SCHENECTADY – A protracted legal battle over alleged city code violations with a prominent downtown Schenectady building came to a close late last week.
The limited liability corporation that owns the Wedgeway Building at the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard was ordered to pay $388,000 for 648 city code violations, or $600 per violation, according to a ruling by Schenectady City Court Judge Teneka Frost.
However, for City Corporation Counsel Andrew Koldin, justice has only been partially served.
“For me, full justice is the abatement of the violations,” Koldin told the Daily Gazette on Monday.
The matter follows months of delays and an earlier trial that resulted in a judge’s dismissal of most of the city’s code violations against the owner. Property operator William Eichengrun didn’t appear in court last week.
City officials originally cited the building with more than 900 alleged code infractions in court back in August.
The property is currently in rough shape but stable, according to Koldin. “At the end of the day, we still have a building that has violations,” he said.
“And I think part of the justice that this has sends a message to property owners that if they’re not keeping their property up to code that the city will go out and issue appearance tickets and bring these property owners to court to address those violations.”
In most cases, the city tries to avoid going to court with property owners, Koldin maintained.
Comparatively, a judge fined property owner Ahmad Halim, the owner of Al Haqq, LLC. $600,000 for violations at eight properties in August.
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The Wedgeway property, which dates back to 1885, has a storied past. Up until the 1980s, it was home to a handful of different theaters over the decades. The sprawling structure also housed a restaurant, convenience store and apartments. It still holds an old, deteriorating marquee from its salad days.
Among 21 other landmarks across New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul in March recommended the former theater home to the state’s Board of Historic Preservation. Once approved by the board earlier this year, the designation was sent to the U.S. National Park Service for review and by July 17, added to the National Register of Historic Places.
“This will bring significant state and federal funding into a redevelopment project,” explained Daniel McKay, deputy commissioner of the state Division for Historic Preservation.
Schenectady Metroplex Authority Director Ray Gillen called the designation a critical step for eventually restoring the building.
Gillen hopes the property will be transferred to Cass Development, a Colonie-based firm which owns more than million square feet of mixed-use space across the region.
“It’s gonna need a developer committed to the project,” Gillen said. “And we’re working with a developer that has a proven track record to renovate the building and make it a great addition to downtown.”
Gillen hopes to secure between $600,000 to $1.85 million from the state for Cass Development to go forward with needed repairs and remodeling. The majority of the project total will be paid for through private funds, Metroplex reported.
“It’s going to be a very large development project,” Gillen said. “It’s the most visible corner downtown.”
Should a transfer agreement go through, the firm plans to build an addition in the current parking lot. Plans call for 80 apartments and ample first-floor commercial development, according to Metroplex.
Metroplex showcased site plans to the city Planning Board back in April.
Cass Development didn’t immediately respond to comment.