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Troy, Schenectady Demolitions, Investigations

Composite Image by Dave Lucas (WAMC)

The U.S. Attorney's office is looking into some building demolitions that took place in Troy back in 2013, while demolition experts in Schenectady have begun the slow process of taking down apartment buildings gutted in a March 6 fire.

About two years ago the city of Troy ordered the emergency demolition of four buildings along King Street. The directive was given when then-city engineer Russ Reeves was out-of-town.

Troy’s fire chief went on record saying the property, owned by local attorney, Don Boyajian, was a hazard to public safety. Boyajian picked up the demolition tab.  A council member accused the city of deliberately waiting for Reeves to leave so an emergency demolition could be conducted that would avoid the extra expense of asbestos abatement. There were many rumors and other tales surrounding demolition of 4-10 King Street, the King Fuels Site and three other buildings.

The city council held hearings looking into the matter.  Now, all nine councilmembers and Mayor Lou Rosamilia's administration have been subpoenaed.    District 1 councilman Jim Gordon:     "The city council as a body was served with a subpoena to provide any information that we may have, documents, emails, etc., in relation to the demolition of the King Street properties and several other properties in the city of Troy. The members themselves are not being compelled to testify. What's being subpoenaed are any documents that we might have."

Gordon says investigators are looking for records and transcripts relating to city business.    “The subpoena read there is a grand jury that’s empaneled that’s going to be presented information. So there’s something there. It’s not political, it’s not a witch hunt. We’ll just have to wait and see how things shake out.”

The Troy mayor’s office is not publicly commenting on the subpoenas. 

Across the river westward, the Schenectady demolition of the Jay Street buildings destroyed in a fire earlier this month has begun. Four bodies have been recovered from 104 Jay Street, and officials say there may be more inside buildings 100 and 102, which they haven't been able to get into yet, due to risk of collapse. Agents from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been participating in the investigation into how the fires started.

Jackson Demolition president Alexander Jackson tells Time Warner Cable News special equipment will carefully dismantle the buildings.     "They will be brought from the top down in a tier by tier, layer by layer plan. We don't want floors to collapse and swing down and push on those walls, we'd rather bite 'em apart in small pieces and deal with that."

The process should take about four weeks. If additional human remains are discovered, all work will stop so fire investigators can come in and carefully remove them.  Schenectady police tell WAMC there is "nothing new" in the investigation. The city building inspector was not available for comment.

So far, officials have confirmed that the fire killed four people, injured seven and left nearly 60 homeless.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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