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HUD loan to help Schenectady demolish structures

Thursday, March 6, 2014
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Andy's Ski Shoppe at 728 Albany St. in Schenectady is slated for demolition.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Andy's Ski Shoppe at 728 Albany St. in Schenectady is slated for demolition.

— About 80 vacant or heavily damaged buildings in Schenectady will be demolished thanks to a project funded by a $3 million federal loan.

The loan, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was announced Thursday by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

The funding will allow the city to raze buildings considered blights on the community, structures that reduce property values for families living nearby.

“These are houses that are burnouts. They’re ones that are really beyond having any salvage values or the chance for rehabbing them,” said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy.

McCarthy said the targeted buildings are located throughout the city. He believes once blight properties are removed, neighborhood improvements will follow.

“The properties that are adjacent to them, people have not wanted to put any investments in them because you’ve got this burned-out house, you’ve got this dilapidated structure right next-door that will be gone,” McCarthy said. “So we’ll now be working with people to fix up the adjacent property.”

Three structures that could be among the first to come down are on Foster Avenue, Eastern Avenue and Albany Street.

At 1580 Foster, a light yellow house with blue trim, two code enforcement posters proclaiming the building unsafe — one from 2013 and the other from 2008 — are tacked to the front door. Bay windows on the first and second floors are boarded up; side windows are either open or boarded, and eaves reveal damage from a fire.

The Eastern Avenue house — 858 Eastern, located across from Wendell Avenue — is a white and maroon brick front that also was heavily damaged by fire. Near the charred back of the house, a broken toilet, upended table and old chairs are half-buried in snow. The place was declared unsafe in 2008.

Andy’s Ski Shoppe is the boarded-up storefront at 738 Albany St., between Germania Avenue and Paige Street. A heavily damaged house stands right behind the store, with many open window spaces.

McCarthy said a list of the city’s worst properties was submitted along with the HUD application.

“I think we have flexibility where we might be able to take one off or put one on,” he said. “We’re also going after the property owners in a lot of these cases, trying to collect fines and penalties where they let the property go down and walked away from it.”

According to Schumer’s office, Schenectady has proposed the following breakdown of funds:

• $2,460,000 will be used for the acquisition, demolition, rehab and redevelopment of abandoned and deteriorated structures citywide.

• $500,000 will be used for the rehabilitation of 487 Nott St. into 14 units of rental housing, eight of them affordable housing units.

• $40,000 will go toward the Community Loan Fund of the Capital District for economic development technical assistance.

The loan program requires that at least 70 percent of the cleared sites be used for a new building or used in a way to improve adjacent properties. McCarthy expects city crews will be demolishing the structures by summer.

There are other components in play as the city continues redevelopment plans.

“As part of our sales tax agreement with the county, the county is giving the city $100,000 a year for dealing with some of the blight,” McCarthy said. “We’ll use that money to pay back this loan as we do the foreclosures on the properties. The properties we’ll be foreclosing on, I believe, will be worth more money because we have gotten rid of the worst of the worst.”

Bob Harvey, president of Schenectady United Neighborhoods, was glad to hear about the planned demolitions.

“I think it’s great in the sense we’re going to take a whole bunch of them in a fell swoop as opposed to four or five a year because that was all we could afford to do,” Harvey said.

He’s seen houses around the city that deserve to go.

“One house looks as though the front porch has caved in, exposing the inside of the house,” Harvey said. “It looks pretty disturbing because the rest of the houses on the street are not in that condition. Think of what that one house does to the property value of the homes around it.”

 
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