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Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge round 3 winners announced

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A new disc golf course. A church-run effort to clean up a troubled street corner. A spruced-up city park with new and attractive amenities. 

These are some of the projects that have been funded by The Schenectady Foundation’s Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge (TNC), a grassroots, citizen-led grant program that invites residents to submit their ideas for making the Electric City a more vibrant and livable place. 

All told, $165,000 has been awarded to eight neighborhood groups. 

“The Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge empowers residents,” said Robert Carreau, executive director of The Schenectady Foundation. “Each project reflects the unique vision of a group of people with ideas for improving their neighborhoods and the desire to carry them out. Residents have access to resources to make improvements that matter most to them.”

“We are proud to support The Schenectady Foundation’s Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge program,” said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy. “This unique, citizen-driven initiative engages and empowers residents to have a direct impact on the quality of life in our community. We look forward to working with The Schenectady Foundation and other neighborhood partners to implement these exciting projects.”

One of the most notable initiatives was conceived by students at Schenectady High School. This project calls for significant improvements to Wallingford Park, such as a second basketball hoop with painted court mural, an ADA-compliant swing and new benches. 

Another promising initiative is Hamilton Hill Pride, which will beautify a street corner known for littering and crime by putting in murals and working with residents and other local stakeholders to clean up the area. The project will target the intersection of Hulett and Albany streets, renamed to honor Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. during the past decade.  

“You’ve got the names of two American heroes, and then the street corner doesn’t reflect the pride we have in those names,” said Rev. Nicolle Jean-Simon, pastor at Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church, which spearheaded the project. 

Also receiving funding is the Caring for Carrie Street Park project, which will develop a plan to improve Carrie Street Park in the city’s Goose Hill/Northside neighborhood. The funding will be used to obtain resident input and hire a professional planner to incorporate their ideas into a workable plan. Beautification will also begin with the planting of trees and painting and striping the basketball court. 

“We feel we can jumpstart the park revival process and build interest, energy and excitement in the neighborhood to make the renovation successful, one that will produce a park that neighbors want to go to,” said Margaret Novak, a longtime resident of the Goose Hill neighborhood. “It is very important that there is input by kids, youth and adults who live in the neighborhood, so there is a feeling of ownership.” 

Another noteworthy initiative will install a disc golf course in Steinmetz Park, bringing a sport experiencing a surge in popularity to another part of Schenectady. There is already a disc golf course at Central Park.  

Other projects awarded funding are: 

  • The Wisdom Sharing Project, which will connect Schenectady youth with adults who can give them guidance and advice on how to succeed in life.

  • Reawakening East Front Street Part 2, which will create a large, train-shaped flower planter that will celebrate the neighborhood’s history as a place where many of the people who worked at the nearby American Locomotive Company plant resided. 
  • Beautifying Crane Street, which will install flower planters along both sides of the street.

  • Leveling the Playing Field, which will improve the Michigan Avenue baseball field by adding enhancements such as a mural honoring the 1954 Little League World Series Championship team that played there. 

The grant proposals were reviewed by a panel of community members, the Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge Council. The Council’s recommendations then went to the Board of Directors of The Schenectady Foundation for final approval. 

“The enthusiastic response to the Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge was gratifying to see,” said Kristi Milligan, director of grants and community programs for The Schenectady Foundation. “Tapping into that energy and harnessing it in a positive and transformative direction is what this grant program is all about.” 

This is the third round of Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge awards. During the two previous rounds of TNC funding, 17 projects were awarded $500,000.

The Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge is a public-private partnership supported by The Schenectady Foundation, the City of Schenectady, Wright Family Foundation and other donors.  

Here is the full list of Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge projects receiving funding in 2023: 

Disc Golf at Steinmetz Park


Wallingford Park improvements*


Hamilton Hill Pride


Caring for Carrie Street


Wisdom Sharing Project


Reawakening East Front Street - Part 2


Beautifying Crane Street


Level the Playing Field


* Youth-Driven project

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