Rebecca Webster/Recorder staff Street signs marking the corner of Hibbard and James streets in Amsterdam are shown Friday. The city has received $400,000 from a federal grant program which is aimed at improving the housing stock in the neighborhood.
By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
The Five Corners area in the city of Amsterdam is about the get a facelift.
Just last week, the city received word that they were recipients of a $400,000 HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Award through the New York State Office of Community Renewal.
The money will go to fund neighborhood revitalization and housing rehabilitation in the area in the city bounded by Reid, Church, James, and Hibbard streets.
Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said Friday that rehabbing this area is something they've been talking about for years.
"It's very heartening," she said. "It validates what we are doing here because this isn't the first one."
The city has received CDBG awards in the past, most recently for the Clinton and Division streets area.
The grants have been, and will continue to be for this one, administered by the Urban Renewal Agency, headed by Nick Zabawsky.
Zabawsky said Friday that he applied for the grant in the spring of 2012, and has done 15 to 20 grants like this for city neighborhoods throughout the years, the most recent, as Thane mentioned, being the Division Street area.
"That neighborhood was all crummy looking houses six years ago and you drive by that neighborhood now and those houses are pretty nice looking," he said. "In that neighborhood, we had a huge impact in terms of the appearance of the neighborhood, and we're hoping we'll have a similar result in the Reid Street area."
As per grant guidelines, the program provides $25,000 per dwelling to Section 8 income-qualified owner-occupied homes -- who will be eligible for grants of up to 100 percent of the cost of rehabbing their homes -- and $12,500 per unit for owners of rental properties -- who will be required to fund 50 percent of the repair costs.
Thane said more is given to owner-occupied homes for a reason.
"Owner occupied homes tend to be better cared for over the long haul, so you want to inspire that," she said.
Under the CDBG grant, Zabawsky said there are many facets to the work that will be done.
"The first and most important thing is to stabilize the building," he said. "If the roof is leaking and it's a bad roof, you've got to put a roof on it. The second thing is the important health and safety issues."
Rectifying electrical issues and plumbing are included in that work, along with "life-safety" issues like not having smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, he said.
"You'd be amazed at the number of people who do not have those in their homes in this day and age and those things will save your life," Zabawsky said.
Another big piece of the work will be working on the porches.
"A lot of these older homes, the porches are exposed to the elements and they all seem to be, after 80 years, (all) rotted out," he said, adding that the work will include fixing unsafe steps and adding handrails to many that were built without.
But a big part of the rehabilitation also deals with energy efficiency.
Many homes are still heated with old gas space heaters, Zabawsky said, and the program works to put in central heating systems and more efficient boilers.
The energy efficiency portion of the rehab also include window replacements, though those are done for more than one purpose.
"Lead paint. All of these homes have lead paint in them," Zabawsky said. "We do lead testing in every house we rehab and I believe almost every house we've done in the last several years has had lead dust levels or lead hazards above the federal limit.
"So we go in and correct that, figure out why, what's causing the lead problem, and quite often it's painted surfaces that were painted with lead paint that rub together. And that's most commonly a door or a window that creates lead dust."
Thane said they also work to get the home-owners even more incentives.
"There are programs that National Grid offers that we can also couple with this," she said.
Work on the neighborhood will begin this spring, and Zabawsky said, having already done surveying during the application process, 15 homeowners have already expressed interest.
More outreach will occur over the coming weeks to ensure each property owner in that target area is aware of the program, but in the end it will be a first-come, first-serve basis, he said.
Thane said the city has worked to tackle problems that have existed in the city neighborhoods for decades.
"What we do in this administration is identify problems and then go after solutions," she said.
It's a multifaceted approach, she said, adding that they try to address multiple needs of the city at the same time.
"It' just you have to keep a committed and dedicated effort going to address these long-standing issues and they're everywhere," she said. "You know, we're an old city and we're not a moneyed community so we have to plan and go for funding whenever possible and combine these efforts."
Any property owners who are interested in the program in that target area should contact the Urban Renewal Agency at 843-5190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.