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Proposal to convert Central Park building that is currently shuttered into an environmental centre
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Proposal to convert Central Park building that is currently shuttered into an environmental centre

SCHENECTADY Schenectady, as many other municipalities is, is soaking in federal bailout funds.

One of the projects that were submitted for funding is a proposal to convert the former Central Park casino into an environmental education center.

ECOS: The Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady (ECOS) and the Upper Union Neighborhood Association (UUPNA) have submitted a funding proposal to the city to restore the building’s serviceability.

The city is offering $100,000 to the applicants.

Schenectady was awarded $53 million in federal funds. The payout was split into two $26 millions installments. The city has spent $14 million to date. This includes $8.9 million to replace lost revenue, and $4 million to hire positions that were not filled in the early days.

The city is also considering spending at least 3 million to build a pool at Central Park.

According to project documents, the Iroquois Lake Environmental Education Center, if it is funded, it would be a self-sustaining net zero project that produces all of its energy onsite.

Tom Carey, president of Upper Union Neighborhood Association said that the project was still in the early stages. “It is a preliminary proposition,” he stated.

Before falling into ruin, the brick building served as an office. Seasonal restaurant.

The building, which has been vacant for the past ten years, has suffered neglect and vandalism, but is structurally sound. This makes it a good base for ECOS’ programming.

The site, located on the shores of Iroquois Lake will serve as headquarters for ECOS as well as the base for their youth education program. The park itself will be a living laboratory of field work and would serve hundreds of local youth each year, including students at Central Park Middle School, which can be found within walking distance.

The center’s mission will be centered on racial equity. The applicants noted that Schenectady’s low income households and people of color suffer significantly more health impacts than the rest of the population. These negative health outcomes are also caused by environmental hazards in the most affected areas by the pandemic.

The project will benefit youth from all areas of the city and county. However, the center will be primarily targeted at youth who live in federally designated “qualified census tracts” near the park.

Currently, ECOS uses office space at the Niskayuna Community Center. The Schoharie River Center offers outdoor environmental programming to youth in Schenectady parks.

Carey envisions installing solar panel roofs, and planners will investigate the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority opportunities.

Local leaders hope that city-awarded stimulus money could be used in part to improve ailing park infrastructure such as walkways and bridges.

Some of the $12 million remaining in federal funds will be distributed to community applicants. The city received approximately 70 requests for American Rescue Plan Act funding, totaling around $75 million.

Monday’s City Council vote will create a civilian committee that will determine which projects will be funded. Marion Porterfield, president of City Council, stated that neighborhood associations will also assist in the process.

The applicants stated that if funding is granted in a timely manner, they could award bids so construction would start on June 1, with an expected completion date of October 28, 2022.

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