The Schenectady City Council again postponed a decision on a $3 million demolition loan Monday as council members tried to decide when that money could be used for privately owned buildings.
The proposal currently calls for the city to spend $500,000 to demolish the former Department of Social Services building on Nott Street, which is owned by The Galesi Group, a private developer.
Galesi would build apartments on the site.
The rest of the demolition loan would be spent demolishing vacant houses throughout the city, prioritizing the ones in danger of collapse. Many of those are also owned by private individuals, not the city. But in those cases, owners have walked away and do not appear to have any plans for the property.
Residents at Monday’s meeting focused on the $500,000 demolition, saying the city should not “give” the money to Galesi COO David Buicko.
“Not one cent and especially not half a million dollars should be given to him, and it is a gift,” said resident Linda Kelleher. “The cost of the demolition is his responsibility, not the taxpayers.”
Resident Harry Brand added, “If he owns it, that should be his responsibility.”
He also argued that the building would not rise to the top of the city’s demolition list under normal circumstances.
“That doesn’t look that bad!” he said. “There’s homes that have sat for years that need to be torn down.”
Councilman Carl Erikson called for more time to debate the issue. The council decided not to vote on it Monday.
“We have to make sure we take it slow and do it right,” Erikson said.
But he added that he would be willing to approve the DSS demolition under certain circumstances.
He said he wanted to know, in advance, whether Galesi would get tax breaks for the project.
“We need to make sure we understand these things before we go through with this,” he said.
He also said Galesi should agree to a construction timeline and that the city should not pay for the demolition until after Galesi built the apartments.
But Councilman Vince Riggi said the city should not help Galesi with the project at all.
“Let the private developers do their thing,” he said. “We don’t use government money to help them. That’s not how it works.”
He added that he didn’t think apartments were a pressing need.
“We have more than enough housing in the city. I don’t know why we have to invest in more,” he said.
Mayor Gary McCarthy appealed to the council to approve the loan with the DSS demolition.
He said Riggi didn’t understand how difficult it is to get a project going.
“People have these vague concepts of ‘let private development do it,’ ” McCarthy said. “There’s no offer [for the DSS building]. Union [College] looked at it, other people looked at it. I want something to happen with it. We can’t just pretend it’s not there.”
He noted that many of the buildings on the demolition list are owned by what he called “private developers,” including failed business owners.
The council will discuss the issue again next Monday at 5:30 p.m.
In other business, the council approved a new towing fee that would not apply to drivers who simply got into an accident. If no tickets were issued, but police had to call for a tow because the driver was injured or otherwise unable to call, the fee would not be assessed.
All others will have to pay an additional $35 per day if their car is towed by police. Generally, the fee will be assessed after blizzards against those who do not move their cars to make room for the plows.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: