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Schenectady City Leaders Kick Off 2018

Leaders in Schenectady kicked off 2018 Tuesday night. As WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports, Schenectady has a new city council president, a new city court judge, and an agenda for the new year.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy was optimistic in his 2018 State of the City address, delivered in a packed city council chamber Tuesday night.

“The state of our city is strong. These are exciting times and I appreciate your friendship and support. Our future is bright and working together, the best for Schenectady is yet to come,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy, mayor since 2011, said the city’s finances are good, but “remain under pressure.” While property taxes have undergone slight decreases over the past three years, the mayor does expect the city’s finances to close out the year with a small deficit.

Crime is also down, with the mayor predicting a 30 percent reduction in violent crime compared to Schenectady’s five-year average. 

The Democrat called attention to ongoing development. The Rivers Casino is completing its first year of operation next month and development at the Mohawk Harbor site continues.

A major renovation is underway at the old YMCA on State Street and neighboring Liberty Park, and a new library branch will be built in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, among other projects. 

 “We’ve got a lot of good things going in Schenectady, so we want to continue to build on that, continue the development that’s happening in downtown and throughout our neighborhoods,” said McCarthy. “And this Smart City Initiative with National Grid is really going to bring a lot of things together and also draw in the history of innovation and technology that built Schenectady in the past and I believe can be a major influence in our future going forward.”

As part of the Smart City plan, the city’s existing street lighting system will be replaced with advanced LED technology, saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in electricity costs. McCarthy said National Grid is looking to use Schenectady as a model for implementing smart technology throughout the country.

McCarthy also swore-in Teneka Frost as City Court judge. Frost said she’s looking forward to serving the city she moved to about eight years ago.

 “My grandmother lived here. When I was a kid I used to come. She lived over on Stanley Street in Hamilton Hill and there was always something special about Schenectady,” said Frost.

Frost is the first black woman to hold the position in Schenectady. She acknowledged the “gravity” of her appointment and what it means to the community.

“You know, I really do think the city court is the people’s court,” said Frost. “And I really have a passion for youth. I really want them to not have to come into the court system when they are in trouble. I want them to know about the system and I really plan to work with youth.”

The mayor also recognized the significance of her appointment but added…

“It’s secondary to the character and the skillset that she brings,” said McCarthy.

As expected, City Councilor Ed Kosiur was elected city council president, succeeding Leesa Perazzo. The Democrat said he also seeks to support the city’s youngest residents.

“To me, the youth are a very important piece of this whole puzzle here,” said Kosiur. “If we don’t have a strong school district and strong youth programs here, we’re not going to encourage youth families to move into the city, and that’s really what we’re looking for: home ownership, continued homeownership, and continued strong school districts.”

Democratic councilors Marion Porterfield, John Mootooveren, and Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas were sworn-in for another term.

Democrat John Polimeni was named majority leader, and Independent Vince Riggi will remain minority leader.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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