Council considers land bank funding

Volunteers have removed 15 tons of debris from an abandoned house on Julia Street in Amsterdam as part of an effort to rehabilitate the structure and put it back on the tax rolls.

Bob Purtell, a member of the Amsterdam Land Bank Advisory Board and owner of Century 21 Purtell Realty attended Wednesday’s meeting of the Common Council’s Finance Committee to update members on the progress of the volunteer effort to clean up the house and the land surrounding it. The rehabilitation is under the auspices of the not-for-profit Land Reutilization Corporation of the Captial Region, of which the City of Amsterdam, City of Schenectady and County of Schenectady are members of.

In July 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law allowing the creation of 10 land banks, which would redevelop vacant, abandoned or tax-delinquent properties and restore them to productive use. Purtell asked the council for $60,000 in four equal installments to continue the rehabilitation program. The local money is in addition to grant money from the state.

Volunteers worked on a Saturday to remove the debris from the house, Purtell said. They will return this weekend to cut down vegetation and improve the appearance of the house and land, he said. The goal is to have the house ready to be put on the market by later this summer, he said.

Once the property is sold and is back on the tax rolls, any money generated in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam, Purtell said.

Referring to the possibility of additional grants from the State Attorney General’s office that are contingent on the level of local support, Mayor Ann Thane said, “This is an important year for us to invest in the land bank. The money from the award takes the impact off the taxpayers.”

The council plans to vote on the issue next Tuesday.

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.