The College announced Tuesday the Union-Schenectady (US) Initiative, a broad-based plan to
revitalize the neighborhood west of campus. The program includes a number of incentives
for both homeowners and College employees, including scholarships, special mortgage
programs, community outreach programs, and the establishment of a neighborhood
President Roger Hull made the announcement at 702 Huron
St. before representatives from city and state government, private business and community
“I feel that we all individuals and
institutions alike have a responsibility to contribute to the communities in which
we live and operate,” President Hull said. “In fulfilling our responsibility, we
are committing, among other things, our greatest asset a first-rate education
to the revitalization of this area of Schenectady. We believe that others
neighborhood families, the City of Schenectady, Schenectady Municipal Housing Agency,
local banks, and St. Anthony's Church will join with us, and we are eager to
begin work on a true partnership for the neighborhood.
The US Initiative will also serve to enhance the
College's competitive position by expanding housing options for students, faculty and
staff and by beautifying the area surrounding the west border of campus. The area is
defined by Seward Place, Union Street, and Nott Street.
Schenectady Mayor Albert Jurczynski said the plan
“could potentially be the best thing that has happened in Schenectady in
decades.” City Council President Gary McCarthy also expressed his support. “We
can take a neighborhood that has a little dust on it, is a little past its peak … and
we can restore it,” he said.
Key elements of the Union-Schenectady Initiative
Scholarships covering the full cost of tuition for
eligible homeowners: Union College will make available scholarship funds of up to $1
million a year to cover the full cost of tuition to children of qualified homeowners.
Children who meet Union's admissions requirements and whose primary residence is
within the US Initiative area will be entitled to apply for four years of scholarships.
The tuition benefit will be limited to two children per family.
Acquisition of property: Union College has
acquired 20 properties in the US Initiative area. These properties, following extensive
renovations, will be owned and maintained by the College for use as student housing and
faculty residences. All Union College properties will be maintained in accordance with US
Neighborhood Association standards, and they will serve as a catalyst for further
revitalization and development of the area.
The ultimate use of each property student housing,
faculty or staff rental will be determined in a planning process that will include
discussions with neighbors and businesses in the area. The process of acquisition and
renovation is expected to take 12 to 18 months, with an estimated cost of $3 to $4
Home ownership: Union College employees (faculty,
administrators, staff) whose primary residence is within the US Initiative area will be
entitled to access the Union College Community Stabilization First Mortgage Program. The
program features a number of incentives designed to encourage home ownership in the area.
These include no down payment, no closing costs, exterior façade improvement funds of up
to $10,000 to be added to the mortgage amount and amortized over the life of the mortgage,
payroll deduction, and a fixed interest rate two percent below local banks' no-points
first mortgage rate.
Community Outreach: To create a center for the
exchange of ideas, suggestions and community-focused activity, the US Initiative includes
the development of the Office of Neighborhood Outreach. Staffed by Union students, staff
and volunteers from the community, the Office will enhance the educational experience of
children in the area by establishing a homework center and tutoring program, and by
sponsoring South Avenue Park neighborhood weekend programs.
Additionally, the Office will focus its efforts on
partnering with the not-for-profit community in enriching the neighborhood. Possible
activities include organizing neighborhood cleanup projects and community workshops on
legal issues for home ownership.
Safety and esthetics: The College's plans call
for the relocation of Union's Security Office to an address yet-to-be identified on
Seward Place. Also, working with the Outreach Office and area neighbors, the College hopes
to establish a neighborhood watch program. As part of the beautification effort, the US
Initiative includes the use of banners, signage and historic lighting in the area, as well
as the installation of cobblestone pavers at designated street corners and intersections
to reduce the speed of area traffic.
“I am convinced that the outcome of these efforts
will truly result in a win-win for Union and Schenectady. Our interests are inextricably
linked when Union benefits so does the City, and when the City benefits so does
Union,” President Hull noted. “This initiative comes at a time when the
competition among quality liberal arts colleges has never been greater. If we fail to act
and ignore the issues around us, we are hurting our – and the City's – future.”