Fixed up, the old Schenectady County social services headquarters on Nott Street would make a fine apartment building, and would help stabilize a rapidly deteriorating part of the city. But the building needs some TLC, as real estate agents like to say of run-down buildings, and the owner — Galesi Group — won’t sink a bundle of money in the building by itself; it wants the city of Schenectady to sign on as a partner.
The city’s share in the proposed $2.8 million rehab would be almost half — $1.3 million, which it contemplates borrowing from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Considering what could be gained, it might even be a good investment. But the city needs to make more of a commitment to improving the quality of life in the Northside neighborhood before it agrees to plunk down so much money for so few — 14 — rental units.
Foster and Van Vranken avenues are going to seed quickly. The mostly residential buildings aren’t getting the attention they need, crime is on the rise, the landscape is a mess, and heavy trucks from the city’s Bureau of Service garage — located on the corner of Foster and Seneca Street — insist on barreling down those relatively small streets rather than approach the city via industrial Maxon Road.
If the city wants to reclaim that neighborhood — which is the best argument for improving the DSS building — it needs to improve code enforcement and police presence, and steer the dump trucks away from residential areas. Otherwise, upstanding citizens will be reluctant to move into the building, no matter how convenient it is to nearby employers like the Golub Corp., Union College and Ellis Hospital, and Foster and Van Vranken avenues will continue their slide.