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February 16, 2008


This is the post I was asked to take down from the Democracy In Albany site by Historic Albany. I present it here, slightly edited so that I do not incriminate anybody who doesn't want to be named.

A special note to City of Albany officials: If this post makes you angry or have fits, please do not take it out on the staff of Historic Albany. I posted this on my own without their consent. If you want to go bananas, take it out on me. It is my sole responsibility. Thank you.

Demolition City: 402 Madison
By Dan Van Riper, Section Diaries
Posted on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 04:04:12 PM EST

I found out about a disgusting bit of governmental corruption this morning [Deleted]

There's a small, peaked roof wooden frame building at 402 Madison Avenue in Albany, which is below Lark St. It's an occupied single family house built in 1845. This is the sort of historic structure that makes Albany special, the source of our particular sort of pride in our community.

On October 24th of last year, the City of Albany issued a report that the building had been inspected and found to have structural problems that need to be repaired. Except for one problem. They didn't bother to tell anybody about the report. Not the owner, the neighbors, Historic Albany, nobody. It was kept secret.

A few days ago, the City issued an abatement order. The owner of 402 Madison has ten days to find an architect and fix the problem, or at the end of ten days the building will be torn down.
Yes, you read that right.


Wait, it gets better. [Deleted] it would cost between 10 to 20 thousand dollars to stabilize the building. But the cost of demolition would be at least $20,000, more if they do all the safety precautions that they never bother with.

There's only one reasonable explanation for this evil bull crap. City Hall must have a commitment to throw steady demolition business to DiTonno and Sons. The Mayor must have signed a contract, or made a backroom deal. Thus the Fire Department has to cruise the streets looking for likely buildings that can fulfill the demo deal.

The money for demolition comes out of the City's general fund. But if you ask The Mayor or Forrezzi, there's no money available for stabilization.

Bastards. Filthy, putrid bastards.

Demolition City: 402 Madison | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)

Something's missing. (none / 0) (#1)
by AlfredMoisiu on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 05:48:26 PM EST
I drive by that house all of the time -- it sagging and looks like its sinking... support posts for the porch have fallen off in the last couple of weeks.
I also doubt that the owner knew nothing. Why would the Fire Department randomly do a secret inspection of a building? I just doesn't add up.
That house was for sale recently... maybe something turned up in a structural inspection?
I'd like to see a building like this preserved... but I'd also like to hear the whole story.

Dan (none / 0) (#2)
by alfrednewman on Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 09:03:16 PM EST
I looked at buying 402 Madison Avenue about 10 or so years ago and did a walk through of the property then.
The entire structure was bad. The first floor was wood on dirt, the sill plates were punked out, the foundation- if there ever was one- is gone and the left hand wall had this two plus foot bow in it. The second floor was unstable. When I tried to look upstairs the whole building felt like it was moving and there were snapping noises.
The electrical was a nightmare, the heating system looked like something out of a bad depression era movie.
And yes, the building was occupied then as well.
10 to 20 thousand to stabilize that building?
That would be a complete waste of resources. You can spend 20 thousand keeping the building standing uo long enough for the rest of the building to fall in on itself.
Sure, the building is old. So what? Being old doesnt mean that it should be saved. The only real question is why did it take the city so long to realize that this was an unstable fire trap.
The realtor had listed the property as "Could be historic???" Sure its old. Its historic. Its a dump.
"What? Me worry? " ""

sometimes (none / 0) (#3)
by hailstorm on Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 06:39:02 AM EST
sometimes you just have to know when to let go. as another poster here has described, this building is an absolute hazard. it may be unique, but it's still a hazard. when i first moved here it looked like it was about to collapse upon itself. since then, it has only gotten worse.
this house looks like it was duct-taped and stapled together from scraps of other houses, and apparently the inside isn't in any better shape. i just don't see what can be done with a house in the condition that 402 madison is in. aside from replacing every wall, beam, and plank piece by piece. at which point you have a brand new house.
so what's worse?
a.) letting this building sit abandoned for another 3 decades, because if nobody has saved it yet, they won't now.
b.) putting it out of its misery once and for all, possibly saving the buildings next to it, and increasing the property values and desirability of the neighborhood.

Look, Folks... (none / 0) (#4)
by Dan Van Riper on Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 06:43:36 AM EST

Any building can be saved if there is a will to do so. Back in the 1980s I used to work for contractors in town. Some of the buildings I worked on were incredible. I remember standing on top of one wooden framed building that swayed in the wind. Yes, we completed that one.
As for brick buildings with bulging walls, I lived on Hudson Avenue below Dove in the 1970s, when half the buildings on that block were vacant. I watched masons rebuild bulging walls in place, I was fascinated by the technique.
But of course, there was State and Federal money easily available for such work. Funny thing, though, there's lots of money available to create empty lots, and there's fabulous amounts of money available to build crap like the Convention Center.
Enough with this "Oh dear, we can't fix our buildings. They're so old and icky!" If you want to live in a parking lot, move to Colonie.

null (none / 0) (#5)
by hailstorm on Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 07:31:21 AM EST
i know you can do anything if you have the time, money, and will to do so.
but my point is that there are few that do. and as a result, the reality is, nobody is going to buy and fix this building or others like it. it's going to continue to sit there and rot and deteriorate for years until it collapses on its own.
there are simply more abandoned buildings in this city than there are people willing to (and capable of) fixing them up. it's like running around putting out fires. you have to pick and chose. find the ones that can be saved and save them. at some point you have to accept that not every building can realistically be saved. it's just not feasible.
i look at it this way. would you rather have:
a.) a block of abandoned homes rotting away in hopes that some miracle investor will someday swoop in and "save them"? meanwhile while property values drop, crime rises, and people buy homes elsewhere.
b.) a block of homes, where 1 out of 4 is torn down and made into a parking lot for the people that live in the other 3? the remaining homes are fixed up, people want to live there, and their worries about parking are no longer an obstacle.
have you seen "the pastures" downtown between green and s. pearl (that's rhetorical, i know you have). sure, it doesn't look like it did 150 years ago, but i think that neighborhood has plenty of charm, isn't full of abandoned homes, and has plenty of parking for everyone.
the reality, like it or not, is that albany is not a fully walkable city. the public transportation sucks and is used only out of neccessity, not because it's efficient or reliable. it's the 21st century and people aren't giving up their cars, and they won't until they have to. a city has to adapt or it dies (or rots).
if people were concerned above preserving each and every structure back in 1850, then we wouldn't have the housing stock we have now, we'd have barns and farmhouses on delaware avenue, instead of apartments, shops, and restaurants.
so to reiterate my original point, sure we CAN fix anything and everything. but who's going to do it, who's going to pay for it, and when is it going to happen?
are you going to do it?


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