Schenectady County

Schenectady makes deal to buy property for Bethesda House

The city won’t need eminent domain after all to seize land for a new home for the impoverished, home
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The city won’t need eminent domain after all to seize land for a new home for the impoverished, homeless and mentally ill. Instead, the city has agreed to pay nearly the owner’s price.

The city agreed to pay Fred Anderson $147,500 for the Anderson Blacktop property at 838 State St., which would be merged with three other parcels to create a space big enough for Bethesda House to build a housing and drop-in center for the indigent.

City officials had begun eminent domain proceedings to take Anderson’s property for a court-approved price, but backed off after residents vehemently protested the move. Officials agreed instead to a price that is just $2,500 less than Anderson wanted, but $32,500 higher than the price officials say he accepted before learning the city was the buyer.

The deal, which will be voted on Monday by the City Council, clears the way for the Bethesda House project. The center would move from its downtown facility to 834-838 State St., where there is space for a larger building with 16 apartments for the chronically homeless. The hope is to house every long-term homeless person in the city.

Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden said the project was so important that he agreed to raise the city’s price. But he said the deal left a bad taste in his mouth.

“It worked out all right in the end … but I don’t like people who accept one price and then raise it. I have a very bright-line division of right and wrong,” he said. “But we didn’t want to run the risk of not having Bethesda House build that integrated facility. It is an important project for the community. The benefits of the program far outweigh my personal feelings about his price.”

Anderson said he wasn’t happy either. After running his blacktopping business at the State Street site for 22 years, he’s leaving the city for good.

“I don’t want any property in the city. I don’t want to pay taxes in the city. I’ll lease an office somewhere else,” he said.

Even though he got “very close” to his price, he said he wasn’t satisfied.

“What I wanted was $150,000 net,” he said. “But I just said the heck with it. I don’t want to fight with the city all the time. Go ahead and get it over with.”

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