The Great Comeback

Bill Del-Sette |

“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.”

― Vince Lombardi Jr

“Well, any good comeback needs some true believers”

– John Boehner

As a child growing up near Schenectady, I can remember going to buy clothes at the Carl company. I thought it was the neatest thing to get into an elevator with a human operator.  Downtown was a really cool place, and I can remember all of the people shopping and the buzz in the air – Schenectady was a destination.

Just when things were humming along, the layoffs started. According to the Daily Gazette, GE Schenectady employed 40,000 people at its peak, but by 2006, it was 3,000.  As the jobs left, the city went downhill. High crime rates, vacant buildings and a desolate downtown were all that was left.  Schenectady was written off for dead.

Then one day a few years back, my wife and I attended the downtown Schenectady Summer Night Out festival.  Intrigued by the time we had, we took a drive around the city.  We looked at the beautiful churches and grand old homes in the GE plot. We went out to eat at Petta’s Italian Restaurant and attended a play at Proctors theater, restored in 2007. We walked through the rose garden in Central park.  Downtown Schenectady is percolating, and it’s spreading to the rest of the city.

Why is Schenectady coming back? Thanks to the Schenectady Metroplex , investors like the Galesi Group, and restaurateurs like Angelo Mazzone and the Mallozzi Group, transformation is taking place. Even startup companies like Quirky are moving into town.

Yes, the city has high taxes (what New York community doesn’t) and some sketchy areas. But it also has a lot going for it:

  1. Great Architecture and history – Schenectady has character, and grand and gracious buildings are abundant. A sense of history and craftsmanship, like that found in the historic Stockade District or the GE Plot helps to distinguish this city.  To compensate for high taxes, real estate is still cheap compared to other places.
  2. Great festivals and parades – if you get a chance, attend an Italian or Greek festival, or how about the famous Christmas parade?
  3. A Vibrant Downtown and cool shops that are spreading throughout the city. The place has a palpable energy.
  4. It’s a College Town – Union College adds energy and youth, not to mention great hockey.
  5. Great Restaurants – The ability to walk out your door and be minutes away from great food is a real plus. Although known for its Italian restaurants, there are so many others – try Aperitivo or Tara Kitchen.
  6. The Mohawk River – Once a cesspool, it’s now cleaned up and offers great fishing and boating.
  7. Great parks – Central Park is an underrated park with a great rose garden.

Admittedly, the city has a long way to go. While restaurants and entertainment venues are a good start, Schenectady needs more business, families and retail to really thrive.  But how many people remember Saratoga in the 1970s?

Do yourself a favor and have a night out in Schenectady.  Take a stroll through the stockade and then go to Proctors for a show.  Afterward, grab a bite to eat at any of the numerous restaurants.  Spend an afternoon in Central Park. I think you will be surprised at the revitalization. I love a good comeback!


Image: Fireworks at Schenectady’s Summer Night Out by Bill Del-Sette