, we should be good citizens, we should dispose of our trash responsibly,” said Novak.
The project was one of 12 community projects across the city awarded a grant in the Thriving Neighborhood Challenge’s inaugural year. Another round of the community grants is expected to total $500,000.
MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Robert A. Carreau, Executive Director, The Schenectady Foundation kicks off the unveiling of the first trash can at Yates Elementary School on Thursday morning.
“What’s your idea for making your community a better place?” Bob Carreau, executive director of the Schenectady Foundation, said of the different projects.
The new trash cans come as some Goose Hill residents are seeing positive momentum in cleaning up the area and recapturing a positive community spirit: Union College recently renovated an abandoned bank building at the corner of Van Vranken and Nott Street, while Yates Village receives a major overhaul toward the other end of the street.
“It’s definitely showing enhancements,” said Camille Sasinowski, president of the Goose Hill Neighborhood Association. In November, the neighborhood association plans to unveil a new veteran's memorial in Steinmetz Park. The memorial will carry with the names of over 600 military veterans who live or have lived in Goose Hill.
Sasinowski also said she would like to see the city step up efforts to monitor cameras positioned at the park and throughout the Goose Hill area to curb vandalism and other crime. The neighborhood is coming back, she said, but still has a way to go.
Organizers of the trash can project acknowledged that the 50 trash cans likely won’t be enough to meet all of the neighborhood’s needs, but said they were proud to see the effort to completion.
“I don’t know if it’s enough,” said Aragosa. “Fifty cans: I wish there was more.”
Aragosa said he still plans to continue the annual cleanup day in the spring, so he’ll have a chance to see just how much use the trash can are getting – or not getting.
“We’ll see how it’s working,” he said.