Vacant buildings

Link to the list.

No-longer-vacant buildings

Link to the list.

Map: vacant buildings in Albany

The zoomed-out view distorts things a bit -- zoom into an area to get a better sense of the share of buildings that are vacant.

Map of the day: Here's a map of vacant properties in the city of Albany, drawn from a recent vacant building report published by the city.

The map is courtesy of Tim Varney, who put it together after taking a look at the report and concluding it was something less than user friendly. He passed it along to us today: "You guys seem to like this sort of thing." (Tim, you know us well.)

Tim also made a map of the "buildings no longer vacant" list from the report. Both maps are after the jump in large format. (We've also embedded the report post jump.)

The map is not all that surprising. It really highlights how much an issue vacant buildings are in the city and how acute the issue is for some neighborhoods. It's been a controversial topic -- both in measuring the scale of the problem, and about how it should be tackled. [TU]

There are currently 809 vacant buildings in Albany, according to the report from the city's Division of Buildings & Regulatory Compliance. It says that as many as a third of those buildings "may require demolition at some future point" because they're "upside-down" -- the cost to renovate is much higher than the expected return on the investment.

(Thanks, Tim.)

Large-format maps are embedded above -- click or scroll all the way up.

Albany Vacant Building Report September 14 2012


This is awesome! And proves that there are definitely more buildings they didn't/can't/don't want to include on their list. There's one specifically that multiple people over years have called up about around my corner (after talking to the neighborhood group) that is definitely not listed.

First, a thank you to Mr Varney. Nice work.

One thing this map shows is that there are very few vacant buildings in Hudson Park and Center Square. Both of these are historic districts.

Perhaps this might change the narrative that historic buildings are too expensive to rehab. Because the data proves otherwise. And people with knowledge of such, know better. And what it certainly might suggest is that the historic requirements make it less easy for slumlords to ruin neighborhoods and actually ADD value to a neighborhood.

The other thing this map indicates is that the issue is one of economics. While the city may want to argue that these buildings are "upside down" that isn't the real issue. The three communities that have the majority of the vacant buildings are the issue. West Hill, Arbor Hill and the South End. If you put those same buildings in Hudson Park, they would be purchased and renovated in no time. But no one wants to invest in West Hill. Take a walk around that neighborhood and it becomes clear why.

And the city's answer is to just wait for the buildings to rot so they can bulldoze them. It's worked so well for Detroit, why not try it here!

The reality is that there are huge economic problems in those neighborhoods and it would take tremendous effort to turn them around. And our Mayor prefers putting on Tulip Fests and talking about convention centers instead of doing work. You can't really blame him as the voters keep giving him four more years.

Can someone point out the city/county laws at work here, and what they use to define the buildings? It seems that we all know about buildings that are empty and rotting, but not be o the list because they don't meet the criteria. And, for those that meet the criteria, what action can a neighborhood group take to get hold of the buildings and get them into responsible hands?

Code Monkey is absolutely right. Well said.

"Take a walk around that neighborhood and it becomes clear why."


@ Mr. Slow Loris, to answer the why...because the City of Albany has largely disinvested itself from this section of the city (crumbling sidewalks, roads and faulty lighting) and those who own property do a really poor job of maintaining that property (instead, they serve as slumlords, who take advantage of the working poor who live in that neighborhood). It would take someone with a lot of money or some courage to invest in an area of the city that the City itself and current crop of slum owners refuse to invest in.


Well, first the obvious reason. There are a high number of vacant buildings. If you are in the business of rehabbing buildings, you aren't going to want to pour your time and money into a building that is on a block with several other vacant ones.

People will say, "well, why not just buy the other ones?" Often they aren't for sale so you can't. So, are you going to invest in a building when other people are letting their buildings fall down right next door? Not if you like making a return on your investment.

And then there is the complete lack of code enforcement. The city doesn't care about these neighborhoods. So say you are willing to put up with the other challenges and try to reclaim a block or two. You still face risks that aren't the same as other neighborhoods. A few years ago a family lost their home because the city had failed to turn off the water to a vacant building next door and the pipes burst and their home was flooded and ruined. Why deal with that?

And then there is the lack of businesses that appeal to tenants and owners. Laundromats, restaurants, grocery stores. These neighborhoods don't have them. Even the so called "student ghetto" does. But not these.

And then there is the violent crime. If there is a shooting in this city, odds are it is in one of these neighborhoods. And it won't take too many police calls before the one of the cops informs you that you are crazy to live in this neighborhood and that you should move.

So, you could invest there and face all of these challenges. Or you could invest in a building like the one on the front of the city's report (which I should note, has the wrong address on it, some more great work by the city!). That building is actually at 338 Washington Avenue. Close to the park, right near the big apartment rehab project up the block where they are dumping millions into high end apartments and in an area where you can walk to restaurants and there are laundromats relatively close by in both directions. And it is a block from the SUNY campus. Much less risk. Very few vacant buildings in the area. Other people investing. Much greater chance of return on investment.

One final thing. The current director of codes for the city has no relevant experience for the job and meets none of the requirements spelled out in the city charter for such a job. He is a lawyer. Who is politically connected.

If the city was serious about addressing this issue they would have hired someone with experience in dealing with a problem of this scale. They did not.

And if the head of buildings and codes were serious about his job, he might not have put out a report that had photos of their "success" on the front cover that had the wrong street address on them. He might be invested enough in the city and the buildings to look at the building in question and say, "that isn't on Madison Ave". But apparently there is no one in the buildings and codes department familiar enough with the city and its buildings to be able to catch that error.

I'll second what anonymous said...I'm also curious about the criteria for inclusion on the vacant building list just because of personal experience.

Several years ago, a family member died and I inherited the house. About four months after the person in question died, I got a letter informing me that the house was being placed on the vacant building list. Which was odd because I had just paid the taxes, all utilities were paid up-to-date and in use, assessors had been there to re-assess about three months before the death, and probate proceedings were well underway and moving smoothly. Not to mention, this had been MY address of record long before the death (I'd been living here for years, registered to vote from here, etc.). There was NOTHING to flag the property as even potentially vacant.

That said, a look through the current list is just so sad and frustrating. I love this area, but it is such a mess in so many ways. This just illustrates it.

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