On Oct. 24, The Upper Union Neighborhood Association held their monthly meeting at the Eastern Parkway United Methodist Church, 943 Palmer Ave. 

The N.A. talked business with Ray Gillen of Metroplex about all things Upper Union and Eastern Parkway from businesses booming, garbage and traffic issues, and the overall district. 

According to Gillen and Metroplex, the district is healthy and any businesses transitioning away is normal. 

President of the N.A., Tom Carey added the only concerns they had discussed were the traffic and garage issues around the community and Eastern Parkway. 

In addition to the meeting, Carey highlighted the Environmental Education Center planned for Central Park in which the N.A. and their collaborators are continuously working on. 

Environmental Education Center

According to the Upper Union N.A., the Casino building in Central Park turned into a vacant, party-house for kids after the cafe inside, shut down in 2014. Carey said he was tired of looking at the vacant building and the kids breaking in. So he and other community members took action, and a plan began to develop to fix up the building and make it functional for youth in Schenectady. 

With partnership from the Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady (ECOS), they came up with the idea of repurposing the building as an environmental education center. 

A proposed plan for the outside of the Environmental Education Center.

“We wanted to use it to provide area youth with, as a base, for some programming ECOS does, provide youth with access to the outdoors to field programs,” Carey said. 

The center will be a net zero building, meaning all energy needed to heat and power the building will be on site. 

Since creating a plan for the building, the Upper Union Neighborhood Association has partnered with Schoharie River Center and Community Fathers INC., in addition to ECOS. 

“Schoharie River Center will be the leader in educational programs with ECOS doing some,” Carey said. “We are expecting 300+ youth each year and other activities and other people, it’s not going to be just limited to youth.”

The center will be a community resource where area youth and others will have the opportunity to learn about water quality issues, renewable energy, and the local urban environment. The partners hope to raise awareness to the environmental justice issues that exist both city and county wide, while also giving the community a space to meet and hold their meetings. 

According to organizers, the Center will provide educational resources that are not currently available to low-income youth and people of color living in nearby neighborhoods. It will increase awareness of climate change and the other environmental crises facing us in the 21st century, by providing outdoor-focused experiences, and it will address the legacy of environmental injustice that communities of color in Schenectady County experience on a daily basis.

The building itself will have something on each floor. 

The first floor will feature meeting and exhibit space, a small kitchen area and ADA-compliant bathrooms, and the second will have program offices and the ECOS library. The outdoor patio overlooking the lake will be used for exhibits and a seating and outdoor event area. The basement area will be retained for storage by the partner organizations and the city.

The Casino building is being repurposed into an education center for primarily youth in Schenectady.

Carey and the rest of the organizers hope to see the building finished and fully functioning in 2024. For more information on the Education Center, you can read more about it here