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Report: Wedgeway building in Schenectady ‘generally stable’ but fire escape issues remain

Report: Wedgeway building in Schenectady ‘generally stable’ but fire escape issues remain

Report: Wedgeway building in Schenectady ‘generally stable’ but fire escape issues remain
The Wedgeway building is at the corner of Erie Boulevard and State Street in Schenectady.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY — The Wedgeway Building is not in imminent danger of collapse, according to a new city-commissioned report released Wednesday.

But while "generally stable," several deficiencies must be addressed in order to lift outstanding code violations, including fixing “unsound masonry” along the Erie Boulevard side of the structure and repairing the fire escape-related issues that led to the building to be partially condemned by the city last December. 

City inspectors declared the building located at the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard “dangerous and unsafe” after falling bricks prompted a sidewalk closure.

Further inspections revealed the faulty fire escape and unheated ground-floor businesses.

The engineering report released by the city Wednesday paints a clearer picture of the building’s structural assessment. 

The study, done by the Chazen Companies, pinned the cause of falling bricks to mortar joints that have “exceeded their useful life-span.” 

Many are soft, according to the report, and are “easily turned to dust by hand.”

“Some areas, of course, are softer than others,” the report said, “but in general, the building needs repointing throughout.”

The city previously ordered owner William Eichengrun to conduct an engineering study, but rejected the report after questioning the engineer’s credentials. 

The city declined to release that document to The Daily Gazette, claiming it as evidence in a criminal investigation.

A summary of that report, however, is contained within the city's study.

The city charged Eichengrun with five code violations last December. He pleaded not guilty in City Court last month. 

While he acknowledged receiving the city report, Eichengrun said he hadn’t yet read it. 

“I expect it comes to the same opinions that our engineer arrived at two months ago,” Eichengrun said in a text message.

The two sides continue to spar over the stability of the fire escape. 

Chazen Companies said they agree with Richard H. Green, the Eichengrun-hired engineer, that the fire escape should be cleaned and fixed. But despite attempted repairs by Eichengrun, Chazen believes the structure remains unsafe and further repairs are necessary prior to allowing residents to reoccupy the apartment units.

Tenants ostensibly continue to be barred from entering the property, which is located roughly two blocks from City Hall, and city officials maintain they don't know if anyone is living there.

“I do not have any information on whether there are people currently residing in the structure,” said city Corporation Counsel Andrew Koldin.

At least two units were clearly occupied on Wednesday evening, evident by a flickering television on the fifth floor and brightly-burning lights on the floor above.

A woman unpacking groceries from a vehicle in the parking lot declined to speak with a reporter on Wednesday evening. 
She entered the building with a companion, skirting the bright-red condemnation order which remains posted on the door.

Tenants freely ignored the order when it was issued in December, which prompted Chief Building Inspector Christopher Lunn to criticize the “order to vacate” system as flawed due to the city's inability to police condemned structures — even those with potential safety hazards. 

Lunn didn’t return requests for comment on Wednesday.

The report also flagged additional flaws that needed to be addressed, including “repointing” the bricks on the parapet facing Erie Boulevard, as well as other areas throughout the entire building.

Engineers suggested Eichengrun install a sidewalk shield along Erie Boulevard that would allow the city to reopen the sidewalk.

A second parapet on the other side of the building is unstable, the report determined, but does not pose an immediate threat to the public because there’s a low roof below. 

The deterioration, however, is allowing moisture in, which can accelerate damage. And if large portions of the parapet were to fall on the building below, it could lead to collapse of that structure, the report said. 

Eichengrun purchased the building in 2018. 

The assessment by Chazen Companies is limited to exterior masonry and safety of the fire escape system and is not a code compliance evaluation. 

The city has not completed a re-inspection of the elevator to determine its status, Koldin said.

Koldin said Eichengrun was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday but his attorney did not show up. 

The court adjourned the matter to next Wednesday.

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