“I liked the old place better,” joked James, a resident in the Schenectady YMCA’s housing program, as he proudly showed off his brand-new apartment Wednesday afternoon.
Turning serious, the man, who declined to give his last name, praised the cleanliness and size of his new accommodations and kindness of the YMCA staff.
“It’s just a wonderful place to be,” he said.
James and 154 other YMCA residents packed their bags and moved from the world-weary building at 13 State St. to a custom-renovated facility at 845 Broadway on Saturday.
From shopping for a location to grant writing and renovations, the move was eight years in the making, said YMCA Executive Director Lou Magliocca.
Built in 1915, the 96,000-square-foot building on Broadway originally housed the Mica Insulator Co. When the Galesi Group took possession of the property, it was in complete disrepair.
The renovation project was made possible by more than $11 million in tax credits approved by New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the state’s housing agency. The project also incorporated other funding sources, including federal and state historic tax credits.
At the previous residence facility, tenants had tiny bedrooms and shared bathrooms. There was no central air conditioning, no security system and minimal privacy. That’s not the case at the new place.
“The guys’ rooms are incredible. I knew they were going to be nice, but not as nice as they are,” said Magliocca. “We walked people through [Tuesday] from the state. They were saying that apartments like this go for $2,500, $3,500 a month in Manhattan. They’re going for $400 here.”
The apartments at the YMCA facility are rented by county residents who have a disability, which could include issues with alcohol or drugs. They must also be connected with clinical services within the county. No violent felons or sex offenders are allowed to stay.
Rent is $415 a month for tenants who do not receive a subsidy. For $220 a month more, they can receive three meals a day.
The new building is filled to capacity and there are about 30 people on the waiting list.
Apartments range from 380 to 420 square feet. Each has a kitchenette, private bath and enormous windows, some with views of a hill covered with crown vetch blooming a pretty purple. Included is a dresser, a desk that does double-duty as a table, an easy chair, ottoman and full-size bed, complete with sheets. All furnishings are brand-new.
The kitchenettes include a microwave, full-size refrigerator, stove and sink. Residents are being screened to ensure they are capable of using the appliances safely.
For those who don’t cook meals, there’s a cafeteria that seats nearly 200 and a large, industrial kitchen that provides breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There’s a spacious patio accessible from the second floor, which in the near future will hold outdoor furniture.
Each floor of the building has a good-sized community room with computers and Internet access. Soon, every gathering space will have a large-screen TV. The laundry room on each floor will include a television and an exercise bike.
The building is completely handicap-accessible. That’s a relief to resident Freddie Quinones, who gets around in a motorized wheelchair. There was limited accessibility in the old residence.
Quinones’ new apartment is set up to meet his needs. “It’ll look better when the freezer gets filled up,” he said with a grin, surveying his new home.
Residents who moved from the old location to the new one were allowed to bring personal possessions, excluding furnishings that would be provided for them at the new residence.
Some residents voiced concern that they would not be able to bring personal possessions like bed sheets, tables, dressers and microwaves to the new facility. Tenant Wayne Jacksen filed a notice of petition June 12 in Supreme Court in Schenectady County alleging multiple violations of New York State Real Property Law and other state and federal codes.
In his notice, Jacksen voiced displeasure over the fact that the YMCA would restrict tenants from taking legally purchased property.
As of Wednesday, Magliocca was unsure if Jacksen still plans to pursue the lawsuit, but he said the longtime Y resident was pleased with his new apartment.
According to Magliocca, when Jacksen was given a form to list any problems he found with his new quarters, he responded that he had no issues.
“Everyone was able to bring their stuff. They were allowed to bring any personal items that they had in their room,” Magliocca said. “They could bring TVs, clothes, cooking equipment. Some of them even brought air conditioners and put them in their closets.”
As Magliocca walked the airy, freshly painted halls of the Broadway building Wednesday afternoon, he asked each resident he met, “How’s your room?”
The question was consistently met with praise for the new facility.
“Morale is phenomenal,” he said. “It’s good to see smiles on everybody’s face every day.”