On several occasions over the past decade, the city of Schenectady has had to deal with fires being set in run-down, improperly secured buildings — like the one at 32 Steuben St. Sunday night. The fires threaten the safety not only of the firefighters who come to extinguish them, but the people living in nearby residences.
So Mayor Gary McCarthy is right that the city would be better off demolishing these basket cases. They require too much money to make restoration economically feasible. They’re such eyesores that they drag the rest of their neighborhoods down. They’re unsafe. And no matter how hard the city tries to secure them, vandals often find their way in and light fires or create other mayhem.
The mayor has done a good job identifying the worst of the worst; now he needs money to get rid of them. It’s an expensive proposition to be sure, requiring a $3 million loan for 112 houses. But Schenectady County has already committed to providing a sizable revenue stream of $100,000 a year for at least the first eight years, and for next year, anyway, the city’s annual Community Development Block Grant will be tapped for $56,000. The long-term viability of this latter source is questionable, unfortunately, but presumably other funds will be found elsewhere.
One possibility is the owners of the privately owned properties on the demolition list; though it remains to be seen whether they’ll pony up to demolish a house they’ve already neglected so severely that it needs to be knocked down. But McCarthy is confident that playing hardball with them will get results, and as the worst of the city’s blight is erased, the bad neighborhoods will start turning. We wish him well.