Gloversville adopts new anti-blight strategy


GLOVERSVILLE – Applications are now available at City Hall to purchase seven of the 10 properties set to be sold through the city’s first-ever Property Dispensation Committee.

The Common Council on May 11 approved purchasing the 10 foreclosed properties from Fulton County for $145,000, keeping them out of the county’s foreclosure auction and away from real estate speculators.

The city’s Property Dispensation Committee, chaired by Councilman-at-Large William Rowback Jr., will now attempt to find responsible property owners willing to commit to a set of rules aimed at making sure the buyer rehabilitates the property, hopefully ending a cycle of abandonment and foreclosure.

Gloversville is the second city in the Fulton and Montgomery counties region to set up a Property Dispensation Committee to handle the direct sales of property to bidders, vetted by the committee, instead of going through an auction process. The city of Amsterdam also handles property sales that way.

Mayor Vince DeSantis, during a Facebook Live video presentation on June 4, outlined the timeline for how the city wants its first Property Dispensation Committee process to unfold. He said interested buyers can get applications to buy the properties from either the City Clerk’s Office, the City Assessor’s Office or online at Each property has its own application form with its minimum bid price and bidders can apply to purchase more than one of the properties.

“The Property Disposition Committee then receives the applications, and, in an orderly way, tries to find and make a determination as to the purchaser who best would benefit the neighborhood by rehabilitation,” DeSantis explained. “People, who, you know, either live nearby or live next door or have a good track record in terms of their rehabilitations. Anyone can apply to purchase one of these properties. The committee with then deliberate on the best buyer in terms of the health and well-being of the city and that neighborhood that it’s in.”

DeSantis laid out the timeline for how the Property Dispensation Committee will handle the sale of the seven properties:

• Week of June 14 — Prospective buyers must attend a scheduled inspection time for each property.
• June 30 — All applications are due back to City Hall before the close of the business day. “That’s the absolute cutoff date,” DeSantis said.
• July 9 — The Property Dispensation Committee will formulate its recommendations to the city Common Council.
• July 13 — The Common Council will meet, evaluate the recommendations of the committee and will formally approve the date for the public hearing for the final council vote approving the sale of the properties.
• July 27 — Is the likely date of the public hearing for the final council vote on the approval of the sale of the properties, after which the title for the properties will be transferred to the new owners.

The minimum bid price for the properties has been set based on the amount the city paid Fulton County for the parcels of land, which was the amount of taxes owed for the properties. The exception to those price rules is 48 Spring St., a property that will likely need a costly demolition process. The city has agreed to turn over whatever it can get for 48 Spring St. to Fulton County.

Properties sold ‘as is’

City Assessor Joni Dennie, who will serve on the Property Dispensation Committee, also spoke during the Facebook Live presentation June 4. She said it is important for prospective buyers to know the properties will be sold “as is.” She said when prospective bidders come for their mandatory inspection of the property, city officials won’t necessarily know the answers to every question they may have, including whether a furnace works, if a building has running water, or whether a building’s electrical wiring is any good.

“We don’t have the answer to any of those questions,” she said. “Just like when you’ve been in a county auction, you don’t get an answer to those questions. It is they are being sold as is. And — if you are lucky enough to win one of these bids for these houses — please come in and see me after that. I would like to go over to inspect the house myself, so I can adjust the assessed value on it for the following year, which would be your rehab period year, and lower the assessment on it while you’re working at it, based on the condition of the houses at the time I see it.”

Dennie said 5-7 Nassau St. and 37 East Eighth Ave. also have unpaid water bills on them, $250 each, but the rest of the properties have no water bills due on them. She explained that three of the properties the city purchased from Fulton County on May 11 — 18 Franklin St. (purchase price $8,001), 7 Grandoe Lane ($16,542) and 88 Wells St. ($7,558) — still have tenants living in the buildings, so they aren’t ready to be sold yet.

“The mayor has been talking with people who are living there and we’re hoping to relocate them,” Dennie said. “We don’t want to convey the properties until no one is living in them any longer. So, we’re helping them relocate, and then at that time, as soon as we can get the houses cleared … it’ll be publicly announced that these properties will be available to go through the same process as the seven that are available now.”

Legacy of the ‘Hornell Plan’

DeSantis said the Property Dispensation Committee is one of the key components to his administration’s plan to tackle blighted properties throughout the city.

“In the last few years, we’ve redeveloped the enforcement protocol for blight enforcement, our maintenance code enforcement, and I’ve tried to be a little more aggressive in making sure that people keep their properties up, but enforcement is not the whole picture,” DeSantis said during the Facebook Live video presentation June 4. “What we have to do is we have to try to prevent the sources of blight and disinvestment in our neighborhoods, and one of the sources of that is the fact that the city does not foreclose on tax foreclosed properties — the county does it.”

Gloversville gave up its property tax foreclosure power in 2004, handing it over to Fulton County under a policy called the “Hornell Plan.” Under the Hornell Plan Gloversville lost control over its foreclosed properties, but also lost the financial obligation to make the Gloversville Enlarged School District whole for any unpaid taxes on the properties. Fulton County now has that duty for both the school district and the city.

“The Hornell plan is enormously beneficial to the city in a lot of respects because the city is made whole by the county for any default in taxes year after year,” DeSantis said. “It takes three years for a property to be defaulted enough in taxes such that the county can actually take control of it, so for almost three years, the city of Gloversville and the school districts are made whole by the county.”

DeSantis said one of the downsides of the Hornell Plan has been increased blight in Gloversville.

“After the county takes title to tax foreclosed properties, they all go to auction and anyone, from anywhere in the world, can bid on that auction and the county then sells the property to the highest bidder,” he said. “So, sometimes, and actually quite often, we have had, historically, people who have bought houses for very little money, and they’re from out of the area. They’ve never seen Gloversville or been here, and they come into town, see that the property needs an enormous amount of work to rehabilitate it, and then they just abandon the property again. That property then deteriorates for another three years before it goes to tax auction again. So, what we’re doing is we’re seeing that blight, because of the auction, is being recycled into the community.”

DeSantis said his administration, with unanimous support from the Common Council, purchased 10 of the 13 Gloversville houses that would have been included in Fulton County’s 2020 tax foreclosure auction. He said this project is the first of its kind in the history of Gloversville.

“So, the county has been made whole for everything that it’s out, over all that period of time, including the taxes for 2021, and what we’re doing is we turn those properties over to the Property Disposition Committee,” DeSantis said.

To prevent further blight from developing, the properties sold from the Property Dispensation Committee will include covenants requiring the new owners to bring the properties up to the city code within 12 to 18 months or else remit ownership of the properties to the city.

Besides Rowback and Dennie, the other members of Gloversville’s Property Dispensation Committee are: 1st Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss, City Building Inspector David Fox and the head of the city’s Community Development Agency, Nick Zabawsky. Zabawsky is also a grant writer for the city and oversees federal grant money obtained by the city, some of which can be used for housing rehabilitation. He  also serves on the city of Amsterdam’s Property Dispensation Committee.

DeSantis said there are another set of properties, these ones being vacant lots, owned by the city that will eventually be sold through the Property Dispensation Committee: 211-213 N. Main St.; 232 S. Main St.; 34 5th St.; 39 Maple St.; 68 and 68 1/2 E. Fulton St.; and a “paper street” vacant parcel on Nassau Street without any addresses.

“These are six properties that are going to be available that you can apply for that are not houses,” he said. “They’re vacant pieces of land that are buildable. So, the land is large enough to accommodate the construction of a home or other construction, but there’s no house on it now, and so those properties will have obviously much lower minimum bids.

DeSantis said his administration intends to reinvest any “surplus money” generated by the property sales — that is, money over and above the amount the city paid for them – into the city’s demolition fund, helping to pay for more blight reduction efforts.\

“If this project is successful this year, it will be replicated in future years,” DeSantis said. ” It’s my goal, and the goal of the administration, and also the goal of the City Council, to every year be able to preempt that county auction, to be able to take title to all of the properties that go into tax foreclosure, and, in an orderly way, transfer those properties to responsible owners who will covenant to rehabilitate the property and keep them up to code.”

By the Numbers
These are the available properties, their respective minimum bid prices and scheduled inspection date and time:
Monday, June 14 inspection
• 200-202 South Kingsboro Ave. — $12,748 — inspection from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
• 86 East State St. — $20,865 — inspection from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Tuesday, June 15 inspection
• 18 Pearl St. — $24,950 — inspection from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
• 5-7 Nassau St. — $10,160 — inspection from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, June 16
• 37 East Eighth Ave. — $24,324 — inspection from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
• 66 East State St. — $21,252 — inspection from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Thursday, June 17
• 48 Spring St. — $0 — inspection from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

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