Ante up, Albany building owners
Our opinion: An Albany council member wants to require more from the owners of abandoned buildings. It’s too easy to buy property and let it deteriorate further.
Published on 8/12/2011 by the Times Union written by by TU Editorial Board
Now here’s what Albany can do to really get the long-festering menace of abandoned and deteriorating buildings under control. The city can require the owners of such structures to make an unprecedented investment in keeping them from becoming a further imposition. And it can help protect itself from the high costs of frequent stabilization and demolitions.
It’s clear by now that Mayor Jerry Jennings’ establishment of a vacant buildings registry three years ago, and its modest fines for not registering, wasn’t enough.
But zero tolerance, as the mayor proclaimed? Hardly.
The toughest assault yet in the battle against dilapidated buildings and the people who own them, and even try to profit from them, comes instead from Common Council Member Dominick Calsolaro.
He wants to make owners put some real money on the table if they’re going to hold on to buildings that are at such risk of becoming, in time, an even bigger menace.
Mr. Calsolaro wants to require the owners of the nearly 1,000 vacant buildings across Albany to post a minimum $10,000 bond to help cover the costs of a potential demolition. And he has four council allies already.
Perhaps the problem that neglected buildings pose for an aging city can’t be solved entirely by government. There are limits to what can be done by City Hall.
Imagine Albany, however, with a law on the books similar to one on the verge of passage in Springfield, Mass. Other cities, including New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, also have regulations aimed at stabilization.
People couldn’t simply buy or hold on to abandoned or vacant buildings with the ease they can now. Requiring a bond — the worse shape the building is in, the higher the amount — would help weed out problem owners. Anyone buying a building ought to be able to at least come up with the cost of stabilizing it.
Just consider the sad tale of Trinity Church in the South End, which collapsed last month. Its latest owner, Amanda Indarpaul of the Bronx, bought it for just $500, with a vague and unfulfilled promise to spend $30,000 fixing up a historic structure in need of much more than that in repairs. Now the city will be lucky to recover even a portion of the $141,000 it’s charging Ms. Indarpaul for the demolition of the former church.
Such property is too inviting, especially to the wrong people, under current laws. Speculators in particular can buy abandoned buildings at foreclosure auctions and resell them without making any further investment in them.
“We need to put more pressure on the owners. We need to keep speculators away,” says Mr. Calsolaro.
The law he’s pushing can’t come quickly enough. Here’s hoping passage comes before the next building collapses in Albany.