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What you need to know for 12/14/2017

Schenectady digs deep for building demo costs

Schenectady digs deep for building demo costs

Nicholaus Building, Schenectady Street demolitions together cost nearly $334,000
Schenectady digs deep for building demo costs
The Nicholaus Building is demolished in April.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

SCHENECTADY - The emergency demolition of the Nicholaus Building on downtown's most prominent corner and another massive old building earlier this year will force the city to dig into its fund balance to cover the costs.

The City Council's Finance Committee on Monday voted without discussion to dip into the fund balance for $282,000 to cover the unanticipated emergency demolitions of the two large brick buildings from earlier this year.

The transfer, which the full council will vote on next Monday as it rebalances city spending accounts for the close of the year, is needed because the two major demolition projects depleted the city's contingency budget — the amount set aside in the 2017 budget to cover unanticipated and emergency expenses.

The Nicholaus Building and its future were in the public eye for a year before the decision to tear it down, while the Schenectady Street demolition — at the corner of Strong and Schenectady streets in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood -- didn't get nearly as much attention but cost the city nearly as much money.

The three-story Nicholaus Building stood at the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard for well over a century, but its fate had been precarious since April 2016, when the building began to shake as work began next door on new apartments that were going to replace the former Olender Mattress building. The Thai Thai Bistro restaurant on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floor were evacuated, and the building sat empty for a year when its future was debated. On April 7, 2017, engineers hired by the city declared the building in imminent danger of collapsing after a wall shifted, and the city ordered an emergency demolition.

The initial estimate for the demolition was $125,000, but the final cost turned out to be $176,792, according to the city's Finance Department. There was no explanation for why the cost was higher, but the demolition took place at night and over a weekend, and required closing down parts of the city's two busiest streets.

Just two weeks later, on April 19, the city determined that the large vacant former commercial-apartment building at 543 Schenectady St. required emergency demolition after a section of parapet fell into the street. That demolition cost the city $157,000.

543SchenectadyStDEMO_1.jpg

Between the two emergencies, the city spent nearly $334,000. Jackson Demolition of Schenectady handled both projects.

The Nicholaus Building's condemnation and demolition are caught up in a series of lawsuits, including one in which the city is seeking compensation for the demolition costs from building owners Viroj and Malinee Chompupong. The Chompupongs are also suing the city

"The city will work to recover this and all of the costs it incurred in this matter from the building owners and any other appropriate avenue," according to a financial note attached to the fund transfer request.

The city, however, has nobody to sue over the Schenectady Street building, which in the 1960s had housed a police community center. The city took ownership of the building for unpaid back taxes in 2015, and at the time of its demolition it was owned by the Schenectady Urban Renewal Agency.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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