Amsterdam

Amsterdam eyeing demolitions to curb blight

Three abandoned buildings — 11, 13 and 15 Voorhees St. — are among the buildings the city of Amsterdam hopes to demolish. 
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Three abandoned buildings — 11, 13 and 15 Voorhees St. — are among the buildings the city of Amsterdam hopes to demolish. 

AMSTERDAM — The city will seek bids for the demolition of 13 previously seized properties as part of ongoing efforts to combat blight.

The Common Council on Tuesday approved a resolution authorizing the city clerk to advertise for bids for the demolition of the city owned properties that were determined by officials to be unsalvageable.

“They’re in bad shape,” Mayor Michael Cinquanti said. “They don’t deserve to be standing. We need to take them down. We can’t secure them, they’re that bad. There are holes in the roofs, floors have collapsed and they should be down.”

The properties were inspected by the Engineering Department and Amsterdam Fire Department before they were placed on the list of city-owned properties slated for demolition.

The 13 properties are currently considered the “worst of the worst,” City Engineer Mike Clarke said.

Clarke organized the properties by neighborhood into three groups that will be advertised seeking bids from contractors for the cost to demolish each property, the subtotal for taking down each set and the total for razing all of the listed properties.

The 2021-22 city budget includes $500,000  for the demolition of blighted properties. The strategy developed by Clarke will allow the city more flexibility to refine the list of properties that are razed when the bids are received based on the available funding.

“If the numbers come in good and we want to award all three groups, we can do that,” Clarke said. “It gives us the latitude to be able to pick and choose between the groups.”

Combining the addresses into clusters in different areas of the city may also help lower bid prices by limiting the labor required to move equipment between sites and to gather debris following demolition to be hauled away for final disposal.

The first group includes 54 Bayard St., 101-103 Caroline St., 174 Division St., 9-11 Guy St. and 13 McDonnell St. The second group includes 51 Elizabeth St., 56 Elizabeth St. and 120 Brookside Ave. The third group includes 28 Lark St., 11 Voorhees St., 13 Voorhees St., 15 Voorhees St. and 42 Eagle St.

The city will also advertise in the bid package for the removal of debris from 30 Cady St. The structure was knocked down following a fire, but the material was never removed from the site.

Cinquanti has set a goal of addressing a total of 50 blighted properties by the end of the calendar year through the demolition of buildings that are beyond repair or selling homes that are in salvageable condition through the property disposition committee. Prospective buyers through the property disposition committee are required to tour the buildings and obtain a list of existing code violations to ensure they are fully aware of conditions before bidding on a building.

Bidders through that process must submit reuse plans that the committee reviews to ensure properties are approved for sale to new owners who will put the site to the best use to get them back on the tax rolls and for the benefit of the surrounding neighborhood and city as a whole.

If all of the properties included in the bid package are ultimately demolished, the city’s tally of properties addressed this year will rise to 35.

The city’s decision on whether to move forward with the full list of properties when bids are returned likely will be affected by the ability of Corporation Council Anthony Casale to wrap up foreclosure proceedings on 99 properties that have been in limbo for over a year due to the eviction moratorium instituted during the pandemic.

The city had amassed a list of 125 properties across the city that were delinquent in paying taxes in October 2019. Property owners were given the opportunity to make good on the outstanding payments before the city initiated foreclosure proceedings. The process was delayed initially at the beginning of 2020 after Cinquanti took office and named Casale as the new city attorney.

By the time Casale was installed and up to speed, the state eviction moratorium was in place and courts were closed to new eviction proceedings. Cinquanti noted that the properties slated for foreclosure by the city had been delinquent in taxes for at least two years before the city prepared to initiate action.

Casale has been able to make progress on the foreclosures in recent months with default motions entered in court. He reported to the Common Council that foreclosure orders for the properties could be assigned by the court before the next meeting in September. The current state eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of the month.

It is unclear whether the city’s foreclosure proceedings will be affected by the federal moratorium on evictions recently issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for areas of the country experiencing substantial and high rates of coronavirus transmission. Montgomery County is currently designated as an area of high transmission by the CDC with 68 new infections in the last seven days and a 10.27% positivity rate.

City officials say there are several properties that should be swiftly demolished among the 99 properties slated for foreclosure, which is why the city may pull some properties from the list of demolitions when bids are received to reserve some funding for the future demolitions.

If the foreclosures move forward, the city would make plans for structurally sound properties that would likely involve selling some sites through public auction while reserving other properties for targeted sale through the property disposition committee and possibly marketing some buildings in exceptional condition for direct sales.

While Cinquanti is hopeful those plans will finally come together next month, he said that making progress on the city’s demolition list in the months ahead will have a positive impact on the city and the neighborhoods the blighted properties are currently standing in.

“The second they come down the neighborhoods are improved, the property values go up and the quality of life of the neighborhood improves,” Cinquanti said.

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