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Schenectady City Council OKs blight czar

Schenectady City Council OKs blight czar

Mayor McCarthy awaiting grant funding
Schenectady City Council OKs blight czar
Jackson Demolition tears down 910 State St. in 2015 as part of a city effort.
Photographer: Marc Schultz/Gazette File Photo

SCHENECTADY — The City Council has approved Mayor Gary McCarthy’s proposal to hire a designated city employee to coordinate anti-blight efforts in the city.

Lawmakers voted 6-1 on Monday to approve the mayor’s request to hire a grant-funded “neighborhood stabilization coordinator,” but with the caveat that the position not be filled if an expected state grant fails to materialize.

Councilman John Polimeni said the position, which pays $60,000 annually, will be budget-neutral. 

The city contains 1,000 vacant properties, he said.

“Vacant properties are a huge problem for us,” Polimeni said. “We need someone to coordinate efforts with that.”

Polimeni said software designed to help streamline the city’s Codes Department, Municity 5, will be online soon, and the new person will prove to be critical in those efforts.

McCarthy has said the position will attempt to break down “silos” that emerge between different departments, whether codes, police or the Corporation Counsel’s Office, which will allow for a smoother process.

McCarthy would not comment on potential candidates for the position. “I’m waiting until we actually get the grant funding," he said. "I’m not going to comment until we get the actual money.”

The mayor said he had anticipated a decision from the state last week.

“It should be soon,” McCarthy said on Tuesday.

Councilman Vince Riggi cast the lone “no” vote.

He said the city has already identified and developed a process to combat blight and questioned the effectiveness of coordinating efforts without the proper amount of manpower to complete the work.

“We need more people to do the work,” Riggi said. “We can’t do it without a workforce. We can’t do it because our workforce has been decimated.” 

McCarthy said he would like to promote from within and backfill the subsequent vacancy. Once grant money evaporates, the mayor said, that person would be given his or her old job back. 

“It’s not a given this person will have their old job back,” Riggi said. “I vote a loud no.”

Polimeni countered Riggi’s concerns were unrelated to the position and should instead be brought up during the annual budget process.

“There are opportunities to try to hire additional people if it is indeed a concern,” Polimeni said after the meeting.

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