Residents favor Yates Village renovations

'The appliances, the cabinets, they're all outdated'
The exterior of Yates Village on Van Vranken Avenue in Schenectady.
The exterior of Yates Village on Van Vranken Avenue in Schenectady.

SCHENECTADY — If the Yates Village low-income housing project is going to get extensive renovations — which is still a big if, given the potential cost — people who live there favor the idea, based on interviews.

Some residents who spoke to The Daily Gazette on Wednesday said they’ve heard talk about renovations before, though this time Schenectady Housing Authority Executive Director Rich Homenick has confirmed a desire to do something.

“It surely is a good idea,” said resident Chanel Buckner, who has lived at Yates Village for about two years.

She said the 296-unit project off Van Vranken Avenue on the city’s North Side has less crime than other projects, but she noted that the kitchen cabinets in the apartments are old and stairs are creaky. “The roaches are moving back and forth, and there’s definitely bedbugs,” she said, while walking with her friend Noralyn Davis.

Homenick said Tuesday that Yates Village, one of seven properties managed by the Schenectady Housing Authority, has been prioritized for a complete overhaul, though the cost, funding and timing of the project are still up in the air.

The community of connected two-story apartment row buildings has about 740 people living in it. It is the city’s largest low-income housing facility, and he said it is overdue for some major improvements. What form those improvements would take, however, is unknown. Homenick, who has been director for 15 years, noted that the federal government has repeatedly cut its funding support for public housing.

Yates Village was built in 1948, and today has from one to five bedrooms in its units. In addition to housing, it includes a playground, Head Start location and food pantry. A playground was built in 2010 and the on-site maintenance garage was renovated at about the same time, but residents said little has been done with the housing, other than replacement of roofs.

“It’s like an old Army base. Nothing has been done in a long time,” said a man named Mark, whose fiancee living in the complex and did not wish to give his last name. “The buildings are run down, inside and outside.”

He said some residents may be unhappy if they’re forced to move temporarily when their living quarters are being renovated, but others said that may be the price for improvements, and they would find a way to live with the inconvenience if they were forced to temporarily relocate.

“They’ve been saying this for a while,” said resident Leanna Rodriguez. “There’s a lot of things that don’t work. Outlets don’t work. Everything is messed up.”

Rodriguez, a five-year Yates Village resident, said the complex was nicer when she first visited it in the early 1990s. “I really hope they do it,” she said.

Some people interviewed had heard about the plans or read the story about it in Wednesday’s Gazette, but others weren’t familiar with the talk, even if they thought it was a good idea.

“That would be great,” said two-year resident Cindy Garcia. “The appliances, the cabinets, they’re all outdated.”

Some residents remain skeptical, given the lack of details and the need for financing through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Renewal, during an era when most discussion at the federal level is about cutbacks.

“They’ve been saying this for a long time,” said Juanita Arroyo, who formerly lives at Yates Village and now lives in Glenville. “It would be nice if they did it.”

Janet Maisonette, whose sister lives in the complex with a new baby and who formerly lived at Yates, said lack of sufficient heating is a problem, and she thinks renovations are a good idea.

Homenick has held one introductory meeting with tenants about the project and another is expected to be scheduled, perhaps by the end of this month.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said earlier this week that he was aware of the housing authority’s desire to renovate Yates Village, but had seen no details.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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