Renovation or razing next for Niskayuna ‘zombie’ house

Land bank will either renovate or demolish dilapidated home.
The derelict home at 2 Cornelius Ave. is seen on Wednesday.
The derelict home at 2 Cornelius Ave. is seen on Wednesday.

NISKAYUNA — A “zombie property” on Cornelius Avenue will become either a project for construction or destruction, now that it has a new owner.

Officials from the Capital Region Land Bank announced Wednesday they have a deal to purchase the Dutch Colonial-style home at 2 Cornelius Ave., a building that stands next to the parking lot owned by American Legion Post 1092.

The land bank has struck a deal to buy the home — for $1 — from the financing company that owns the property. The land bank will seek proposals to renovate or demolish the house, which neighbors said has been vacant for at least eight years.

Niskayuna Town Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw has been trying to rid the town of such “zombie” buildings.

“Thanks to the land bank, we are able to fix a property that has hurt property values and the quality of life for neighbors,” McGraw said in a prepared statement. “I am also pleased to announce that we are working with the land bank on several additional zombie properties in Niskayuna, and we will not stop until we come up with effective solutions for these properties as well.”

The Cornelius Avenue home, assessed by the town for $135,000, is a wreck. A red and white “X” sign affixed to the front of the house warns firefighters the structure is not safe to enter.

Wood is damaged on both sides of the house and white paint is peeling all over the exterior. A window is partially open in front. Boards cover what might have once been a rear window, and a rear door was blocked by a 2-by-4 board on Wednesday.

Land bank officials said the four-bedroom home also needs foundation repairs, a new roof, new windows, a new heating system, a new chimney and a new front porch.

Neighbors were relieved to hear the blighted property will be addressed.

“It’s about time,” said Ranya Palmer, who lives at 6 Cornelius — two doors from the dilapidated home. “We’ve been waiting years for them to take care of it — the town. I’m absolutely thrilled … the best news I’ve had in a long time.”

Palmer said the home has posed problems beyond its wretched appearance.

“We’ve had people go in and out,” she said. “We’ve had people come and just dump things in the backyard. We’ve had to call the town to come clean it up.”

Susan Walter, who lives across the street and a few doors down from the home, remembered when Fay Foster lived there, more than 30 years ago.

“He was really proud of that house,” Walter said. “It was his second wife’s house, and he took care of her in it. He was so proud of it, so it pains us to see it in this condition.”

Walter and other neighbors believe water damage and mold are major problems inside the house.

“How could you possibly strip it down far enough and get rid of all that so it isn’t a health risk?” she asked.

Stephanie Moskal, who lives farther down the street, does not think the building can be renovated. She also said the house smells.

“On a hot day, it comes right down the block,” she said. “It’s really bad.”

The land bank was formed in 2013 and is run through the Metroplex Development Authority. To date, it has demolished 150 derelict properties in the Schenectady area.

“They were either unsafe or they literally were so far gone the renovation expense would have far exceeded the value that anybody would have been willing to pay for that,” said Richard Ruzzo, land bank chairman and a Schenectady County legislator.

“The land bank’s mission is to improve neighborhoods by fixing homes that need renovation and demolishing zombie properties that are beyond repair,” he added. “We have seen, time and time again, that neighborhoods improve when vacant and derelict properties are taken care of instead of being neglected.”

For the Cornelius property, the land bank is applying for a $20,000 grant to help with demolition or renovation costs. People interested in redeveloping the property are asked to contact the land bank through its website,

Contact Daily Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]


Categories: News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

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