SCHENECTADY — While much of the state will remain on pause, the fight against blight will resume in Schenectady this week.
The Capital Region Land Bank’s first demolition of the season will flatten a condemned house on Carrie Street. Fourteen other buildings will follow on the same contract, 13 in the city of Schenectady and one in Rotterdam.
Construction activity across New York has been halted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as part of the effort to halt the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the number of people working in close proximity to one another. Demolition is the opposite of construction, of course, but it’s a closely related field. And when it involves an unsafe structure, demolition is exempted from the ban.
The setup of a demolition tends to limit the chance of person-to-person disease transmission, said Land Bank Executive Director David Hogenkamp.
One person is in the cab of an excavator, another stands some distance away spraying water to keep the dust down, another monitors the activity for safety. Later the rubble is mechanically loaded and hauled away, again with people typically some distance apart.
Even in the healthiest of times, everyone is wearing respirators and eye protection against dust, lead and asbestos, and those outside in the thick of it may be wearing Tyvek suits as well.
The house at 1612 Carrie St., a forlorn-looking two-family structure, won’t be replaced by anything new — the lot is too narrow for modern construction. Instead, the Land Bank will try to sell the land to owners of neighboring houses.
The point in knocking it down, aside from public safety, is to further improve the aesthetics in an area that has seen some new construction. Habitat for Humanity has built houses nearby and is awaiting clearance to build others on multiple parcels. Habitat built two houses on what had been three lots, for example.
“Most of the lots, if you have a single lot, aren’t big enough to build,” Hogenkamp said. “We focus on where we can get two lots for development.”
He doesn’t know what specifically is wrong with 1612 Carrie St. The city does the inspections and, if needed, the condemnations, he said, so the Land Bank doesn’t need to make an assessment of what’s wrong, just find a way to renovate it or remove it.
Also, after being part of more than 100 demolitions, he has trouble keeping track of all the details of individual properties scheduled to be flattened.
The Land Bank this winter had identified 1612 Carrie and seven other properties as priorities for demolition. It said it had enough money in hand to demolish them, but put the other seven on the list as well, in case it was able to secure additional funding. Late last month, Hogenkamp said, Enterprise Community Partners, the nonprofit that channels money from the state to land banks, provided an additional $530,000 grant enabling all 15 properties to be demolished.
There will be funds left to demolish four properties in the East End neighborhood of Amsterdam, he added. Amsterdam along with the city and county of Schenectady are the service area of the Land Bank.
Gorick Construction Co. of Binghamton won the contract to demolish the 14 Schenectady structures and one Rotterdam house. It performed the 2019 demolitions as well, Hogenkamp said.