Posted by: David Giacalone | October 19, 2020

saluting Jessie Malecki

 

jessiem-facebook . . . JessieMalecki31Jul2020a

Above: Jessie Malecki [L] from her Facebook masthead; [R] enjoying her backyard with socially-distanced friends, July 31, 2020.

Where to begin? Jessie Malecki was special in so many ways that it is difficult to know how to organize a tribute to her, now that her 96 years gracing North Street in the Schenectady Stockade have ended.

Jessie-Fred-PumpStation(2017)In the mere six years that I have known Jessie personally, I’ve often said, “When I grow up, I want to be like Jessie Malecki.” I’ve only got, at most, a couple decades left to try to live up to the example Jessie has given us, as a conscientious citizen, deft and nimble writer (in memoir, social commentary, and email missives), protector of the Stockade and Riverside Park [e.g., image to the right with Fred Heitkamp, in May 2017], and caring friend. Although Jessie was already 90 when I finally met her, I’ve often envied her agile mind, easy wit, eagle-eyed proofreading, breadth of interests, and bread-baking skills, all of which she freely shared. 

Below, I am going to feature a few photos I have of Jessie and her North Street environs, and some of my favorite Malecki Letters to the Editor. They will do at best a feeble job capturing all she has meant to those who knew her as a resident of the Stockade and the City of Schenectady. Of course, her very closest loved ones, including three adult children Maryanne, Mike, and John, and longtime friends, know even more than I ever could what a personal loss her passing makes in their lives. I send my sincerest condolences to them all.

. . share this post with this short url: https://tinyurl.com/JessieMalecki

You can learn more facts about Jessie, or reminisce:

  • Gaz-Jessie18Feb2018 . . . by reading Bill Buell’s 2018 Gazette article celebrating her 94th birthday, “Longest living Stockade resident happy at North Street home” (Feb. 18, 2018), with details of her life, and a great photo by Bill of Jessie.
  • JessieMalecki-Voices-001And, watching Jessie’s too-brief appearance in Voices of the Stockade (2015; starting at 03:14), where she talks about growing up on North Street, where the predominantly Polish residents were like a big family. 
  • Foss-Malecki22Oct2020update (October 22, 2020): Also, check out a thoughtful tribute to Jessie in Sara Foss’ column, “Remembering Jessie Malecki of the Stockade,” in the Oct. 22, 2020 Daily Gazette.

. . Friends and family of Jessie Malecki, or just plain admirers, are urged to share their anecdotes about our Mrs. Jessie Malecki. Feel free to leave a comment at this post (if it is your first comment here, it may not appear immediately, but I will get to it as soon as I can for approval.)

 

  Jessie-CardinalBanner  . . 21NorthSt17Oct2020 Jessie’s customary, cheery front stoop banner was not present when I took the photo of her 21 North Street home on the left on Oct. 17, 2020.
 
21 NORTH STREET, Schenectady STOCKADE
 
21NorthStYard
 
Jessie’s backyard: Above (Sept. 30, 2015); Below (with Sylvie Briber, July 31, 2020):
 
Jessie-Sylvie31Jul2020s . . Jessie-Sylvie31Jul2020
 
 
The 2018 Gazette article begins:
 

Jessie Malecki, born to Mr. and Mrs. Ignatius Kotarski on Feb. 17, 1924, has never seriously considered the idea of moving out of her North Street home in the Stockade neighborhood of Schenectady.

“Some people ask me, ‘do you want to move?’ but no I don’t,” said Malecki, who celebrated her 94th birthday with family and friends Saturday night at the Turf Tavern in Scotia. “There’s nowhere else I’d like to live. Where would I go? I wouldn’t know where else to go.”

Jessie21North-GoogleSatViewDating back to about 1843, 21 North Street had a double lot for gardens and backyard play, and was located only 5 doors south of Riverside Park and the Mohawk River. [see Google Satellite view to the right] Such proximity to the River, of course, meant that life could be temporarily upended by Mohawk weather emergencies. 
 
 
dock-northstview29apr2010east-002 Flood waters and ice floes changed the view from the end of North Street toward the playlot and Mohawk River fairly often in Jessie’s lifetime. Photo on the right below was taken Sept. 8, 2011; the one on the left was taken January 14, 2018, after a flash-freeze flood.
 
playlotJan2018flashfreeze . . TUIrene-8Sep11-PlaylotFlood
 
As Jessie told the Gazette in 2018, flooding in 1955 and 2011 stand out in her memory:
 

“I had to evacuate on Aug. 28, 2011, for two days, so Hurricane Irene was the worst one,” said Malecki, who had fortunately purchased flood insurance back in March of 2011. “I also remember 1955. My son was 10 days old and we were having a christening dinner. The doorbell rang and the policeman said we had to get out. I can remember my husband saying, ‘like hell, I got steaks on and we’re having our dinner.’ But after dinner we did evacuate. We were upstairs and my mother was downstairs. She wouldn’t go with us, but we got her to move upstairs for a few days.”

About a week after the late August 2011 Irene flood waters receded, North St. and the other blocks along the River, were again flooded. Here are two photos from that second flooding at the north end of North Street.

8sep11-northst9am2 . . NorthStFlood

. . ABOVE: North end of North Street, September 8, 2011, with flood waters after heavy rains from Tropical Storm Andrew. LEFT: 9 AM, looking toward the River. RIGHT: 4 PM, with water line up to 21 North Street, Jessie’s house. . . 

It’s no surprise, then, that preventing flooding of the Stockade was a topic frequently on Jessie’s mind. Like retired Architect (and former North-Street neighbor) James Duggan and Union Professor of Geology John Garver, Jessie believed the impact of the Vischer Ferry (Lock 7) Dam on Mohawk River water levels and Stockade flooding needed to be fully studied. (See, e.g., Sara Foss column, Oct. 28, 2017). She had little patience for foot-dragging on the local or State level. Nevertheless, Jessie did not want to sacrifice Stockade and Mohawk River beauty and character to prevent flooding at all costs. And, she definitely did not want her house moved.

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JessieMikeMaryanne As much as Jessie cared about Stockade and City issues (see below), her emails over the past few years made it clear to me that being with her children gave her a lot of joy.  As did holiday dinners or other special meals with friends. Her two sons live out of town (John in NYC, and Michael in Dallas, TX), but Jessie was very happy to have Maryanne nearby, and to share interest in art and gardens, current events, and more, with her.  In 2017 and 2018, I was lucky enough to catch Jessie at the Stockade Outdoor Art Show with one of her very grown-up and accomplished children:

Maleckis2017SOASc . . Maryanne&JessieMalecki

CASINO CO-CONSPIRATORS. It was, however, civic activism that first brought Jessie and myself together and nurtured our friendship. Here’s Jessie the first day I met her, June 7, 2014, at a meeting at Arthur’s Market to bring together opponents of a proposed casino for the ALCO riverfront site. (That’s Jessie in red at the center of the sofa.)
 
dscf3037
 
I had no idea she was 90 years old. But, I was pleased that Jesse kept her door-to-door petition carrying to North Street, limiting her walking distance.
 
  • Thereafter, I learned that Jessie Malecki was the rare Schenectady and Stockade resident who could and would state strong opinions publicly and cogently. Jessie often bemoaned the policy of only one Letter to the Editor every 30 days at local newspapers.
The process of Casino approval by City Council and subsequent planning and zoning issues, brought a consistent complaint from Jessie: City Hall is acting too fast, with insufficient information and time for public participation, and using phony deadline excuses. Those themes cropped up often when Jessie turned her attention to City Hall.  
 
Here are two casino-related Letters by Jessie.

Design the casino in Stockade style (Times Union, June 28, 2015)

By Letters to the editor 

A meeting was held June 17 at City Hall in Schenectady for the Planning Commission and Rush Street Gaming to discuss the design of the Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor. That followed two closed meetings in which the commission avoided having a quorum, therefore allowing themselves to keep the public out.

Rush Street Gaming has yet to receive a casino license from the State Gaming Commission to build in Schenectady at the ALCO site; it is said the approvals will come by the end of the year, which might be as far away as December. Winter could further delay the process.

minorleagueschdyYet, everything is on the “rush agenda” with everything and everyone – the Galesi Group, Rush Street Gaming and, of course, our entire administration in Schenectady with the exception of one City Council member who is an independent; he is not one of the “yes” people.

The new design should be available as soon as possible, long before the next meeting at 6:30 p.m. July 15 in Room 110 at City Hall. Then, a public hearing should take place in a room large enough to accommodate people, not in the small room where the Planning Commission regularly meets.

In my opinion, what would be better than to design the casino with aspects of the Stockade neighborhood, which was the state’s first designated historic district.

I am sure the casino developers could learn a thing or two on what is considered beautiful.

Jessie Malecki, Schenectady

City should take time on rezoning for Alco (Daily Gazette, February 3, 2015)

I have watched, listened and read about the proposed zoning changes for the Alco site. This surely is an important issue and should not be taken lightly. Most of the City Council members, including the president, always have the inevitable “excuse” that there is a time deadline and a vote must be made as soon as possible. There is always time to make sure things are done correctly, and this is one of them. This project will be here for a long time.

I commend the Gazette for the Jan. 29 editorial, “Public needs to see impact of zoning.” This is one of the most sensible articles I have read in some time and it could not have been written more eloquently: “It would be worth it for the developer to prepare sample renderings to show the public the potential options for the property that include the taller buildings, signs and river access.”

It is the perfectly logical thing to do, even if the entire city administration or all of our businesspeople say they know the developers and anything they do is fine with them. The rest of us need, and are legally entitled to, some evidence that the proposals are within reason and in our citizens’ best interests.

Jessie Malecki

stockadeblocks6-001

SAVE OUR SHADE TREES. Jessie also believed that our large, mature shade trees are a treasure and an important asset that need to be preserved, making clear her position in the war of Sidewalks vs. Trees.  In my website posting “a voice from North Street for savings trees” (May 26, 2016), I reprinted Jessie’s Letter in the Sunday Gazette, ”Stop the senseless cutting of trees, especially in historic districts” (May 15, 2016), highlighting two salient points:

. . “I remember many years ago when North Street had many beautiful large healthy trees that were cut down. The street has some small trees which will never replace the huge trees. The street looks naked without those gorgeous trees.”

I would rather ‘watch my step’ on uneven sidewalks than walk down a street without the shade and beauty of those large trees.

. . Jessie Malecki 

LadyLiberty SAVE LADY LIBERTY, TOO. On March 14, 2018, the Gazette printed the first in a virtual flood of Letters to the Editor demanding that Schenectady’s Mayor Gary McCarthy order the replica statue of Lady Liberty be returned to Liberty Park, its location from 1950-2017. That first letter was written by Jessie Malecki, in her direct, incisive style (click on the image for a larger version).

gazette-malecki-liberty

SAVE HELPFUL GROUPS PRESERVING OUR HISTORY, as well. See Jessie’s Letter “Keep helpful groups in Schenectady” (May 31, 2018), where she says the City should help groups such as the Edison Tech Center and the Alco Museum, rather than doing favors for favored developers.

Malecki-RiggiSignEGOOD GOVERNMENT. Jessie was often irked by the consequences of Schenectady having basically one-party governance.  There simply were too few questions asked by City Council members, too little information sought before decisions were made, and too many Consensus Items on the Council’s agendas, depriving the public of actual discussion of the issues. It also seemed that there were too many times when Council members chose to protect their future party nominations by going along with mediocre or bad policy proposals from the Mayor’s Office.  For that reason, Jessie was pleased when independent Vince Riggi was elected to the Council in 2011, and flabbergasted when he was not elected to a third term. Click this link and scroll to the 4th letter, “Riggi is one of city’s best council members“, where Jessie supports Vince’s City Council campaign in 2019, and even suggests writing Riggi in for Mayor, to show dissent from having no choice in the mayoral race.

MarynneMaleckiFB-VOTE Okay, Citizens & Neighbors, It’s Your Turn. I was  so glad to learn this morning that Jessie’s ballot was deposited at the Board of Elections on October 1st by her daughter Maryanne. As Maryanne wrote at her Facebook page: “My vote – and my Mom’s – delivered to board of elections October 1st. Your turn….”

I wish more people would take inspiration from Jessie Malecki and be reassured that you can voice complaints publicly about the powers that be (at City Hall and in the neighborhood), and still be loved and respected. [update] Her obituary in the Daily Gazette (Oct. 21, 2020) states that:

Jessie-obitJessie’s final request was for people to pay attention to events globally and locally, stay aware, and vote. This is what she wanted to leave as her legacy. 

.

The old cliche clearly applies here: They do not make them anymore” like Jessie Kotarski Malecki. But, with some effort and a bit of courage, we can all become conscientious citizens, trying to make our City, neighborhood, and nation better. 

PERSONAL NOTE: There are many things I appreciate about Jessie Malecki as a friend. She was generous with complements (usually about my photos, and often my advocacy), and frank with advice (but never nagging) if she thought I needed it. And, always asked about my family and their health. It was always especially heartwarming when Jessie thanked me for “covering” an event she could not get out to attend, with photographs and my weblog, or just sending along a pretty sunset or sunflower photo.

Here are two images of “Jessie’s section” of Riverside Park (right at the end of her block), taken in early November 2015, the week the playlot was stripped of all its structures and equipment, except the old slide. I was sad that day at the loss of familiar icons, and went there to photograph our losses. But, then I realized the amazing beauty of our Park and River, even when it might be called “past-peak”, and remembered to celebrate that autumnal glow. No matter what the season, I will remember Jessie when in the Park, near North Street, and wish she could join me in a walk, or a cause.

2015-SlideRiver

img_9490

p.s. (October 20, 2020) Dear Jessie, Please forgive my typos. I was up late finishing this post, but am trying to find and fix the errors this morning.


Responses

  1. I golfed with Jessie in the GE women’s league and she was in her 80,’s when I golfed with her and then I found out she was the aunt of one of my friends who passed last year. She was a great lady and passionate about alot of things..she will be missed


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