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Study: Nott Terrace area prone to mudslide

Study: Nott Terrace area prone to mudslide

'Anywhere there are hills, you have a landslide problem'
Study: Nott Terrace area prone to mudslide
The second of two homes were demolished at the dead end of Barney Street in Schenectady on Monday.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

The ridge where Sunday’s mudslide occurred was identified as susceptible to failure on a map published in 2007.

The map, published in the Schenectady County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan, shows the the ridge, along the top of which Barney Street runs, as being susceptible to landslides. But it also shows several other areas in the city, including Broadway, as having susceptibility to slides.

The map was prepared through the cooperation of federal, state and county agencies. The map was part of a report created after a 2004 mudslide that almost dragged eight houses off their foundation.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said he was aware of the study. He also noted the city received approximately $1.5 million through a Hazard Mitigation Grant in 2008 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and used that money to stabilize slopes along Broadway.

That's the ridge where a fatal 1996 mudslide occurred.

The ridge's makeup is part of the reason it is susceptible to slides, according to John Garver, a professor of Geology at Union College.

Garver has been studying landslides in Schenectady County for a decade with students from his Natural Disasters Class.

He said the ridge has both sand and clay layers. While the sand layers allow water to pass through them, the clay layers do not.

“If you have excess water and it hits that [clay] barrier, it allows failure to occur more easily,” Garver said.

Before Sunday's slide, water had filled the basement of 11 Barney St., a home that was demolished Monday because it was deemed structurally unstable in the slide's wake, according to city officials.

City Commissioner of General Services Paul LaFond said water service was shut off to the home, which was owned by Bronx residents Vidyawattie and Yashmenie Devi Abraja, after it was discovered a pipe in the basement had burst.

It was considered a vacant property that the owners had walked away from, LaFond said, but water to the home had not been shut off before the burst pipe was discovered.

City officials were able to trace the leak after ice was found at the intersection of Lottrdige Street and Nott Terrace, LaFond said.

The city was forced to demolish 11 Barney St. and 15 Barney St. for $73,000. McCarthy said the city will try to recoup those funds from the property owners.

McCarthy said the city was able to contact the owners of 15 Barney St., but not the owners of 11 Barney St.

However, the city had budgeted for demolition work in the current budget year.

McCarthy said the cause of the mudslide on Sunday is still to be determined as are actions the city will need to take to fix the slope.

“We had an unforeseen event,” McCarthy said. “We’re still evaluating the full cause and what the full remediation is.”

McCarthy said the city has not decided yet on when it will remove the debris that crashed into the back of the apartment building at 223 Nott Terrace.

The debris at one point trapped a 19-year-old man inside his home, forcing rescue crews to break him out. According to his uncle, Reco Ross, the man was pinned inside the apartment by debris, a wooden board and a dresser.

The 19-year-old was airlifted to Albany Medical Center where he was treated for injuries to his chest and legs. Ross said he has since been released from the hospital

Ross and his 16-year-old nephew were also in the apartment at the time and were taken to the hospital. They were treated for minor injuries and released on Sunday.

Garver said mudslides are “tricky and complicated” and that trying to predict when they occur is “almost impossible.”

“If Schenectady were flat, completely dead flat, we wouldn’t have landslide problems,” Garver said. “Anywhere there are hills, you have a landslide problem.”

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