Growing role for Albany County Land Bank

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From left to right: Watervliet Mayor Michael Manning, Albany County Legislature Chairman Sean Ward, Albany County Land Bank Board Chairman Charles Touhey, Legislature Majority Leader Frank Commisso, Land Bank Executive Director Adam Zaranko, Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy and Albany County Clerk Bruce Hidley.  

Plaudits pouring in for budding Albany County Land Bank 

ALBANY (Nov. 16, 2016) – The Albany County Land Bank is emerging as a statewide leader in acquiring, improving and selling abandoned properties.

Launched by the Albany County Legislature and County Executive Daniel P. McCoy, the Albany County Land Bank combats blighted – or “zombie” – properties by acquiring them for repairs and private sales. In two years, the non-profit corporation has obtained more than 250 tax-delinquent properties, sold dozens, and made improvements to more than 100, making it the second largest land bank in New York as measured by acquisitions and fourth largest in dispositions, Executive Director Adam Zaranko said.

On Tuesday, Albany County Legislature Chairman Sean Ward and Majority Leader Frank Commisso joined McCoy and others in The Watervliet Dome to deliver a $500,000 check to Zaranko. The funding brought the county’s total commitment to the Land Bank to $1.5 million, not counting the $250,000 dedicated in next year’s county budget.

Later Tuesday, at a meeting of the Land Bank, board members shared a note written by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to Chairman Sean Ward, congratulating Albany County on its “tremendous success of the Albany County Land Bank.”

It was Schneiderman who previously supplied the Land Bank with $2.88 million in start-up money obtained through a settlement with big banks. This month, Schneiderman announced he would dedicate $20 million more to land banks in the state. “I look forward to continuing to partner with committed leaders like you and organizations like the Albany County Land Bank, as we assist communities rebuilding in the wake of the housing crisis,” the attorney general told Ward.

County leaders went to Watervliet Tuesday for the check presentation and to thank Land Bank employees for their help in stabilizing neighborhoods. The Land Bank is acquiring properties in all of the county’s 19 municipalities for the first time this year, bringing its work to urban and suburban locations throughout the county.

“We are now all over Albany County,” Frank Commisso said. “And we continue to grow.”

The Legislature authorizes property transfers to the Land Bank, which works to improve the buildings and lots. Buyers are required to demonstrate they can return properties to productive use. “This is something we haven’t had before,” Ward said. “Now, we have a mechanism to get the properties back on the tax rolls and into the communities.”

The Land Bank has acquired nine properties in Watervliet. It’s led efforts to clean out, stabilize and demolish buildings. It has sold one of the properties, and pending offers on two. On Tuesday, the Land Bank announced its latest renewal project: A full rehabilitation of a vacant, single-family residence at 1216 Fourth Ave., Watervliet. “We’re very excited to have the Land Bank gearing up the way it is,” Watervliet Mayor Michael Manning said.

The Land Bank has acquired more than 30 properties in Cohoes over the last several months, and initiated multiple improvements. It has closed, or is in the process of closing, on eight sales in the city. A recently announced project involves demolishing an unoccupied structure at 330 Ontario St., to make room for a 72-unit, planned mixed-use development called the Mosaic Village.

Cohoes Mayor Shawn M. Morse called the Land Bank one of the great tools available for fighting neighborhood decay and creating economic development opportunities.

The City of Albany still accounts for 82 percent of the Land Bank’s acquisitions, with the greatest prevalence of its property around the Sheridan Hollow, West Hill, Arbor Hill and South End neighborhoods. In the Land Bank’s first year, properties in the City of Albany accounted for 98 percent of the organization’s land assets. Some 28 Land Bank properties in the City of Albany are included in the ongoing Breathing Lights display, an arts project initiative funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge that is designed to create awareness of vacant buildings.

In a September 2016 report to the Legislature, Zaranko reported the Land Bank had acquired a total of 259 abandoned or tax-delinquent properties, sold 30, and had another 13 dispositions pending. The Land Bank generated $512,300 in sales, and stands to make an additional $67,750 on the pending ones.

The Land Bank is moving its office from 200 Henry Johnson Boulevard to 69 State St., Albany, effective Dec. 1. It is always searching for additional funding opportunities and donations. Its telephone number will remain (518) 407-0309.

 

Communications director for the Albany County Legislature

Dennis.Yusko@albanycounty.com

Phone: 518-447-5527; Cell: 518-330-7544; Twitter: @DemMajority

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