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Schenectady mudslide victim recalls aftermath

Schenectady mudslide victim recalls aftermath

City demolishes 2 homes, garage
Schenectady mudslide victim recalls aftermath
A home is demolished Monday on Barney Street in Schenectady.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

SCHENECTADY — “Do you know what it’s like to hear your nephew screaming?”

Reco Ross, 32, posed the question to reporters Monday, as he recounted the aftermath of a mudslide that struck his apartment at 223 Nott Terrace at about 1:15 a.m. Sunday.

Ross, who was using crutches to walk on Monday, recalled how he had just gotten home from work, and he and his two nephews — he did not identify them, citing privacy concerns — were hanging out before going to bed. That's when mud, trees and other debris came crashing into the apartment.

Ross, who escaped with cuts and bruised ribs, said he and his 16-year old nephew tried to escape by busting open the kitchen window with a crock pot. He said their neighbor eventually came by and kicked out the window.

His 19-year-old nephew was still trapped inside. Ross said the debris, along with wooden board and a dresser, had pinned his nephew inside the building.

Firefighters were able to free the man, and he was airlifted to Albany Medical Center, where he was treated for injuries to his chest and legs.

Ross said on Monday his nephew is "doing better."

City officials said his injuries were not life-threatening.

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The mudslide began above the Nott Terrace apartment, near the end of Barney Street.

The city was forced to demolish the homes at 11 and 15 Barney St., along with a garage at 2 Daggett Terrace, on Monday, because they were too unstable to be saved, according to city officials.

The demolition was performed by Albany-based Ditonno and Sons for approximately $73,000, according to city Building Inspector Chris Lunn.

According to Schenectady County property records, 11 Barney St. is owned by Vidyawattie and Yashmenie Devi Abraja, and 15 Barney St. is owned by Gabe an Jul Properties LLC. The owners of both buildings could not be reached for comment.

City Public Safety Commissioner Michael Eidens said the city was able to contact the owners of 15 Barney St. but was unable to reach the Abrajas.

City officials said on Monday they weren’t sure of the exact cause of the slide.

What was known was that the basement of 11 Barney St. had filled with water before the incident, forcing city officials to cut water service to the building on Friday, according to Eidens. He also said there were reports of a fire hydrant on Barney Street leaking.

City Commissioner of General Services Paul LaFond did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

The plan for Tuesday is to remove debris from behind the 223 Nott Terrace structure, but Eidens said that plan changed because city Engineer Chris Wallin and a consultant wanted to give the hill an extra day to dry out, in order to avoid “additional slippage.”

Wallin did not return a request for comment on Monday.

A state of emergency was issued Sunday for the buildings at 213, 219, 223, 225 and 227 Nott Terrace, along with 11 and 15 Barney St., and 2 Daggett Terrace. The slide forced the closure of Nott Terrace from Chapel Street to State Street in both directions, though the road was reopened by 5 p.m. Monday.

The emergency order was still in effect as of Monday evening.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said on Monday that he was hopeful only the two Barney Street buildings, in addition to the garage at 2 Daggett Terrace, would be razed. He said the city plans to preserve the home at 223 Nott Terrace.

“We’re hopeful that will be all that has to be taken down,” McCarthy said.

Eidens said it will take getting into the basement of the Nott Street building to determine its fate.

“The rear of the building took a tremendous shot,” Eidens said.

Ross was frustrated he couldn’t get back into the home to retrieve his stuff, even though he understood the reason. However, Eidens was seen helping him get mail from his building on Monday.

Still, Ross said, “Somebody should be answering for this.”

After they realized everyone was going to be OK, Ross said he and his nephews went back to joking around with each other while being treated by emergency crews.

“You’re going to have to dump more on us if you’re going to kill us,” Ross said.

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