Albany gives Central Warehouse owner deadline for repairs

2022-08-02 18:25:10 By : Mr. service Chen

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ALBANY — The city gave Central Warehouse owner Evan Blum 10 days to make some of the necessary repairs to the crumbling building at 143 Montgomery St.

The city is still working inside the building to make emergency repairs to keep the façade on the southern side of the building from possibly collapsing onto the Amtrak rail lines that run adjacent to the property. Fear of falling debris prompted Amtrak to suspend train travel from Friday to Monday.

The city declared a state of emergency on Friday due to falling pieces of concrete from the side of the building. That work will be completed as early as the end of this week.

In the meantime, the city is pushing Blum to do further work, Mayor Kathy Sheehan said during a news conference Tuesday in front of the 11-story warehouse.

Sheehan called Blum’s past refusal to make repairs demolition by neglect.

“He has been cited multiple times,” she said. “He has been made well aware of what needs to happen to this building. And yet he has not done so.”

Rick LaJoy, the director of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance, said the city has already taken care of much of what Blum would need to do to meet the Monday deadline the city gave him in the citation it sent him last week.

The city also wants Blum to get a full assessment of the building's condition, secure all windows and entrances, remove garbage and material from inside the warehouse and remove all graffiti. Blum will likely receive an extension on next week's deadline to complete those steps, LaJoy said.

"A majority of these violations are the same violations he’s been cited for on different occasions," he said. "Not even one piece of plywood has entered that building to board up the windows."

Sheehan said the city is considering its legal options against Blum, who is already suing Albany County for attempting to seize the building last year for unpaid taxes.

The emergency repairs have already cost the city over $100,000. The city plans to bill Blum for the work. Blum already owes more than $500,000 in property taxes and Albany County has tried to foreclose to steer the site to two local developers.

Amtrak suspended service after falling chunks of concrete and a structural engineering report warned of imminent collapse.

The service was restored Monday afternoon after city employees and contractors worked throughout the weekend to remove the loose masonry from the building's southern façade.

The city will continue to remove other areas of loose masonry from the other three walls.

Meanwhile, Blum showed no signs that he intended to make the repairs that the city says it has been asking of him for years.

Blum, a New York City-based antiques dealer, said Monday evening that he learned of the problem Friday evening and arrived in Albany early Saturday morning.

He asked to inspect the building with his own engineers and was told he couldn’t, he said.

At that point, the city had declared a state of emergency because the building posed a public safety hazard.

Blum, who has owned the building since 2017, said he believed the city used photos of loose concrete that had fallen off the building years ago as an excuse to make him look bad and further the county’s case to seize his property.

But city officials said they have repeatedly told him in the past few years he needs to weatherproof the building, or it will deteriorate even further.

Both city officials and a Times Union photographer witnessed falling pieces of masonry from the building over the past few days. It’s unclear what it will take to fully rehabilitate the building or the cost if it needs to be demolished.

The report the city received last week after learning masonry was falling near the Amtrak lines paints a dire picture.

The building’s façade is pulling away and its parapet wall is crumbling, especially on the south side of the building above the Amtrak lines. Inside, the building’s upper floors are precarious and staircases are in danger of partial collapse, the report says.

Sheehan said the city has heard multiple estimates for what it would take to tear down the former cold storage building, with one estimate as high as $20 million.

The building is filled with asbestos, which would need to be remediated before any demolition would begin, she said.

Meanwhile, Albany County is fighting a federal civil rights lawsuit Blum filed last month, his fourth attempt to use the legal system to hang on to his property.

If the county is successful and Blum runs out of legal options or decides to end his fight for the building, it plans to transfer the property to two development companies in exchange for $50,000. The deal would also wipe out over $550,000 in back taxes.

In a brief interview Monday, Jeff Buell, who wants to redevelop the building in partnership with Columbia Development, gave no indication his plans had changed.

Steve covers the city and county of Albany for the Times Union. He previously covered police, fire and accidents as the paper's breaking news reporter. Reach him at or 518-454-5438.