Watery woes for Union Inn

A venerable institution in downtown Schenectady is being undermined from below.

A venerable institution in downtown Schenectady is being undermined from below.

The Union Inn’s basement is filling with mud. An off-and-on waterfall has sprouted in a corner. After 146 years, something has suddenly gone wrong.

Bricks that were laid when the building was built are now loose, the mortar destroyed by water. A beer cooler that sat safely in the basement for years has been engulfed by mud.

At the height of the emergency, owner Joyce Fordham had to turn away deliveries because she could not store anything in the basement.

The problems began in January. Four months later, Fordham is frantic.

“Now it’s gotten worse,” she said. “I have a foot of mud in the basement right now.”

And water is coming through the wall that holds her National Grid meters.

“Those walls in that corner are original walls,” she said. “This could cause a very significant problem.”

no help from insurer

Her insurance company inspected and found serious structural damage from the sudden onslaught of water. The solution: shore up the walls.

But she doesn’t want to do that until she knows exactly what’s causing the water problem. Otherwise, the water could end up undermining the shored-up walls, too.

So far she’s looking at a $40,000 repair bill.

“Insurance won’t cover it, because it’s someone else’s problem,” she said.

City workers inspected to determine whether the city had done anything to change the drainage in the area. They determined the city had done nothing wrong, Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said.

“The city hasn’t done anything to cause the situation over there,” he said. “It’s a private dispute between those two property owners.”

homebuilder denies link

Within a day of the sudden drainage problem, Fordham contacted developer Christopher Maddalone. His company is building a townhouse next door, and she suspects the construction might have caused the sudden drainage problem.

Maddalone’s company demolished a vacant building at the corner of Union and Barrett streets, and is now replacing it with upscale apartments.

In a statement, Maddalone said he was certain the construction did not cause Fordham’s problem.

“Our building does not adjoin or connect in any way with any nearby buildings. We closely followed all building codes and requirements in constructing our project,” he said.

Fordham isn’t convinced. She wants Maddalone to pay for the repairs.

“No one did this on purpose. It was an accident. But let’s be adults about it. You owe us money,” she said.

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