Knock Them Down Redux

Today’s Recorder editorial makes a case for more demolition to turning the city around (here). In fact, it seems like demolition is the strategy. I respectfully disagree.
First let me state that demolition is a tool not a strategy. There is no question that certain buildings are beyond repair and given current economics, they must be torn down. I have not seen any numbers but as a percentage of total housing stock, I believe it is is a very low figure. So the editorial basically is arguing, if I characterize it correctly, for a wider initiative of demolition in blighted areas.
Predictably this is a supply-sided only argument, it neither address nor encompasses any demand side arguments. At the end of this exercise with whole sweeps of green space in the city, I’m  still not sure why I would move to Amsterdam. What has changed in terms of livability in the city? The editorial posits that costs would be reduced and hence taxes lowered. I’m not convinced that an economic case exists in this approach. After all, the state of our current green space, our parks, is not ideal and would not the green spaces require maintenance and services on an ongoing basis?
Again  I’m not opposed to more green spaces; let’s get rid of our asphalt lots and make them green spaces. But green spaces need services and attention too. And let’s be honest that not all green spaces are created equal. A keen reminder will be a visit to the Kirk Douglas Park.
If you indeed think that demolition is a strategy, you must then address the following to execute said strategy:
– What is the funding stream to fund demolition? What are the total dollars required for this effort?
-Who decides and by what criteria the neighborhoods to be demolished? What is the socioeconomic criteria for your neighborhood to be demolished?
-How will the city compensate private property owners and will the city pursue eminent domain?
I could go on but it is clear that many difficulties lie with this strategy not the least of which is the economics. Or put another way, if we could easily get millions of dollars to tear things down why not get millions to restore largely historic properties? Well, you know what I could say but I’ll exercise some restraint here and let you fill in the spaces.
I’ll admit not only frustration but a sense of bewilderment at why issues get framed only as a supply-side issue and never consider any demand side policies. It seems we’ve tried this strategy with gusto before and it’s hardly succeeded. What makes it different now?
A pry bar and a wrecking ball cannot be the only tools in a turnaround. You need more tools than that. We need economic drivers to build things up not tear them down.

You may also like...

10 Responses

  1. Karin says:

    I agree wigh you about fixing up some of these old run down properties. Keep the better ones around, fix them up and let people buy them to live in them. How much green space does one city need? I think that too much green space will not only keep our taxes high, but, there will be more “hangouts” for troublemakers. Keep our beautiful old city alive, you can never build homes like this again. This is what Amsterdam is, an old city with old charm. Take pride in your neighborhoods and don’t allow them to be destroyed by absentee landlords and people who just don’t care. Also, we can make the old factories into something instead of destroying them. There is so much potential for our city. I say keep the wrecking ball to the side until we can come up with better ideas.

  2. straightshooter says:

    I believe there are a few different points to demolition in this city.
    #1 The newly formed county demolition team was formed with county workers, county employees and county funding late last year. 7 dilapidated homes have been torn down since the creation of this team. The team was formed after meeting with Fulton County in modeling their successful demo team in Fulton County. Fulton County’s first year in demolition they took down 2 homes. We have started out of the gate more quickly than they did.
    #2 The average 2 family home has an estimated 100 tons of debris and with estimated asbestos costs, would cost the city around $30,000 to demolish with a private contractor. The homes torn down by the county demo team were taken down for around $12,000 a home, thereby saving taxpayer money more than 50% in demo cost.
    #3 Green space is better than dilapidated properties that cause neighbors to become lazy in their own upkeep of homes. They figure well the city isn’t keeping up their property, why should I? The new green space can be sold to adjacent property owners. Also the tax benefits can be taken advantage of by those looking to build a home. They can build a new home on this new green space and pay -50% in city and school taxes for 5 years with an increasing 10% over the next 5 years. They would have received a benefit on county taxes as well, but last year during the vote Supervisor Dybas from the 4th ward voted no to this tax exemption causing a split in city support and ultimately causing the vote to fail by 1 vote.
    #4 With decreasing populations and little private industry support, it is hard for us to expect the city to pay to fix up homes. Nobody is buying these homes for a reason. The city lists over 80 properties which are in deplorable condition. The faster we can take these down the better. A clean city with lower taxes is what is needed to attract people and jobs to locate here.

  3. Michael Lazorro says:

    The marketing and promotion of the city would address the demand side of the problem. Unfortunately, we can’t do that until all of our problems are already solved.

  4. straightshooter says:

    The right points have to be in place to market this city. We need a cleaner city with less dilapidated homes and lower taxes.

  5. straightshooter says:

    There are a few candidates who are pushing these points right now. I think they have the right agenda and are on the right track.

  6. Karin says:

    I think that what this city needs, is some kind of draw to bring people (visitors) here. Perhaps a sports arena that can also house concerts, conventions and trade shows. Put it in the downtown area somewhere. This will then attract smaller businesses such as restaurants, nightclubs, coffee houses and specialty shops to come in. This in turn will create jobs, tourism and even homebuyers. We have to have a foundation to attract people to this city and it needs to be one that can blossom into bigger and better things. With this, the train station can be brought back into the downtown area so that people can utilize it to attend this venue. Imagine how great this could be for our city. All the major cities that surround us have a draw: Albany – The Times Union Center, Schenectady – Proctors Theatre, Saratoga – a Convention Center & the racetrack.

  7. straightshooter says:

    Karin I very much agree with you. You are completely on track. I think before we can do that, we need lower taxes and a clean city to entice such business to come here.

    • Michael Lazorro says:

      How do you do what you suggest? The need is obvious. What is the solution?

      • Karin says:

        We clean up the city one neighborhood at a time. If we can do this, it will be more appealing to visiting people who may be interested in buying a home here. The more homeowners, the less in taxes we should have to pay. With homeowners, maybe there will be more small business started. We already have a nice breakfast diner, hair salon, and dress shop, but the downtown area could use a news stand, a nice bakery, a coffee house, a lounge or two, a movie theatre, and quaint specialty shops. If the building owners could keep the rents low enough, people will bring small businesses in.

  8. Karin says:

    There is talk around town of another big city wide(?) clean up for this October. The more people take part in these types of community events, the better our city will be. It can only be a good thing for everyone.

Leave a Reply