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tax dispute

Edison center could lose home

Suit: Schenectady required taxes, repairs in deal

Friday, October 5, 2012
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tax dispute


The Edison Tech Center at 136 Broadway in Schenectady Thursday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
The Edison Tech Center at 136 Broadway in Schenectady Thursday.

— The Edison Tech Center on Broadway downtown is in danger of losing its home, accused by the city in court of failing to live up to the deal that got it its home in the first place.

The city filed suit against the center last week in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County, contending that the city agreed to sell the center its two buildings for $1 each, a deal finalized in 2003. In exchange, the center agreed to pay full property taxes on one of its buildings, 136 Broadway, for 20 years and to bring both buildings, 132 and 136 Broadway, up to code.

But according to the city, the center hasn’t brought the buildings up to code and hasn’t paid the property taxes on 136 Broadway since 2007. By August 2011, the city contends, the center owed more than $66,000.

The effort comes as the city has foreclosed on dozens of residential properties for failure to pay taxes.

Mayor Gary McCarthy on Thursday said the city has tried to work with the center on the issue, hoping for a resolution. Without one, though, he said the city must remain consistent.

“I just want people to live up to the agreement,” McCarthy said. “I’m trying to balance the budget here, and we’re going after everyone else for property taxes. We can’t say we’ll go after some people but not other people.”

If the suit reaches its full conclusion and the city prevails, the city would take back ownership of the buildings and the center would have to find a new home.

McCarthy said that was one possible outcome. The city, though, had not wanted it to get this far.

“We had hoped that this would resolve itself amicably,” McCarthy said. “It’s just going down a path that’s more conflicted.”

Representatives of the center could not be reached for comment Thursday.

A message left with an attorney representing them, Kathryn McCary, was not returned.

Houses artifacts

The Edison Tech Center, formerly the Edison Exploratorium, was founded in 2001 and houses artifacts from General Electric’s scientific and manufacturing past. The center also provides a hands-on workshop on the technological revolution and information about engineering pioneers, according to its website.

The property tax problems started in 2007, when the center applied for and was granted a property tax exemption based on its nonprofit status.

The application was approved by the city assessor at the time, McCarthy said, and the assessor had the power to deny it.

But according to the sales agreement, the center agreed it would not apply for the exemption for 20 years.

The exemptions have continued each year since.

The city sent a letter to the center in August 2011, formally notifying them they were in default of the agreement.

The other part of the agreement the city says the center hasn’t lived up to was bringing the buildings up to code.

The center was cited in 2007 for a deteriorated cement exterior, damaged masonry columns and wood facade and deteriorated caulk and mortar.

The center asked for an extension in October 2007, and that was granted.

But the work still hasn’t been done, the city said.

 
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