Anything can happen at an auction.
That’s one explanation why some of the most attractive properties up for sale at Schenectady County’s annual foreclosure sale sold for well below their assessed values. It also explains why a tiny strip of land can attract more interest than an entire school.
In fact, the former Draper School in Rotterdam was sold to the first and only bidder, for $25,000. To his credit, Collar City Auctions President Randy Passonno started the bidding on the property, assessed at $1.55 million, much higher. But the previously eager crowd of more than 100 potential buyers inside Schenectady County Community College’s Carl B. Taylor Auditorium was noticeably wary as he rattled off bids, even as they crept lower and lower.
With a single bid, Duanesburg business owner Jeff Senecal took ownership of the school, a 94,000-square-foot building that sits on 3.5 acres of land on Draper Avenue. It was last occupied by the International Charter School of Schenectady, which closed in 2008 but still owns the building. Officials have periodically considered locating another charter school or veteran housing there, but nothing ever panned out.
“I used to own it before,” Senecal told The Sunday Gazette, before declining further comment.
One of the largest properties on the block Saturday found an owner without too much of a fight. Dave Buicko, chief operating officer of the Rotterdam-based Galesi Group, bought more than 100 acres on Hillside Avenue in Niskayuna. The sprawling property behind the U.S. Army Reserve Center is known as the Hillside Commerce Park and is largely vacant but for a cement track that was used to test tanks for the military during the Korean War.
The property was sold in two separate bids. Buicko bought a 99-acre tract assessed at $1.2 million for $55,000 and a 13-acre parcel assessed at $464,300 for $8,000.
A Pattersonville couple left the auction Saturday with an island on the Mohawk River. After little interest from the crowd, Ron and Elma Phillips put up $10,000 for the Isle of the Senecas, a 14-acre island by the Western Gateway Bridge in Scotia.
Phillips admitted he made the purchase on a bit of a whim and doesn’t yet know what he wants to do with the island, which is zoned for conservation.
“I got no ideas until I can get out there and look at it,” he said as he waited in line to complete paperwork Saturday. “Now I can be like a Kennedy, you know? I own my own island.”
There were a lot of easy sells at the county auction. Fifteen properties were withdrawn from the block before the auction kicked off at 11 a.m., leaving 60 properties across Duanesburg, Glenville, Rotterdam and Niskayuna for sale. Many of these properties were vacant residential sites with one-, two- or three-family homes. Others were small strips of commercial land along corridors with decent traffic.
About 18 acres of developable land along Burdeck Street in Rotterdam sold for $51,000. One of the largest purchases of the day was a $500,000 winning bid on 20 acres in Glenville. A former nursery supply business still sits on the land on heavily traveled Freemans Bridge Road.
The former Wells Nursery in Niskayuna also sold. Sunmark Federal Credit Union owns the 7.6-acre site, which was most recently assessed at $1.15 million. It sold for $190,000 on Saturday.
Winning bidders submitted down payments on their properties Saturday and completed a purchase-and-sale agreement. Titles won’t be transferred until the Schenectady County Legislature approves the sales at its Nov. 12 meeting.