Utica has been chasing after its abandoned and run down building problem for decades. Now, as our Andrew Sorensen reports, some groups in the city are working on a way to turn their demolition into cold hard cash.
UTICA, N.Y.-- Gene Allen works for Utica's Urban Renewal Agency, taking abandoned and foreclosed properties and getting them back onto the city's tax rolls.
"But periodically, we run across one which, unfortunately, is just beyond the scope of somebody doing renovations to it," Urban Renewal Agency Marketing Director Gene Allen said.
Next month, the agency and a coalition of other groups are presenting legislation to the city to make money from these heaps by cutting them up for scraps.
So what makes a good candidate for this profitable enterprise? Officials say they're actually looking at buildings that are in the worst shape they could possibly be in. The candidates are in such bad shape many are caving in, but it costs the city a small fortune to demolish and dispose of these buildings.
"If you deconstruct the building, on the other hand, you are cutting on the weight that you're putting into the landfill, plus the materials that you are recovering from the building are being reused in other areas," Allen said.
You can even sell them.
"In addition to some of the standard materials, you have some of the architectural features that you can get out of the building too, such as staircases, handrails, moldings," he added.
But the Common Council isn't sold on the idea yet.
"It's a great idea to save on demolitions," Common Council Majority Leader Frank Meola said. "It's a great idea to recycle building materials, but there are some state constraints that we're worried about."
Like if asbestos will be an issue, or what the liability is for crews working in an unsound structure.
The coalition says they have spoken with deconstruction companies who have done it before without issues.
"We have a real opportunity here for helping ourselves environmentally, and a significant potential for creating jobs in a new industry," said Sam Russo, a volunteer with Genesis Group, another partner in the legislation.
If the deconstruction bill is approved, the scrap materials could be used for Municipal Housing Authority projects or sold to the public at discounted prices.
Deconstruction advocates plan to take Common Council members on a tour of some of their candidate buildings with a deconstruction professional before they present the legislation later this month.