Land bank demolitions begin in city

Houses 42-48 Forbes St., Amsterdam were torn down Monday morning as part of The Capital Region Land Bank Community Revitalizing Initiative. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

Houses 42-48 Forbes St., Amsterdam were torn down Monday morning as part of The Capital Region Land Bank Community Revitalizing Initiative. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

AMSTERDAM — Representatives of the city of Amsterdam and the Capital Region Land Bank watched as three blighted homes at 42-48 Forbes St. were demolished on Monday by Bronze Contracting.

The demolition of those East End homes is part of the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative to revitalize homes within the Amsterdam and Schenectady communities.

“It’s another step in the right direction for Amsterdam,” said Mayor Michael Villa. “I had this circled as one of our priorities to get done as it’s been an eyesore in a very high traffic area.”

According to the New York state attorney general’s website, in 2011 Attorney General Eric Schneiderman passed the Land Bank Act designed to protect homeowners and neighborhoods in New York state and to transform vacant and abandoned homes into community assets. Schneiderman secured more than $30 million in grant funding for the Land Bank through settlements with the nation’s largest banks over misconduct that contributed to the housing crisis.

According to the Capital Region Land Bank website, it received $3 million in grant funding in 2014 towards demolition at sites including Schenectady, Rotterdam Junction and Amsterdam. It then received an additional $1.7 million in grant funding in 2016 to go towards additional demolition in the Mont Pleasant neighborhood in Schenectady and in the East End in Amsterdam. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said approximately $60,000 went toward the demolition of 42-48 Forbes St.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, left, Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa, and Chairman of Capital Region Landbank Richard Ruzzo stand in front of the demolition of 42-48 Forbes St., Amsterdam on Monday. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, left, Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa, and Chairman of Capital Region Landbank Richard Ruzzo stand in front of the demolition of 42-48 Forbes St., Amsterdam on Monday. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

The Capital Region Land Bank was established in 2012 as one of the first land banks formed in New York state. Its goal is to revitalize blighted homes and strengthen neighborhoods within Schenectady and Amsterdam.

The three properties at 42-48 Forbes St. are just three out of nine homes in the East End of Amsterdam being demolished as part of the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative. The other properties include: 26 Jackson St.; 73 Forbes St.; 19 John St.; 33 John St.; 36 John St.; and 38 John St.

Santabarbara said the Capital Region Land Bank wants to make sure vacant and abandoned properties in Amsterdam and Schenectady are identified and removed or put in the hands of new homeowners who can revitalize the properties. He said he spoke to the fire department and police department which said the properties are fire hazards and attract crime. Santabarbara said the abandoned homes are also a burden to taxpayers to continue to maintain the properties during the winter.

“This is an ongoing effort across the city that we are removing the blight in the city of Amsterdam,” Santabarbara said. “The Land Bank initiative is revitalizing our communities and strengthening our neighborhoods. It is encouraging home-ownership, it’s bringing residents back in the city, it’s attracting new businesses and overall bringing strength to our community.”

Santabarbara said he does not know what the property will become, but there are investors interested in the shovel-ready site.

“It may be an affordable housing project, or it may be a business, or it may be sold off as individual plots for new homes,” Santabarbara said. “Those options exist, but the first step is getting rid of the abandoned property and once that’s happened, now the opportunity is there, now the value is there, and you can see the city can move forward and revitalize the entire neighborhood.”

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