Dozens of renters and families face an uncertain future at the former Rotterdam Housing Area following a state Supreme Court decision that upholds the Galesi Group’s right to shut off the property’s sanitary sewer connection.
The Appellate Division affirmed a lower court ruling denying an injunction property owner Sync Realty had sought to prevent Galesi from cutting off the housing area’s sewer service. Absent further legal action, the Philadelphia-based property development company will need to find a new sewer connection, work out a deal to lease Galesi’s line or face evicting the roughly 100 people now inhabiting the Duanesburg Road complex where former President Jimmy Carter resided during the 1950s.
David Buicko, Galesi’s chief operating officer, was unsure how his company will proceed in the wake of the ruling. The deadline for Sync to find a new sewer arrangement passed more than a month ago.
“We haven’t crossed that bridge yet,” he said Thursday when asked if Galesi would shut off the sewer service. “It’s unfortunate they didn’t heed the advice of the government when they told them to make their own arrangements.”
Buicko said Galesi has footed the bill for Sync’s sewer service since June. In that time, he said, the company has received nearly $20,000 worth of service they haven’t paid for.
An attorney representing Sync in the action declined to comment on the ruling Thursday.
Sync purchased the eight-acre property adjacent to the Galesi-owner Rotterdam Corporate Park for $1.92 million in March 2008, following a surplus auction conducted by the U.S. General Services Administration. At the time, Galesi warned the company that they would need to find a new sewer connection because the corporate park required the excess capacity for future expansion.
Despite this warning, Sync began to use the sewer line in June 2008, when the company began leasing out the complex, which includes six apartment buildings, a two-story duplex townhouse and a single-family ranch-style residence. Later, the company filed for an injunction in Schenectady County Supreme Court, claiming that its deed to the housing area allowed them to use the sewer line in perpetuity.
But in January, the court denied the injunction and gave Sync four months to find a new sewer arrangement for the property. Sync contested the ruling and was granted a temporary stay of the lower court order until the appeal was decided.
In its decision, the appellate court found no evidence that “irreparable harm” would befall Sync if the property’s sewer service was disconnected. The court also indicated that Sync’s troubles were caused by the company’s failure to heed Galesi’s advance warnings about the sewers.
“Despite this knowledge, [Sync] purchased the vacant parcel and entered into residential leases with several tenants,” the court stated in its ruling. “Considering that [Sync’s] alleged harm appears to be in part self-created, it cannot be said that the balance of equities tilts in [Sync’s] favor.”
In a separate issue, Rotterdam officials in September ordered the company to stop leasing units because the property wasn’t zoned for residential use.
Sync challenged this order with the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which later found that the military’s residential use of the property did not carry over when it was purchased at auction. The company has since contested this decision, which is pending in Saratoga County Supreme Court. An attorney representing Sync switched to another venue out of concern that the case might be prejudiced in Schenectady County.
Rotterdam officials are concerned that the legal wrangling could leave them with a difficult decision. Some estimates suggest that there are more than 100 tenants, including children, living at the complex.
Other former renters have left the complex. One recently displaced tenant, Chantell Hosier, has a case pending against Sync in small claims court for $5,000.
Town Attorney Gerard Parisi said the town would need to empty the complex if the judge upholds the zoning board’s ruling. But he said doing so would create a hardship on the renters, who didn’t expect such difficulties when they signed leases with Sync.
“I don’t know what’s less safe, keeping them there or getting them out,” he said. “We’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
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