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What you need to know for 07/23/2017

City OKs Chubby's replacement as eminent domain process advances

City OKs Chubby's replacement as eminent domain process advances

City wants to tear down building
City OKs Chubby's replacement as eminent domain process advances
Yankee Pizza & Deli at 1032 Crane St. in Schenectady is the former location of Chubby's.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

The Schenectady Planning Commission approved a new pizza and convenience store at the former home of Chubby’s on Crane Street, just a day before eminent domain proceedings on the site continued.

Schenectady County officials revealed plans last month to build a new library in Schenectady’s Mont Pleasant neighborhood at 1032 Crane St. The city’s Industrial Development Agency already owns the property next door and is seeking to acquire 1032 Crane St. through eminent domain. It would then turn both properties over to the county for demolition.

The IDA held a public hearing downtown Thursday evening, where six people spoke in favor of the plan to turn the building over to the IDA, in the hopes that a new library would help revitalize the long-distressed Crane Street. This took place a day after the city Planning Commission approved a pizza shop and convenience store to open at the former Chubby’s site.

Mont Pleasant has “an abundant number of pizza shops, and delis and bodegas,” but just one aging library, County Legislator Gary Hughes said during the hearing.

The county is ready to begin building the new facility as soon as it has the properties, Hughes said, adding that the necessary funding for the project is in place.

Five longtime neighborhood residents lamented Mont Pleasant’s decline over the years, and were hopeful that building a library would be a step toward improvement.

The eminent domain process involves a judge determining fair market value for a property. A government entity, in this case the IDA, would pay the property owner that amount, and then obtain control of the site. The proceedings could take at least a few months.

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In the meantime, the Schenectady Planning Commission on Wednesday night approved Ahmed Hussein, a 20-year-old city resident, to operate a pizza shop and convenience store at the former Chubby's site.

The commission gave approval on the condition that the shop’s hours be restricted to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and with assurances that Hussein and the property owner would actively keep the storefront clear of loiterers.

Chubby’s generated more than 500 public safety calls over a nine-month period in 2015. Mont Pleasant residents hailed the business’ closure in November as a victory in the effort to clean up the neighborhood.

Hussein came to the planning commission in March with his proposal for Yankee Pizza & Deli. A few dozen residents have expressed opposition to the idea.

The commission again considered Hussein’s proposal Wednesday night. The applicant did not speak during the meeting, and was instead represented by his attorney, Philip Miller. Miller said the owner painted over graffiti and removed trash, as the board requested.

Miller and a few commissioners argued that Hussein should not be deprived the chance to run a clean business just because of the past business owner’s issues.

“All references to Chubby’s are unfair to [Hussein],” Miller said Wednesday.

The commission received a verbal commitment from the property owner, Ramrattan Ganpat, to assist Hussein in keeping the property clear of loiterers.

Ganpat and a resident of the building, who identified himself as Gary Hicks Sr., contended that crime in the area is not related to Chubby’s, but is a deeper problem that needs to be addressed by city police.

Even as the board granted approval, the prospect of the IDA taking the building, turning it over to the county and bulldozing it for a new library looms.

“That’s not even for us to consider at this point,” Christine Primiano, city planner, told the commission, saying the board’s only responsibility was to consider site plan approval.

The tenant’s lease would be canceled if the building is condemned through eminent domain. Miller said Hussein is aware of proceedings.

The IDA is still accepting written comments on the proceedings through April 27. After that, it will proceed with an environmental review, then submit a written offer to the building owner, likely in late May, officials said.

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