Foss: Residents’ safety concerns at Schenectady apartments must be addressed

Laeloni Walker and Doran Pete are upset with conditions at Community Builders' housing projects on Stanley and Craig streets.
Laeloni Walker and Doran Pete are upset with conditions at Community Builders' housing projects on Stanley and Craig streets.

The new affordable housing developments in Hamilton Hill have been one of the Schenectady’s big success stories of recent years. 

For decades, the neighborhood has seen its aging housing stock deteriorate, a problem made all the worse by the fact that buildings that fell into disrepair or disuse weren’t replaced.

Residents who wished to live in newer housing were out of luck, because it simply didn’t exist. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the vast majority of housing units in the neighborhood were constructed prior to 1940. Between 2010 and 2016 the number of housing units built in the 12307 zip code was exactly zero. 

So it’s easy to understand why the new housing in Hamilton Hill is such a big deal. 

What’s harder to understand is why safety concerns at the new apartments owned and managed by Boston-based The Community Builders have not been addressed to residents’ satisfaction

These concerns threaten to undermine a project with incredible promise, which is why it’s of vital importance that The Community Builders take them seriously.  

There are signs that the organization is ready to do that. 

Last week The Community Builders held a meeting with residents to discuss their complaints, which include drug activity and loitering, youths throwing rocks at windows and stolen or damaged property. 

Residents were clearly angry about what they perceive as a failure to take their concerns seriously, and they have every right to be. 

These concerns have been simmering for months, and the outrage expressed by residents is partly the result of not feeling listened to. Now that their concerns are getting a public airing, perhaps that will change. 

The good news is that the problems described by residents are fixable. 

A full-time security presence and signage making it clear that trespassers are not welcome are two measures that might help. 

The Community Builders has already taken some steps to address resident concerns, such as installing new security cameras and adding full-time weekend security patrols. 

The Community Builders project encompasses two apartment buildings on Craig Street and eight new buildings on Stanley Street. A second phase will create a 21-unit low-rise apartment building on Albany Street and several more townhouses on Stanley Street. 

Which all sounds great, but only if the safety concerns addressed by residents are addressed. 

The Community Builders needs to demonstrate that it can handle security at its existing properties before taking on more renters.

Whenever I drive or walk by The Community Builders properties, I’m always impressed with how tidy and quiet they are. 

But I don’t live in these buildings, and the stories shared by residents suggest that more needs to be done to protect those who do from criminal elements in the neighborhood. 

Hamilton Hill is a neighborhood in desperate need of new, high-quality affordable housing, and The Community Builders project provides it.

But if people don’t feel safe, they’re not going to want to live there. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. 

Categories: News, Opinion, Schenectady County

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