Washed away

Union Inn closes down

Owner blames water damage from neighbor

Sunday, June 1, 2014
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Washed away

The Union Inn in Schenectady  is closed due to water damage.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
The Union Inn in Schenectady is closed due to water damage.

— The Union Inn, drowned in rainwater and mud, has finally given up the fight. It closed last week, out of money and full of water.

Owner Joyce Fordham said she has still not been paid for the damage she believes was caused by drainage problems from her new neighbor.

Developer Christopher Maddalone owns an apartment building next to the bar, and his insurance company wrote a letter last year saying the drainage problem was caused by his property, Town Homes of Union Square.

The company, Harleysville Preferred Insurance Co., said that it would not pay for any further damage because Maddalone had not taken steps to fix the drainage. Maddalone has contested that decision.

Fordham also sued him, but that lawsuit hasn’t gone to trial yet. In the meantime, she said she simply ran out of money to keep the bar going.

“We were losing money faster than we were taking it in,” she said.

Last week, water poured through the back wall again during the heavy rainstorms. National Grid pulled out its meters, which were on that wall.

That was the death knell, but Fordham said she knew it was coming.

“We can’t pay everybody anymore,” she said. “We just wanted to get through our goodbye weekend.”

That was supposed to be this weekend. But with the electricity cut, the celebration is canceled.

“I am very sad,” Fordham said. “If he would’ve taken care of this a year and a half ago. ... Now I have lost the equity in my property. We can’t sell the building. It’s structurally damaged.”

The water partially undermined the back wall of the cellar.

In addition to the damage, Fordham said she lost about $90,000 in income because of the repeated flooding — both in unsold or damaged food and lost business.

“How do I recoup that and keep going?” she said.

On many occasions, the bar had to close because of sudden flooding from rain or snow melt. And when it was open, she said the damp building discouraged customers from coming in.

“This winter, we couldn’t get the [flooded] furnace to work right. If they were open, it was so cold people don’t want to be there,” she said. “And in the spring, you can smell the moisture. People don’t want to be there.”

Still, she kept hoping they could stop the flooding and make permanent repairs.

“We all assumed we were going to get paid,” she said.

Maddalone said he could not comment on the matter because it was in litigation, but he said her closure had nothing to do with him.

“It’s not the 26 other bars in the neighborhood, it’s me?” he said in disgust.

Fordham and her sons will be cleaning out the bar next weekend, then they’re leaving the area. Months ago, Fordham got a job in Florida, and one of her sons has joined her there. The other is heading to New Orleans.

“We’re leaving the city,” she said. “It’s not the way we wanted to leave things. I thought for sure I’d be selling, not closing.”

She ran the Union Inn for eight years, but it has been known by that name for decades, and the 147-year-old building has been a bar for more than a century. During Prohibition, it was turned into a shoe store, but rooms in the basement suggest it was actually a speakeasy.

“The bar has quite a history,” Fordham said.

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June 1, 2014
8:56 a.m.
joycemadre says...

Yes 26 other bars but how can the Union Inn be competitive and finish patio , etc when its drowning from his water. Wheres the responsibility ? Water literally surrounded electric outlets and was even coming in through the ceiling of the basement- that's not safe. Many times deliveries couldn't be made, employees couldn't be in the basement - if someone where to slip and fall - no one wants anyone hurt. This was a thriving business prior, sounds like someone doesn't want to take responsibility and the city has allowed this by not mandating a drainage system.

June 1, 2014
9:29 a.m.
joycemadre says...

not everyone liked our business but this isn't about personal opinions. Its about right from wrong. I have never sued anyone so its about that and tax returns speak for themselves. Water damage of this magnitude has nothing to do with my sons.

June 1, 2014
11:51 a.m.
joycemadre says...

Let's remember 26 bars or 5 doesn't matter if there's water and mud structural damage from it that keeps the business from functioning. Per the city we put in a support wall and look at his sidewalk as it goes into the Union Inn's.
Perhaps Charles Rosenstein esq and Chtis Maddalone should have come and looked at the situation , that opportunity was available

June 1, 2014
8:50 p.m.
MollyBracken says...

Dear 'Daily' (since you've chosen not to use your real name),

Have you seen the caved in sidewalk in front of the Union Inn or the washed out basement with water and mud coming through the foundation?

You are entitled to your opinion about Joyce and her boys, but the facts are the facts. Maddalone's property has insufficient drainage and nobody is being held accountable for the damage being done to neighboring properties.

You say Joyce and the boys have ruined the reputation of the Union Inn. Really? I've heard many stories about the Union Inn prior to Joyce's ownership, and I’m glad I never went there then....women being groped (and worse) by 'public servants' and then bullied into not reporting them. I've NEVER had a bad experience at the Union Inn under Joyce's ownership. In fact, Joyce and the boys have stood up for me when I needed it.

Let's be honest, there's not a bar in Schenectady or anywhere else for that matter without its share of stories and rumors. But all that aside, Maddalone and company should be held accountable for the damage they’ve done.

June 10, 2014
8:58 a.m.
joycemadre says...

Daily- yes lets check those rap sheets !! Your comments lack facts, and as far as underage I beg your pardon! We did more diligence then most of the bars in that area, and have had numerous checks by SLA and never once had ANY violations. Are the kids perfect - no but they do have hearts that take responsiblities and that's a whole lot more then I can say for the neighbor not taking responsibily for damaging my property and obviously I have proof!! Maybe Schenectady is part of the problem and happy to say their lives elsewhere are doing very well. Having just this past week spoke with an officer in Schenectady, he agrees they often got misunderstood and things weren't quite as it appears. How about when a patron tried to hit them with their beer bottle for not serving them when they had enough?? or when one son refused someone entrance with no ID. Kid told police over and over again that, no one bothered him at the bar but we were asked to close for the night. Your knowledge is very lacking in facts so please keep your personal opinions from seeing that someone has damaged our property and caused a whole lot more damage then my sons.

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