Reed: Perreca’s Bakery owners kept the light shining during Schenectady’s darkest years

first_imgCategories: Editorial, OpinionAs you drive or walk around Schenectady these days, it’s impossible to miss all the signs of progress and rebirth.We have a new train station, a big new development on the Mohawk River waterfront and a bustling restaurant scene along lower Union Street. Lower State Street, long a blighted wasteland, is being transformed with two big multi-million-dollar mixed-use projects. Proctors is busier than ever. And we have some great craft breweries, both new ones and older. The list of exciting projects seems to go on and on.But it wasn’t always this way.Turn back the clock 25 or 35 years. Life in Schenectady was bleak.Back then, it was hard not to feel like the city was in a death spiral.Downtown was filled with empty storefronts, the streets strewn with litter. The city’s once-booming workforce was a shadow of its former self. The great American Locomotive Co. had long since ceased operations while General Electric was shedding jobs by the thousands in the 1980s and ’90s.In time, more and more smaller businesses called it quits, too. Venerable names like the Carl Co. and Wallace Armer Hardware vanished from the landscape. Others like Goldstock’s Sporting Goods pulled up stakes and moved to the suburbs. Communities benefit tremendously when the small mom-and-pop places are able to stay afloat in the lean times. They give customers a reason to keep coming back when the overall shopping options are few and far between compared with more vibrant commercial areas (the suburbs and Saratoga County, in Schenectady’s case).During my days behind the counter at Perreca’s, I served customers from all around Schenectady County and beyond. Many customers were regulars, folks who lived or worked in the city and stopped in daily. But many others made the trip into the city just to get their fix of Perreca’s bread or famous pizza. Perreca’s became its own form of “destination shopping.”Now that Schenectady’s fortunes are on the rebound, places like Perreca’s carry even more value in the community. They’re a direct link to the community’s forefathers, in Perreca’s case a nod to the contributions made to Schenectady by the many Italian immigrants all those years ago.So if you’d like to get a sense of the true Schenectady of yesteryear, swing by North Jay Street and pay a visit to Perreca’s.The coal-fired oven is original 1914 construction and the plain storefront — all about the bread — seems quaintly old-fashioned in this era of gleaming LED lights and polished metal. But it can serve as a blueprint for any city that seeks a sustainable future with a vibrant community of retailers and residents involved in each other’s lives.Miles Reed is the editor of The Daily Gazette. He can be reached by calling 518-395-3106 or emailing reed@dailygazette.com.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homes Fortunately, some businesses stuck it out. Places like Perreca’s Bakery, a landmark in the city’s once-thriving Little Italy neighborhood.Despite the city’s downturn and business closures all around, Perreca’s kept baking its fabulous Italian bread, just as it had been doing since 1914. Day after day, year after year, customers by the hundreds kept pulling up in their cars to pick up their daily bread.In the 1980s, when I was in my teens, I had the privilege of working at Perreca’s over four summers. I loved the job. It gave me an up-close glimpse into the workings of a true family business, one that treats its employees and customers, even the poorest ones, like family also.Businesses like Perreca’s are the lifeblood of a community like Schenectady, especially when the storm clouds of a downturn loom for decades, as they did here.Leaders like Ray Gillen, Philip Morris, Neil Golub, Roger Hull and others deserve high praise for helping to bring about the city’s revival in the past two decades.But so too do small-business owners like longtime Perreca’s matriarch and owner Lillian Perreca Papa, who died last week at the age of 93.Lillian and company saw to it that the bakery founded by her parents, Salvatore and Carmella Perecca, kept on going strong during the rough years for Schenectady. When other places were closing their doors or moving to greener pastures, they doubled down on Schenectady. As the years pressed on, Lillian positioned the bakery well for the future by passing on the reins to her children, Maria and Tony.last_img read more

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Letters to the Editor for Saturday, June 22

first_imgMoving prom date not special treatmentIn her June 12 letter (“Would district move prom for Christians?”) Audrey Saltzman asks if a school would change the date [of a prom] for Christian students. The answer is they wouldn’t have to because events such as proms would not be scheduled on major Christian holidays in the first place.In spite of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Christian holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, are treated like national holidays. Christmas is even an official national holiday, and Easter would be also if it did not already fall on Sunday, which is the Christian sabbath.Public offices and most non-retail businesses are closed on Sunday. It was not so long ago when retail sales were severely restricted on Sunday, even for non-Christians. No such deference is given to the major holidays of citizens who may be followers of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or Sikhism.The Muslim students did not get special treatment; they were simply given a small part of the same accommodation to religious observances our society already provides to Christian students. Victor RobertsBurnt HillsEnough effort wasted investigating TrumpAs Paul Tonko’s  office will not acknowledge or respond any criticism from his constituents, I must resort to The Gazette, thank you. A message for him follows.Mr. Tonko, you were elected to represent the people of the 20th Congressional District to fight against the onslaught of socialism, the threat of our foreign adversaries, and to look out for their welfare. You were not elected to further your career at their expense. Please, do you’re your job.A Gazette May 4 article says that you want to impeach our president.We need comprehensive immigration, health care reform, infrastructure improvements; to name just a few. What we don’t need is any more wasted taxpayers’ dollars spent on foolish projects such as the bridge to nowhere in your hometown, or witch hunts. Your party just squandered over two years and untold millions of dollars using 19 partisan lawyers, perverted and discredited witnesses, ruining the lives of many along the way, with an investigation based on a lie.It concluded that your president neither colluded with Russia to win the election nor obstructed anything. No crimes, nothing, Paul.Using the same convoluted logic, Robert Mueller used “we can’t prove he’s innocent.” What happened to “innocent until proven guilty”?It then would be fair to say, we can’t  prove that you are guilty of doing anything good for your constituents save for never attending a funeral of someone you didn’t like.Shameful. Impeach him for what? He ate your lunch?Jane PauzeSpring Hill, Fla.The writer is a former local resident.Who owned land before Israel creationWere it not for the approximately 1 percent of truth in James Van Dijk’s June 15 “Israel Experiment” letter, there would be no truth at all.However, I’m curious about one comment. Who are the people who supposedly owned the land (now Israel) for centuries and how was that ownership established? Howard KaplanClifton ParkMore from The Daily Gazette:Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press conference for Sunday, Oct. 18EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homes I’m a proud resident of Niskayuna and member of the Independence Party and I support Yasmine Syed for town supervisor. As an independent, I support candidates who reach across the aisle and, most importantly, who bring reform and foster good government.Despite the “old guard” trying to stymie her efforts, Supervisor Syed has transcended partisan politics and transformed the culture in Town Hall for the better, ushering in a renewed focus on the needs of residents.Supervisor Syed is a dedicated leader who has a record of fiscal responsibility, increasing transparency and governing ethically. This is why I am voting for Yasmine Syed in the June 25 Independence Party primary and I urge my fellow Independence Party voters to join me.Jeffrey VanhoesenNiskayunaCollins will restore fiscal responsibilityAt a recent town board meeting, Duanesburg Supervisor Roger Tidball announced that the town was going to receive an audit by the state Comptroller’s Office. This audit is long overdue.Several months ago, I asked Mr. Tidball what the town’s surplus was. He responded with an answer of $700,000. When the town financial statements were finally posted to the town website, the real total was in excess of $1.7 million.The town continues to overestimate expenditures and under-forecast revenues. This practice has been going for a number of years by this same group of Republicans. This practice was noted in the 2014 Comptroller’s audit, but the town has continued to ignore this finding. Town taxes could be eliminated for a few years by using surplus funds to avoid levying more property tax. The worst of it is that those surplus funds can be spent with virtually no taxpayer oversight. Mr. Tidball, to my knowledge, has never been on time with the town’s annual audit. It’s due in the Comptroller’s Office by April 30 of the next calendar year. The 2017 town accounting was finally posted on the website in November, over six months late. There is no way to know if it was filed on time.To make matters worse, there is no dissenting voice on this board. I’m hopeful residents will vote for Tom Collins, who will provide an independent voice for our residents. More residents need to come forward to help stop the overtaxing strategies of this group.William H. ParkDelansonThe writer is a former 14-year supervisor of the town of Duanesburg.Gary McCarthy most qualified to lead cityNow that I’m officially retired from the city of Schenectady, I would like to air the complete and honest truth about what really goes on at City Hall. The honest truth is there is no one more qualified nor better suited for the position of mayor than Gary McCarthy. I know this because I have seen it first-hand.The continued economic progress and revitalization of our city over the last several years has truly been exciting to watch. But at this juncture in our history, it’s more important than ever that we also continue to lead the way in energy efficiency and sustainability.In 2018, Schenectady was the nation’s top winner in the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards. This was due to Gary’s extraordinary vision of moving our city forward to a more sustainable and energy-efficient future. Under Gary’s leadership, the city has acquired a fleet of electric vehicles, expanded its investment in solar power, and will soon replace all streetlights with LEDs.This is true progressive leadership and part of Gary’s vision that will strengthen our community for future generations. Please join me in supporting Gary McCarthy on June 25.Chuck ThorneSchenectadyThe writer has recently retired from his position as Schenectady city clerk.McCalmon offers a new vision for Sch’dyFor too long now, our city’s leadership has traveled down a perilous path.The path of influence over people. We have seen time and time again, whether the casino, the Yates project or even infrastructure repair, that the interests of the affluent come over the interests of the people in general.Worse yet is the lack of transparency with key votes being scheduled three days in advance to cut down on public comment. The aforementioned Yates project, the demolition of blighted properties that could be rehabbed and sold to people now renting, the high-priced apartments and the bloated rate at which our minorities are arrested on marijuana possession are signs of continued gentrification of our city.On June 25, we have a choice, a choice for change. Thearse McCalmon will reverse these frightening trends, listen to the people, be transparent in governing and most importantly move to procure affordable housing for our citizenry.I wholeheartedly endorse Mrs. McCalmon and ask that you do as well, where it matters most, at the ballot box. We the people can no longer just comment. We must act.Edward Smith, Jr.Schenectady Support Syed in Independence primarycenter_img Categories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionMany ways now to define a ’family’As far as I can see, our world is changing. For instance, if we were to talk about family, generally speaking you would say it consists of a married mother and father and their biological children living together under one roof.I don’t think we’ll ever again see the father going off to work and mom staying home. I look at our society and see other forms of family emerging, which makes me wonder how we define family.You have more unmarried couples raising children, more gay and lesbian couples raising children, more single women having children without a male partner to help raise them and more people living together without getting married. It’s amazing to me how far we have come, from when we started with the word, “family.” It’s not for me to judge where all this came from, or where it might be going. But I expect there will be more to come.Walter “Neal” BrazellRotterdamMore to NY baseball than the YankeesI just wanted to remind The Daily Gazette that there is more than one major league baseball team in New York. Every morning, you have a long story on the Yankees, accompanied by a color photo, and you have a much smaller one on the Mets with a score for a headline. Really?How about a little more equality in your coverage. And by the way, the Yankees you keep cheering for haven’t won a pennant in 10 years. Can I remind you the Mets were in the World Series four years ago? One more thing: Your coverage of national major college basketball is also terrible. Alan HartGlenvilleMadigan has served Spa citizens wellIt has been my pleasure to know Michele Madigan for over eight years. Michele is a prudent, progressive public servant. She has served our city as commissioner of finance for almost four terms. I have been impressed by her dedication and hard work on behalf of Saratoga Springs.  As commissioner, Michele brought financial reporting and transparency to a new level.  She improved the city’s budgeting process and significantly increased the transparency of the city’s finances for all residents. She posted a portal on the city’s website so that everyone can see in detail where their city’s tax and revenue dollars come from and go to. Her attention to the details of the city’s $47 million budget has provided savings and efficiencies. As a result of prudent budgeting, we have predictable expenditures and rock steady tax rates.Commissioner Madigan championed several progressive causes. She oversaw the development of a solar park, funded affordable housing and established Saratoga’s Smart City Commission.I ask Saratoga Springs Democrats to join me in voting for Michele Madigan, commissioner of finance, on Tuesday June 25.Peter MartinSaratoga SpringsThe writer is the commissioner of public safety.last_img read more

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Letters to the Editor for Monday, Jan. 6

first_imgCategories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionWe must fix our past to have our futureHas anyone realized how smart our country is with new electronics every few months?So called smart phones, iPads, computers, you name it, we make it. Along with all the new electronics, we have cars that drive themselves, along with flying cars being tested, little robots that clean your floors.What a futuristic world we live in. Or do we?Our roads are too old to handle the traffic, our bridges are crumbling and becoming safety hazards and our water systems underground must be replaced. Millions of autos and trucks have defects and are being recalled. The list goes on.Don’t forget our landfills; some are open but many are closed. The ones that are closed look nice, with green grass or solar panels. But they continue to poison our earth, water and air. Trains that carry oil all over our country are a catastrophe waiting to happen. Our infrastructure is falling apart right under us. We look for ways to get money to fix it and yet not much is done to correct the problem. We are building our future on quicksand. Are we smart or what?If we don’t slow down and fix the past, we will not have a future.We need to do what must be done to get the United States of America back on track.We are the best country in the world. Let’s keep it that way. We need peace and understanding in our land. God bless America, its government and all that live in our land.Sid GordonSaratoga SpringsTake action to close the racial wealth gapThe Gazette has often printed news stories and commentaries about reparations for black Americans to compensate the descendants of the formerly enslaved for centuries of slavery, segregation, and racism that continue to impose unequal access to jobs, justice, health and wealth.  The Gazette has also often reported on the racial wealth gap.The median wealth (assets minus liabilities) for white U.S. households is more than 10 times that of black and Hispanic families. We also have enormous wealth gaps between the wealthiest Americans and the rest of us.  I know some whites oppose paying reparations to black Americans for many reasons, one being that many white families are struggling themselves.Are we as a nation serious about closing the white-to-black and white-to-Hispanic wealth gaps? If so, how?Can we raise the wealth of the poorest three-fourths of Americans while vastly increasing the wealth of black and Hispanic families?A large majority of us are not racist or try not to be.I urge that we get serious about electing candidates at all levels of government who are serious about closing the overall and racial wealth gaps.Closing these gaps can help unite us in a worthwhile goal.Tom EllisAlbanyMore from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censuslast_img read more

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Norwich Union forges link with Milner

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Mark of respect

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Audit Office to scrutinise Treasury

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Cambridge offices: Science friction

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Norse sense

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How the garden grows

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Bottling out

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