The Falvo family is pushing ahead with plans to open a charitable house for the families of hospital patients in the GE Realty Plot.
They learned last month that deeds in the historic neighborhood ban all commercial uses other than professional offices. But Jack Falvo Jr. said the family’s attorney is studying the handwritten covenants in the deed and hopes to be able to argue that Jack’s Place won’t violate the rules.
The family wants to open a free inn, similar to Ronald McDonald houses, for out-of-town families whose relatives are undergoing long-term rehabilitation in Schenectady. The inn has been named after Falvo’s son, Jack Falvo III, who died in a personal watercraft accident in 2005.
After five years, the family finally raised enough money to buy a house and has signed a purchase agreement for a six-bedroom home at Nott Street and Wendell Avenue, across from Ellis Hospital. The location is perfect, Falvo said.
“It’s ideal, and we’re going to work hard to make it happen,” he said.
The family pulled its application for the house from the Planning Commission agenda, but Falvo hopes to be back before the commission in August.
“That’s just temporary, to give us time to read and research the covenant,” he said. “I’m optimistic, but cautiously. If we can just work out the covenant, that’s the biggest hurdle.”
The main question is whether the old covenant is legally enforceable. A secondary question may be whether a charity is truly a commercial use.
If the family can get past the restrictions on the deed, they must still get approval from the city to change the zoning. The house is limited to single-family use, and since more than one family will be staying in the house at a time, the Falvo Foundation needs a multi-family variance.
Some of their neighbors don’t want that to happen. They spoke vehemently at last month’s commission meeting, arguing that allowing Jack’s Place would be a slippery slope. They predicted that other owners would ask for a multi-family zoning, as well, using Jack’s Place as a precedent.
That change, they said, would hurt the historic value of properties in the neighborhood.
In response, the Falvo family pledged to keep the house’s historic exterior untouched and offered to add a deed restriction that would prevent future owners from using the property for anything other than a charity house or a single-family home.