NOTE: This post has been updated 7/8/2017
After a controversial plan to turn an abandoned hospital in Troy over to a housing developer failed to clear the city council in June, the city took steps Thursday night to secure the building and borrow money for its demolition.
Last month, Troy’s city council could not come to an agreement over a plan to turn over the dilapidated former Leonard Hospital over to developer The Community Builders.
The Community Builders had proposed building a mixed-income housing development on the Lansingburgh site but the plan faced objections from neighbors. The city council deadlocked 4 to 4 with one abstention.
So the city administration worked in recent days to come up with a new plan: secure the site and then bond $2.5 million to demolish and abate the property.
Mayor Patrick Madden, a Democrat, says the plan is to make the lot marketable to developers.
“The building itself has been abandoned for years and it’s an attractive nuisance, and people have trespassed and gotten hurt, and the city is liable to some degree for that. So it’s imperative that we do something to do that building. We can secure it and that’s only so good. The real solution is to remove the building,” said Madden.
The city voted Thursday 7 to 2 to spend $162,000 to secure the site, including a fence around the property.
Councilman Mark McGrath, a Republican still frustrated over the previous impasse to turn the keys over to a developer, voted against the security funding. He also voted against the resolution to borrow $2.5 million to demolish the property.
“I don’t know what to say. I personally feel it was a disgrace. The reasoning behind it, I thought it was atrocious. People can’t deny it. They can make excuses, but they can’t deny it,” said McGrath. “So, again, it’s on principle. I am not going to have the people in my district or the other districts in the City of Troy swallow this tax increase because of the failure of this city council. I’m not gonna do it, OK?”
Democratic Councilman Bob Doherty praised the administration for coming up with the new plan and also spoke to McGrath.
“I’m hoping this bonding will let the administration move forward and continue to make progress. I admire your consistency in doing that, and I support it fully. And I recognize your frustration and your passion, and it’s well founded,” said Doherty.
The bonding resolution was approved 7 to 2. Republican City Council President Carmella Mantello joined McGrath in voting against the measure.
Mantello said she did not take issue with the bonding, but with the timeline.
The administration’s plan is to wait until February to bond the site, one reason being to give the city more time to leverage additional funding for the project.
Mantello would rather see it done sooner.
“We’re gonna wait eight months to apply for grants. It doesn’t make sense,” said Mantello. “But we’re gonna ask the taxpayers to pay the $160K to secure the site? I don’t believe that’s necessary. Let’s bond now, let’s demolish it immediately, go out with an RFP, market it properly, and I think the people of Lansingburgh will be pleased with that.”
Madden called the June impasse over The Community Builders’ housing proposal “unfortunate.”
“But that’s water under the bridge. It’s beyond us. We have to start from where we are now. We have to deal with what we’ve got in front of us,” said Madden.
The Troy City Council Thursday night also voted to bond about $1.3 million to finance various capital improvements and public safety projects, and to bond $8.1 million to finance the cost of reconstructing a portion of the city’s sea wall along the Hudson River.
Correction issued 7/8/17: A previous version of this story identified Councilman Doherty as recusing himself on an earlier vote regarding the hospital property. This was incorrect, the council member to recuse himself was John Donohue.