SCHENECTADY — Navigating the glut of vacant properties continues to be a leading issue for city officials.
Now Mayor Gary McCarthy wants to create a position designed exclusively to oversee their management and rehabilitation, allowing the city to restructure its approach in combating blight.
His proposed “neighborhood stabilization coordinator” would report to the director of development and receive a salary of $60,000 annually.
“This position is ideal to create an efficient, data-driven approach to handle these efforts and revitalize once vacant and blighted properties,” McCarthy wrote in a memo to City Council.
McCarthy drew up a resolution and initially planned on asking the City Council’s Finance Committee to amend the budget to include a new position on Monday, but the item was ultimately pushed back another two weeks.
“We anticipate having it on the committee agenda next cycle,” said city Director of Operations Alex Sutherland.
McCarthy estimates there are 900 vacant properties located within city limits, including “zombie” homes, or unoccupied bank-owned properties caught in limbo between foreclosure and new ownership.
Several city departments interact with properties once they go into foreclosure, McCarthy said.
The city Police Department is tasked with dealing with criminal activity; the Codes Department conducts inspections; and the city Corporation Counsel’s Office sifts through financial history and background of the shell companies that often purchase the structures and do nothing with them.
That office also attempts to locate new owners following the death of homeowners who have failed to leave a clear line of succession.
Each of those tasks are completed now, McCarthy said. But the process isn’t always coordinated, and the proposed new position would eliminate the “silos” that tend to emerge between departments by serving as a point person.
“This is going to give us a focal point to bring all of this information together and make different departments efficient in how they follow through in particular areas,” McCarthy said.
The mayor pointed at an item in the city’s comprehensive plan, adopted in 2008, which calls for staff from the city's Department of Development to “spearhead neighborhood revitalization efforts, inventorying redevelopment sites, implementing neighborhood rehabilitation and improving interdepartmental coordination.”
The proposal comes a week after McCarthy announced he worked out a deal with city Public Safety Commissioner Michael Eidens to put off retirement and return to work in a part-time capacity, taking codes oversight from his portfolio and focusing “exclusively” on police discipline issues.
McCarthy said the proposed new role is not “specifically” related to the reconfiguring of Eidens’ position.
“This is more day-to-day operations that was not within the realm of the commissioner,” he said.
Asked who is currently overseeing the city Codes Department, McCarthy said Chief Building Inspector Chris Lunn is coordinating with Assistant Police Chief Jack Falvo.
“They’re the top management positions,” McCarthy said. “It’s part of the integration of getting the departments to work together.”