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Schenectady takes ownership of an entire block in Hamilton Hill

Schenectady takes ownership of an entire block in Hamilton Hill

Foreclosures net the city 11 parcels on a single street
Schenectady takes ownership of an entire block in Hamilton Hill
502 Summit Ave. and the wooded lot nExt to it is pictured
Photographer: Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer

SCHENECTADY — It’s common for local governments to seize tax-delinquent properties.

But an entire block?

The city now owns nearly a dozen parcels on a single street following its most recent round of foreclosures. 

City Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico acknowledged it was unusual for the city to take ownership of so many properties in such close proximity, calling it a “weird coincidence.” 

But the former owner owes the city $398,278.26 in back taxes. 

Information Graphics

The City Council’s Development and Planning Committee formally approved the transfer of the 11 parcels on Summit Avenue to the city on Monday.

The parcels — 414, 416, 418, 420, 422, 424, 428, 430, 432, 502 and 504 Summit Ave. — constitute a nearly uninterrupted block-long stretch between Hamilton and Van Voast streets in the city’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood.

Seven of the lots are empty, including several that have grown dense and nearly impenetrable with vegetation.

The remainder contain multi-family units, none of them occupied, and all in various states of disrepair. 

The former owner, identified by tax records as Albert Drexler, inherited several of the properties from his late father in 2009 and did not file a formal challenge to the foreclosures. 

The city commences foreclosure action on hundreds of properties annually. This year, the city is seeking to claw back taxes for 2017. 

Property owners were given 90 days to pay their back taxes ahead of this year’s July 5 deadline.

Located dead center in the strip of properties is 426 Summit Ave., a residence owned by another Drexler, Michael, according to tax records. 

Taxes on that property are current and have been paid on time over the past two years. 

A person who answered the door on Tuesday said Drexler wasn’t home, and he didn’t return a request for comment. 

The sudden influx of real estate has only added to the city’s vast holdings in the neighborhood. 

The city owns at least four additional vacant structures on the same block, and seized two on nearby Germania Avenue as part of the same batch. 

The properties are now formally owned by Schenectady Urban Renewal Agency, a quasi-governmental agency run by the mayor and City Council. 

A total of 544 properties owed 2017 taxes at the time the list was generated last December. 

Of those, the city foreclosed on 92 of them; 28 property-owners filed an “answer” — or a formal response — and the city is following up on two additional properties. 

“The numbers are good in terms of the properties redeemed,” said Andrew Koldin, assistant corporation counsel. 

The city’s new ownership of tightly-clustered properties may often present opportunities, but officials said it’s too early to pinpoint precise uses. 

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said a developer did express interest in the neighborhood during a recent tour. 

“It’s a prime opportunity to bring those developers in,” said Porterfield. 

Porterfield pointedly said she’d be unwilling to again entertain proposals from The Community Builders, the Boston-based developers who are spearheading several neighborhood housing projects, including the Hillside View Apartments on Craig Street, which has been criticized by residents and community leaders for what they perceive to be security flaws and a slow response at their remediation. 

Instead, Porterfield said, she would like to work with “developers who are sensitive to the community and want to make sure to bring back the quality of life and not just get tax credits.”

Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority also seeks to locate and aggregate sites for development, including locations on Albany and Eastern avenues, both of which have been flagged for housing projects.

“We’re not actively looking at Summit Avenue properties right now,” said Chairman Ray Gillen. 

***

CORRECTION: The print version of this story in today's newspaper erroneously reported that 412 Summit Ave. was included in the properties that were foreclosed upon by the city. This property was not foreclosed on. The owner is up to date on property taxes. We regret this mistake.

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