When the city shut down Chubby’s Pizza on Crane Street, neighbors in Mont Pleasant celebrated it as a step toward eliminating blight. The city’s Industrial Development Agency is hoping to take things a step further.
The IDA voted Wednesday to start the process of securing the property at 1036 Crane St., the former home of Chubby’s, through eminent domain. The agency has already purchased the neighboring property at 1032 Crane St., with the intent of demolishing both buildings and proposing a new development on that site.
“The IDA is taking action to acquire them and basically stop this cycle of blight, and police calls and code violations,” said Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority.
Chubby’s, a pizza shop and convenience store, had been a magnet for crime over the years, generating more than 500 public safety calls over a nine-month period in 2015. The city shut down the business in November, and cited its owner with 16 counts of operating without a certificate of use.
Gillen said the IDA is attempting to buy the property through negotiation with the owner. However, if an agreement can’t be reached, the IDA will seek to acquire it through eminent domain, he said.
Eminent domain involves each side getting appraisals on the property and presenting those to a judge for a ruling to complete the transaction. It typically takes about 90 days, Gillen said.
The IDA in February approved the purchase of 1032 Crane St. for $55,000.
Gillen declined to discuss details of the development proposal that would replace the two properties, but said the city, county, land bank and Metroplex are looking to collaborate and make a positive impact on Crane Street.
“The city did all it could do to remedy the situation,” he said. “We’re taking it to the next level so that the situation just can’t continue with a new store operating.”
However, Ahmed Hussein, a 20-year-old Schenectady resident, brought an application to the city Planning Commission last week to open a new pizza shop and convenience store to replace Chubby’s.
The application was tabled until April’s meeting, with Mont Pleasant residents and some city officials opposing its reopening, and the applicant and some commissioners arguing a new owner should be given a fair chance to run the business properly.
The city’s law department said last week that there is enough evidence to deny the application, and noted that there have been inquiries into declaring the building a public nuisance.
Patricia Smith, president of the Mont Pleasant Neighborhood Association, said criminal activity has slowed down some since Chubby’s closed. She also presented a petition with signatures from about 30 residents who opposed reopening a business on the property.
“At this time, we don’t feel a business will generate anything but more activity on that site that we don’t need,” Smith told the Planning Commission.
“Nobody wants to create more problems or more crime,” Philip Miller, Hussein’s attorney, responded. “But are we confusing store owners trying to run an honest business with the neighborhood?”