CARS HOMES JOBS

McCarthy looking to demolish 150 buildings

Tuesday, February 4, 2014
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868 Eastern Avenue in Schenectady is scheduled for demolition after being purchased by the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
868 Eastern Avenue in Schenectady is scheduled for demolition after being purchased by the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority.

— Mayor Gary McCarthy is making plans for the city to knock down as many as 150 buildings this year.

“We can do the worst of the worst,” he said. “We want it to happen this year.”

The only trouble is that it might cost as much as $4.5 million. The city only has about $2.5 million, if it gets a loan from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city’s application has gotten through most of the review process, and McCarthy is optimistic the city will get the loan. He expects to have most, if not all, of the worst blighted buildings demolished over the course of six months.

There are ways to reduce the cost of the demolitions, and city officials are trying to plan a strategy that will get the job done with the money the city has. If the city could get the same price it got for five buildings on Moyston Street demolished after a fire on Christmas Eve, it could knock down roughly 150 buildings for $2.25 million.

McCarthy had the demo team knock down another house on the same block of Moyston Street as the burned buildings because of the low bid, roughly $15,000 per property. That’s about half the typical cost per property, so he asked them to extend the bid to another house on the demolition list.

“I’m not getting that price again,” McCarthy said. “They have to mobilize heavy equipment. When everything’s right next to each other, you save money.”

Now city officials are trying to group the other properties on the list by location, in hopes of getting lower bids. Building Inspector Eric Shilling plans to group houses that are within several blocks of each other, regardless of their placement on the list.

“Regardless of their condition. One might be at the top of the list, and one may have just made it onto the list, but they’re both on the list,” he said.

But he doesn’t think it’s “feasible” to pay for 150 demolitions.

“Our hope is to stretch that as far as we can,” he said. “The importance here is to eliminate as much distressed property as possible.”

He’s explained the problem to the contractors who bid for demolition work, he added.

“They understand we’re not going to run out of inventory and there’s a lot of work here,” he said. “They bid very close to the margins for us.”

McCarthy is seeking more funding, particularly a land bank grant from the state, to knock down all 150 buildings.

The law department is also pushing owners to knock down their own buildings. Most of the houses on the city’s demolition list are not owned by the city, but were abandoned by their owners.

Shilling’s building inspectors are also citing owners for ignoring their blighted houses.

“We put on the pressure: ‘This is your responsibility. It’s your building,’ ” he said.

The buildings include single-family houses, apartments and commercial structures.

 
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