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Schenectady: Jay Street Demolition Plans Fast-Tracked

American Red Cross

Plans to demolish two Schenectady buildings gutted by a March 6 fire are now in high gear.

Monday, Schenectady's corporation counsel disclosed the probe of the fire that destroyed two Jay Street apartment buildings had been officially declared a criminal investigation.  Searchers going through the rubble have found remains of at least four people to date. About 60 people were left homeless.

American Red Cross spokesperson Kimmy Venter:     "We were called to the scene the night of the fire and opened a shelter at Christ Church on State Street in Schenectady within just a couple of hours. Our shelter was up and running by 7 a.m. the morning that the fire started. For the next three nights, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, we had around 14 people actually sleeping in the shelter. Fortunately a number of the other residents who'd been displaced were able to stay with family and friends but were still able to come in to our shelter during the daytime to get meals and access additional assistance."

A week later, all of the survivors were on the path to regaining some degree of normalcy.     "We were able to work with all of the clients who had come to us for assistance to get them set up with appointments with the department of social services, and at that point some other community partners were also involved: Bethesda House and the Salvation Army in particular, to sort of get people moving forward on to the next step in their recovery."

The counsel's office denied Freedom of Information Law requests from local newspapers for code documents pertaining to the buildings, Mayor Gary McCarthy explaining code enforcement records had been subpoenaed by the Schenectady County district attorney's office, which declined to comment to WAMC, citing “an ongoing investigation.”

Then, stating the city wanted to expedite demolition of the burned out structures, McCarthy declared a state of emergency that 7:30 p.m. on March 16 through 12 p.m. on March 21.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Response Team has been on the scene gathering, cataloguing and photographing evidence.    ATF Spokesman Charles Mulham says the remains of several animals were also recovered and bagged at the scene.  Schenectady Police say the emergency was declared due to dangerous and unstable conditions:  the buildings are in danger of imminent collapse.

A police spokesman told WAMC contractors were scheduled to meet with city officials Tuesday afternoon and submit demolition bids. One contractor reportedly said he could have equipment on site by Wednesday morning.

Calls to City Building Inspector Eric Shilling were not returned.

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