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Security concerns mount at Hillside View Apartments in Schenectady

Security concerns mount at Hillside View Apartments in Schenectady

Residents say conditions are unsafe
Security concerns mount at Hillside View Apartments in Schenectady
Alice Hilts, left, and Lenora Moore are residents of the Hillside View Apartments on Craig Street.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY — They just want a place in the sun. 

But with summer in full bloom, residents at the Hillside View Apartments in Hamilton Hill claim they’re being harassed by neighborhood trouble-makers.

Troublemakers of all ages plant themselves at benches reserved for residents to smoke, drink and cause general havoc, even threatening residents when they intervene, residents say. 

Residents took their concerns to the City Council on Monday. 

“Seniors are in an uproar,” said resident Lenora Moore. “We’re at our wits end and don’t know what to do. And somebody’s going to get hurt.”

The scene was tranquil on Tuesday morning as residents walked leisurely around the block. But they warned trouble would materialize from the shadows after dark. 

Alice Hilts said residents are afraid to go outside at night. 

“They threatened us,” she said.

Sometimes kids even throw rocks at their windows, which tenants thankfully noted were double-paned. 

Appealing to their parents is futile, Moore said, because they just dismiss their concerns.

Residents described working in shifts to accompany a 94-year-old resident outdoors to keep her safe.

Part of the trouble appears to be the semi-open nature of the property. The complex contains a cluster of tables located in a patio at the corner of Craig Street and Lincoln Avenue. But the space is not fully fenced-in and doesn't appear to contain any "no trespassing" signs. 

“We’re supposed to be a private property,” Moore said. “It’s a free-for-all property, and we don’t feel safe.”

Patrols by city police are common, residents acknowledged.

The apartment complex, which opened last October, is a product of Boston-based developers Community Builders, Inc. and has been held up by city officials and developers as a keystone of the city’s neighborhood revitalization efforts. 

The affordable housing project that converted the former Horace Mann school to apartments was part of a broader $22 million effort that also renovated nearby St. Columba and built eight new buildings along Stanley Street. A planned second phase with an estimated $40 million price tag will involve the creation of a 21-unit low-rise apartment building on Albany Street and several townhouses along Stanley Street.

Residents said the complex is patrolled by just one part-time security guard on the weekends. They want to see security bolstered to full-time, and a fence erected around the property to keep out undesirables.

Marva Isaacs, president of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association, said the Joseph L. Allen Apartments on nearby Albany Street doesn't have the same public safety issues, a situation she attributes to an around-the-clock security presence.

“They need to be protected and management is not doing it," Isaacs said.

A visit to Joseph L. Allen on Tuesday night revealed a guard monitoring a bank of security cameras. Like Hillside, the location did contain a patio, but it was fully enclosed by a fence and accessible only through a parking lot.

Community Builders did not return a phone call to their New York City office and an email seeking comment on Tuesday.

CONVERSATION NEEDED

Moore urged city lawmakers to visit the complex to experience conditions firsthand, as well as offer suggestions for how to improve security.

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said residents believed there would be security on-site prior to moving in, and cited numerous problems since the facility opened last year. 

Residents had numerous meetings with management before ultimately taking their concerns to City Hall, she said. 

“I think we need to encourage the developers to address that sooner rather than later,” Porterfield said.

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said she has reached out to the organization to discuss the mounting issues.

“Obviously the circumstances are of concern,” Perazzo said. “People should feel comfortable to live where they live and should be able to go outside. This definitely needs to be a conversation.”

Councilman Vince Riggi appealed to Mayor Gary McCarthy to take action.

“These people are crying for help, and the city should give them some help,” he said. 

McCarthy said the city follows up on all calls and complaints.

“We’ll review what’s being done and what needs to be done on Craig Street,” he said.

City police say they have received just two calls to the location since January. The area, however, has been flagged to receive "extra attention" on each shift, leading to increased patrols. 

The department will review the policy every two weeks to determine if it should be renewed, police said. 

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