Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Necessary Demolition

Demolition in the City of Troy is an interesting subject. When I was a City Council member, one of the criticisms of the previous administration is that they left dilapidated, burned out buildings stand for too long.

Personally, I believe in the broken windows theory of managing a city and its neighborhoods. If there is an issue in a neighborhood, no matter how small, even a broken window, it will fester and cause more problems. Early on in my administration, we made the point clear that we would not allow problematic, neglected structures to destroy the living areas of our residents. Our neighborhoods have put up with enough for far too long.

That point was driven home 9 days into 2004 when a series of houses were burned beyond repair and we had them taken down within 24 hours. In previous years they would be allowed to stand and send a negative message not only to Troy, but the surrounding area.

In recent years some people have taken the notion of historic preservation to feverish levels and made into a political issue by claiming we have some type of vendetta against old buildings. I take the historical integrity of this city very seriously, and do my best to maintain it to the degree that it does not compromise the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

That brings us to 229 4th Street.

In recent days e-mails have surfaced from local people whose only concern is preserving as many buildings as possible. I respect this position, though I do not respect the anger and falsehoods that seep through the thoughts of some of these comments. Some have called me "Demolition Harry," and accused my administration of simply wanting to tear down everything we can. A silly idea to say the least.

In the case of 229 4th Street, we asked the City Engineer to inspect the building last week and do all he could to stabilize the building, as it is a fairly noticeable structure in Little Italy. It turns out the building just cannot be saved, unless you wanted to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into it. And driving by the structure you would be surprised. It is the yellow building below.

Then you open the front door. These are not even the most indicting pictures.

For that you have to wander on to the back of the property.

A closer look at the front of the building shows that there is indeed a structural issue. At least for the owner next door.

Then the broken windows come into play. Who wants to live next to something like this?

Back in 2005, we sold this building to a private contractor that believed he could do the rehabilitation of the house. Despite sincere efforts, he could not, and now we are left with trying to remedy the situation.

I think the plan we have developed is a solid one. We will tear down this structure and rebuild the facade of the building to keep the historical integrity intact. We then plan on developing the site as some type of garden or pocket park that will be extremely beneficial to the redevelopment of Little Italy. It is a solid idea that any levelheaded person would at least be interested in hearing. Unfortunately, not everyone is levelheaded.

That is the plan for now. There are more stories remarkably similar to this one. Unfortunately the residents in this particular area have had to deal with this for too long already. When several members of City Hall reinspected the building again today, they asked several people in the area what they thought about the structure. Several said it would be an unfortunate loss, but understood something had to be done. The overwhelming majority however, including all seven of the people asked that live or do business in the direct vicinity of 229 Fourth Street, said to demolish it as soon as possible.

Demolition of old structures is an unfortunate result of years of neglect. Hopefully the programs we have recently instituted in the City, include the Code Compliance Grant Program and a zero tolerance approach to Code Enforcement will deter this from happening extensively in the future.

In the meantime, we will continue to do what the neighborhoods want. Remove the structures that cannot be saved, work to repair those that can.

If you have any thoughts on the subject, we would love to hear from you. Drop us a line at info@harry4troy.com