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Schenectady's Craig-Main Connection Project Supported In House Transportation Bill

Rep. Paul Tonko and Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy on the Craig Street bridge
Lucas Willard
Rep. Paul Tonko and Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy on the Craig Street bridge

Included in the new transportation bill passed by the House of Representatives is a project to improve a main corridor in the City of Schenectady.

The Democrat-led House of Representatives recently passed the INVEST in America Act surface transportation bill.

This week, 20th District Congressman Paul Tonko is touring five Capital Region projects in line for a total of about $20 million, if approved by the Senate as infrastructure talks continue in Washington.

One of the projects on the list is $2.7 million to support improvements to the City of Schenectady’s Craig Street Corridor.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said Craig Street, an artery that connects the Hamilton Hill and Mont Pleasant neighborhoods, has seen targeted redevelopment projects in recent years.

Just some examples: the transformation of two former schools into senior housing and the Electric City Barn; the new Boys & Girls Club headquarters behind the Mont Pleasant Middle School, just past the Craig Street bridge; and the ongoing redevelopment of the shuttered Carver Community Center.

“And it’s to do the connection so that it’s attractive, it’s nice, it’s safe, and it’s again real sustainable value for the community,” said McCarthy.

Schenectady Director of Planning, Zoning and Community Development Kristin Diotte said the first phase of the so-called Craig-Main Connection will accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and motorists.

“This new design, based on input from the community and identifying how important pedestrians and cyclists are, there’s going to be a dedicated bike lane that is separate from the road that has a landscape buffer of trees between the bike lane and the road, and then there’s going to be widened sidewalks…”

As part of the Craig Street phase of the connector project, parking will be restricted to one side of the street.

Representative Tonko joined officials on a tour of Craig Street.

“I was really inspired by the fact that so much of the planning and final decision making was driven by the people who are going to inherit this, by children. If it makes it safe, if it makes it comfortable, if it connects them to services that have been there to nurture them and reinforce them, then you’re really building the truest sense of community,” said Tonko.

Reaching the bridge that connects Hamilton Hill and Mont Pleasant, Tonko remarked on plans for new lighting, a bike path, and public art. Speaking to Mary Moore Wallinger, Principal of firm LandArt Studio, the Democrat welcomed the input of neighborhood kids who helped shape the project.  

“I can’t wait to see what they come up with in terms of socialization and cultural accents, and you know, we can build pride into every kid and know that each kid is important,” said Tonko.

“I think in approaching this project, I keep thinking, we need to think about how do we do the street signs at the intersections? And what are elements of community art that we can include along the way that really personalizes the project and kind of champions the voices that were behind it so that there’s that constant reminder of the ground-up approach and the vision and sort of really having the project really reflect in as many ways as possible the community’s involvement,” said Wallinger.

Longtime neighborhood resident and Schenectady City Councilor Marion Porterfield is excited to see Craig-Main Connection project move forward.

“We’ve owned a house in this neighborhood for 51 years, so it’s exciting to see the comeback that’s happening here. So we saw when it was extremely vibrant and a lot of homeowners lived here, saw it close to its transient stage, but now, to see it come back, and even though we have a lot of renters, there’s so much revitalization of housing, which is important. And also housing that can keep people in the neighborhood,” said Porterfield.

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