Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on second Rotterdam home

Friday's Habitat for Humanity home groundbreaking in Rotterdam.

Friday's Habitat for Humanity home groundbreaking in Rotterdam.

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ROTTERDAM — A Rotterdam property that sat dormant for five decades will soon be the site of a new community-built home, as Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County broke ground there Friday.

The project at 749 Cramer Ave. will be the organization’s 58th home in Schenectady County and second in Rotterdam, following up on the success of the home Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County built on Oaklawn Avenue in 2019.

Kathy Fernandez, Habitat’s executive director, said they’re proud to establish its second site in the town.

“We are Habitat for Humanity for Schenectady County, so to be able to build in other parts of the county is really great,” she said. “The city [Schenectady] has a lot of need, but other parts of the county do as well. So it’s a pleasure for us to be here and we already have a Habitat home here and it’s nice to be able to have more than one home in a community.”

Fernandez said excavation work on the site would get underway next week, with a fall target date for completion.

“As soon as they start digging the foundation we go right to work,” she said. “We try to get the houses done as quickly as possible.”

Habitat has yet to identify the eventual recipient of the home. According to the organization, all families must complete homebuyer education and financial counseling, apply and qualify for a mortgage and complete 200 hours of sweat equity before receiving a Habitat home.

“We have a number of families that are on our waiting list,” Fernandez said. “We’ll go through all of those families and select one to move in.”

The county donated the property to the Capital Region Land Bank in 2019, with the bank demolishing the property and then selling the property to Habitat for $1.

The property has been vacant since 1971 and had been an eyesore in the neighborhood since his youth, Schenectady County Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski said.

“Personally it’s rewarding because folks are usually born in Rotterdam, they live in Rotterdam their whole lives and they die in Rotterdam, so I’m not the only one who’s walked past this blighted property for 50 years,” he said following the groundbreaking. “But it symbolizes that we care. The building came down and a brand new two-story, four-bedroom home will be here. It shows the neighborhood the commitment from the town and the county to revitalize this area.”

While the property was vacant since 1971, Jasenski said the county was not able to foreclose on the home until 2019 because the site’s property taxes continued to be paid by the property’s New York City owners until 2015.

“It takes the county four years of unpaid taxes to have the right to foreclose,” the legislator said. “So 2019 was the first year we could foreclose on it, which we did. We turned the property over to the land bank for demolition.”

Natiya Robinson, the town’s recipient of the first Habitat home, said she took pride in helping to build her own home and planned to volunteer to help construct the new house on Cramer Avenue.

“It was a huge deal,” she said. “I was volunteering for awhile and then I decided to try myself and I went through the process and waited three years and I finally got approved. It felt amazing. It was a blessing for the kids because we were moving multiple places and our living situation was never steady. So getting a home to actually have my kids grow up in is an awesome feeling.”

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara took part in the groundbreaking and said he was inspired by the work of former President Jimmy Carter, who volunteered for decades with Habitat for Humanity building homes worldwide.

“If you really want to change the world and make a difference in people’s lives, this is how you do it,” he said. “I’ve been involved with Habitat for many years and my daughter was involved as a Girl Scout and we always participated and volunteered. But after reading Jimmy Carter’s story and the impact he had and why he did it, the ripple effect in these communities are amazing.”

Santabarbara said that Habitat projects tend to create a snowball of goodwill in the neighborhoods where they are built.

“A lot of times you’ll find that neighbors will come over to the job site and they just want to help,” he said after the groundbreaking. “That’s the beginning of people thinking in a different way where they say, ‘Maybe I don’t know this person but I want to help them finish that home.’”

Santabarbara noted that he has fought for state funding for the Capital Region Land Bank so the group can fund projects such as the Habitat partnership.

“For every dollar that we put in, we see that it doubles and triples and multiplies with the impact it has in the community,” he said.

Contact Ted Remsnyder at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TedRemsnyder.












Categories: News, Rotterdam, Schenectady County

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