What's Happening?

What's Happening?

Celebrating a historical railroad first

Schenectady's Crane Street is a busy corridor, a diverse mix of mom-and-pop shops, restaurants and residential buildings.  

It also has a tough reputation as a place where litter, crime and vacant buildings are all too common.  Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/2022-blog-images/engine hill trashcans.jpg 

A  group of local business people, the Mont Pleasant Merchants, is working to change Crane Street for the better. They want to transform the area into a safer and more attractive place to spend time, invest and live. 

Thanks to a $21,000 grant from The Schenectady Foundation's Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge program, the Mont Pleasant Merchants are sprucing up Crane Street, hanging attractive banners on light posts and installing sturdy new trash cans in front of businesses.

The hope is to rebrand Crane Street by welcoming visitors, highlighting the street's rich history and encouraging people to keep it clean by disposing of garbage properly. 

"We want to interest people in investing in the area, but they won't invest if they see trash, loitering," said the Rev. James Bookhout, president of the Mont Pleasant Merchants and pastor at Bridge Christian Church on Crane Street, shown above with  Mohamed Hafez and Fermin Fabian, owner of Mami's Restaurant  "We have to take pride in our businesses. If we want new businesses and new people to come up here, we have to clean up."  

The Merchants want to instill a sense of pride among those who live and work in the neighborhood by renaming it "Engine Hill," a reference to the area's bygone status as a hub of rail activity. Mohawk & Hudson Railroad ran the first steam-propelled railroad transportation service in America out of a small brick station on Crane Street.

"At one time, anyone who was anybody, if they came to Schenectady, they came here," Bookhout said. 

The new banners, shown below, say "Welcome to Engine Hill" and feature a picture of a locomotive. Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/2022-blog-images/MPMbanners.jpg

So far, the Mont Pleasant Merchant's efforts to uplift the street appear to be paying off. 

While walking down Crane Street, Bookhout peered into one of the new trash cans. 

"Let's see if anyone's using it," he said. 

The can was filling up with trash - a sure sign of progress for those who live and work on Engine Hill. 

The Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge grant program is a unique, citizen-driven initiative that gives Schenectady residents a chance to pitch their ideas for improving the community and apply for funding to implement them. 

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