A landmark of the organized labor community will be getting an overhaul and a new purpose for its second century.
The Labor Temple at the corner of Clinton and Liberty streets is slated for conversion to apartments and stores. The Schenectady Planning Commission gave final approval to the project Wednesday.
The Board of Zoning Appeals earlier this month granted a variance, allowing the project to go forward with no designated parking spaces instead of the required nine.
Salvatore Rasizzi, a construction contractor, said he plans to put two stores and six apartments in 105 Clinton St. He’s a Queens resident who became interested in Schenectady when he and his wife visited the city, drove around and liked what they saw.
Having St. George Greek Orthodox church next door was an extra selling point for his wife, Helen, who is of Greek descent.
“These are the kind of reasons I said I’m going to buy this building,” he said.
He added that the Labor Temple is a nice structure with a lot of potential — and one notable challenge: the third floor.
The building appears from the exterior to have four floors, but there actually are only three. The top floor’s ceiling is twice as high — 16 feet — as the first- and second-floor ceilings because the top floor is the original meeting hall.
Rasizzi hopes to divide that into two levels, but he’ll seek and follow the advice of an architect and structural engineer. If creating a fourth floor is not possible, he’ll figure out another way to adapt the space.
Approval for the apartment project ends a century-plus chapter in the history of organized labor in the Electric City.
The Schenectady Labor Temple Association was incorporated on Aug. 29, 1907. It purchased the lot on the corner of Clinton and Liberty streets in 1914 and began construction of the building that bears its name soon after.
An early call for support issued by the association is rich with the soaring rhetoric common to that era, when the American labor movement was gaining momentum and strength:
“With the formation of the Labor Temple Association, an interest was manifested which is seldom equaled in any organization. The lost interest was revived. And only those struggling for years with this gigantic problem can realize the change of attitude. How it must have made their hearts jump and their faces radiant with joy when help came at last and their pet idea which they had been fostering through these many dark days, with all kinds of obstacles in their path, making their work more laborious and still more barren, were lifted from their shoulders and willing hands took hold and with a united effort cheering words launched the Schenectady Labor Temple Association with a boom never before known in the history of organized labor.”
When it opened, the temple became home to more than 30 unions, from bricklayers to wood and wire lathers.
The temple housed many other unions over the course of a century, but in recent years was down to just one: Laborers’ Local 157.
An administrator said the local had called the temple home since the building’s construction, and the union’s current leadership, staff and members still loved the space. But it had gotten too small for their needs. Also, the local serves an increasing number of retirees, and some were struggling with the stairs at 105 Clinton.
So Local 157 moved to a building on Duanesburg Road in Rotterdam.
With the last union gone, the Schenectady Labor Temple Association put the building on the market. The sale to Rasizzi has been finalized and the transaction closed.