At a board meeting last week, the Troy Community Land Bank, a city-affiliated nonprofit, approved an agreement that would allow the demolition of several properties in the North Central neighborhood, including a decrepit, three-story brick building long cordoned off by public works department barricades.
Under what was described as a “codevelopment agreement” between the city and the land bank, the city, through a contractor, will demolish four properties the land bank owns or will soon own, including 69 Rensselaer St., which the land bank’s previous director, Joe Fama, once said was “spitting bricks.”
“Bricks are falling out of this building,” Fama said at the land bank’s February 2017 board meeting. Children en route to nearby School 2 “have to walk in the street” when they pass the vacant structure, Fama said.
“That building is a detriment to an entire neighborhood,” city councilman Mark McGrath, who had asked the land bank to possibly intervene, told The Alt.
Christine Nealon, director of the Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, a nonprofit that controls a large number of rental units in the area, echoed McGrath’s sentiment. “We are happy some resolution will come to this so the community can begin to imagine what will take its place,” she said in an email.
The land bank will reimburse the city for the demolition of 69 Rensselaer and 3235 Seventh Ave. The city will pay for the demolition of 879 and 881 River St., both of which are part of the land bank’s plan for the transit-oriented redevelopment of four contiguous parcels. (That plan, incidentally, has hit a snag: The lone privately owned parcel in the mix, 871 River, is entangled in a bankruptcy proceeding that has forestalled a looming tax foreclosure. The land bank often bids on city-owned properties.)
The land bank sometimes relies on the city to handle demolitions because the latter can obtain more favorable prices by buying in bulk. On average, the land bank has paid between $22,000 and $35,000 per demolition, which is “really low,” Chris Brown, the nonprofit’s director of operations, said at last week’s meeting.
Notwithstanding this apparent win-win arrangement, the relationship between the city and the land bank—which exists to encourage the redevelopment of properties that might otherwise languish, dragging down home values—does not appear to be frictionless. For one, it’s unclear how quickly the demolitions will take place, a topic discussed by the land bank board last week.
The codevelopment agreement is partly intended “to tighten up on the city reporting to us,” the land bank’s attorney, Catherine Hedgeman, explained, “and getting the work done on time and [getting] the financial receipts and the project synopsis to us so that we can report to Enterprise [Community Partners],” which oversees the land bank’s use of state funds.
The land bank’s current director, Tony Tozzi, said his impression was that the city wanted to “move pretty quickly” on the demolitions, but the board nevertheless discussed the possibility of delays. Further deterioration of the properties, in the meantime, could lead to an emergency declaration, which, in turn, might mean a heftier demolition price tag.
The city council will need to approve the new agreement at its July 12 meeting before the demolitions go out to bid, a mayoral spokesman told The Alt.
This story has been updated with a response from the mayor’s office.