By Carina Sorrentino
Since 1931 the historic Steinmetz Park, named for German mathematician and electrical engineer and former Union professor Charles Proteus Steinmetz, has provided 45 acres of land to the recreational vitality of Schenectady. Located on Lenox Road, the park includes a small playground and a pond for fishing. In an attempt to attract more people, there are plans for $650,000 in renovations in the coming year to the park’s bathhouse, which would mean functioning restrooms, a concession stand, a meeting room and a pavilion.
Public works were an area of focus for Steinmetz when he served as president of the Schenectady City Council, so it is appropriate that a park remains in his honor. Schenectady resident and Union student Caroline Staccone ‘15 sees the park as “a great way to preserve Steinmetz’s memory since he was interested in ecology and botany.” In the scientific world, Steinmetz may best be known for his work with alternating current circuit theory, which contributed to work at General Electric, a key industry in Schenectady. His involvement extended to Union, since he was a Union professor and a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, which was one of the first houses to be wired with electricity.
Steinmetz’s influence upon the city of Schenectady, and the world of science in general, was widespread; at Union, the Steinmetz Symposium honors his memory and important intellectual contributions.
With all of the space and historical context the area would seem to be ideal for spending time outdoors in the community; however, many Union students have never even heard of the park, let alone visited it. The reason for this may be the deteriorating quality of the neighborhood and lack of trails or athletic fields.
MaryGrace Wajda ‘15 has spent time in the park and stated, “It’s really not much of a park, just sort of an open space with some trees.” Union staff member Mirella Urbano described how beautiful the park was years ago when she used to take her children there to play and fish, but her concern now is that “the neighborhood has changed and it is really not as safe, so I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable going there today.”
When told about the plans for renovation, the reaction was optimistic all around. Wajda commented that “this would be an effective way to attract more people… but I think steps would need to be taken to make sure that it doesn’t turn into a haven for crime.” Taking into consideration these concerns, the renovations may be a way to revamp the park’s image and make it more popular for families in the area. Staccone also felt that this positive attention could “draw more attention to a place that many people overlook as more of a piece of land than a park.” Many feel that with a prime location between many residential areas and a new look on the horizon, Steinmetz park has the potential to once again light up the Schenectady community and preserve the memory of an influential figure in the city’s and Union’s history.