Smith’s Automotive, which opened on Aqueduct Road in Niskayuna by the Rexford Bridge more than 60 years ago, could be closing its garage doors for the last time.
Owner Charles “Skip” Smith Jr. said he owes $48,000 in property taxes, which he needs to pay off by Friday, Oct. 16, to prevent the property’s foreclosure. The back taxes are the sum of three years of school, county and town taxes, he said.
The property at 2884 Aqueduct Road is one of 33 on Schenectady County’s list of tax-foreclosed properties scheduled to be auctioned in less than two weeks on Oct. 24.
For a list of properties up for auction, visit www.collarcityauctions.com
“We’re attempting to gain some funds and get it paid by the time it’s due,” said Smith, who took over his father’s business in the 1980s. “It’s hard to believe this little three-bay gas station is worth $16,000 a year in taxes, but it is, I guess.”
In May, the auto repair shop reopened after a weeklong closure that followed the state’s seizure of the building when Smith missed a sales tax payment.
Smith’s father, Charles Smith Sr., moved the business to Aqueduct Road around 1950 after starting it on the other side of the Mohawk River in Rexford in 1939. Smith Jr. started working as a mechanic there after high school in the 1970s.
He said he hopes to be able to borrow enough money to pay off the property taxes and keep the building, which sits on about 20,000 square feet of land adjacent to the Aqueduct Rowing Club’s boathouse. It’s assessed at $300,000.
“I’m certainly hoping so,” he said, adding that he would know more after speaking to his attorney in the morning. “My dad built this building in like 1950; I’d just as soon not lose it.”
But when he talks about the business’s future his optimism wanes. Business is down and has been for a while, he said, and he thinks that will only get worse when the Rexford Bridge reconstruction project begins this spring.
The $32.5 million state Department of Transportation project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017. A new bridge will be built just west of the current one, closer to the intersection of Route 146 and Aqueduct Road. The old bridge will stay open for the duration of the work, but Smith thinks the construction will discourage potential customers.
“The traffic is tied up bad enough now,” he said. “During construction it’s going to be tied up even worse. People are going to go anywhere to not come here or come through here. I can just see us having some tough times during that period.”
Smith said business is down because more people are buying cars new, and those cars are more reliable and need less work than older vehicles. People are also less likely to put money into a car when major repairs are needed, he said, opting instead to buy a new one or lease.
“It’s a different business than it was before, no doubt about it,” he said.
The county auction is set for 11 a.m. Oct. 24 at the Schenectady County Community College’s Carl B. Taylor Auditorium, 78 Washington Ave., Schenectady. Registration starts at 9:30 a.m. Nearly all of the other properties being auctioned are homes or undeveloped properties in residential zones.
A roughly 11-acre wooded area in an industrial zone on Aqueduct Road in Niskayuna is being auctioned, along with a fuel storage and distribution site at 3350 S. Thompson St. in Rotterdam.