By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
Let the city demolitions begin.
Last week, a crumbling property in Amsterdam was brought to the ground as the city began this year's round of property demolitions.
The house at 34 Lower Minaville St. was the first to go, and this week the houses at 4-6 and 8 Guy St. came down.
In all, 16 property demolitions were part of the city's Capital Projects list that was approved by the Common Council in 2012.
City Engineer Richard Miller said approximately 10 of those properties will be demolished for sure, but additional structures may follow, based on what the city can afford. And Montgomery County crews, now that their time has freed up, will be handling the first five.
"The county offered to come in and do the demo for us," Miller said. "They bring their own equipment and people and we provide asbestos-trained people from DPW (Department of Public Works)."
The city will also provide any supplies and materials needed for the demolitions.
The five homes are fire-damaged or collapsing homes that asbestos removal couldn't be done in, Miller explained, and include the home on Lower Minaville Street, the two on Guy Street, 48 Mechanic St., and 45 Greene St.
"It's usually the houses that are collapsing, falling in, roofs gone, neighbors complaining," Miller said.
It costs anywhere from $35,000 to $45,000 to demolish a home, he said, but bringing the county in for the first five will save the city about $15,000 to $20,000 per demolition.
"When the county does it, all we pay for is disposal costs and supplies."
The following five properties, including 253-255 Locust Ave., 2 Perkins St., 76 Forbes St., 134 Forbes St., and 12-12 1/2 High St., will be demolished by an outside contractor.
Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said she's happy to see the process moving forward.
The demolitions really started happening around five years ago, Thane said, and in that first year anywhere from 25 to 30 structures were brought down.
"We're trying to make it a priority to take down dangerous, dilapidated properties," Thane said, adding that some of those properties were from a horrendous fire on Mechanic Street.
"It was really terrible and water distribution didn't work, so there was not adequate water," she recalled. "That was a nightmare."
But, the mayor said, the city is making "tremendous progress."
Once the properties are demolished, Thane said she would like to see them soiled and seeded, with no rubble left.
Then it will be up in the air as far as what the lots become.
Miller said they more often become vacant lots, in some cases, where people might not necessarily want to build.
But Thane said she gets calls from neighbors requesting the properties, if city-owned, become parking lots, public gardens, and playgrounds, and some have even spoken about using the space for "urban forestry."
"Neighbors in the areas frequently identify alternative uses for the properties."
There is a property disposition procedure where people can offer to take over the property, and for the properties that are not owned by the city, though there are not many, Thane said the city tries to go after the property owner or insurance company to get reimbursed for the cost expended.
Often, however, those attempts are not successful, she added, as city personnel find the property owners or insurance companies aren't from the area.
The final piece of the demolition project will be the Esquire Novelty building, a $1 million demolition, Miller said.
The bids are due to the city on Thursday.
Thane said she's sad to see the building go because there was a developer interested in years past and it has such rich history, but there has been recent interest from another developer. She added that a large chunk of money is earmarked for the property through the Restore NY program, just as there is for the Chalmers site.
Miller said that with all the properties, the main thing is to get them down.
"They are dangerous situations. Kids can get in. They start to fall over onto other houses," Miller said. "They have to come down and that's the bottom line."