The razed buildings on South Pearl Street were ‘actively collapsing’

ALBANY — Buildings on South Pearl Street were torn down Thursday in an emergency demolition by the city’s building department.

Two buildings, 397 and 399 S. Pearl St., were demolished while the rear of 395 S. Pearl St. was partially dismantled.

The three buildings, which had stood empty and deemed unsafe for at least six years, possibly more than a decade, were “actively collapsing” when the fire department carried out its regular inspections of vacant buildings and called for the demolition of emergency, said building department manager Richard LaJoy.

LaJoy said the three building owners are currently facing lawsuits for their “failure to maintain” their properties and “a host of (building code) violations.”

“In the most recent breaches where we asked engineers to rate buildings, how badly they would describe the faults, and then the owner would have been forced to fix one of those faults, we never received the reports,” he said.

The Times Union attempted to contact the owners of the building for comment, but could not reach them.

LaJoy said the city can’t ignore the situation. He and other ministry officials were at the site until about 10 p.m. Thursday until the demolition was completed.

Amid the demolition on Thursday, he said one of the building’s owners showed up.

It wasn’t the previous owner he was corresponding with, but rather a new owner who said he had purchased the building and intended to turn it into commercial space for a business. LaJoy was not fully aware that the previous owner had sold the building and said it “infuriated” him that the previous owner sold it to someone who knew it was a ” problem”.

“It was very, very unfortunate,” he said.

Now that the buildings are gone, the city will remove the debris, backfill the land and charge the owners. LaJoy said the total demolition cost was approximately $114,000. He does not expect homeowners to pay for the demolition and expects it to be deducted from their tax bills while the city pays the bill and is then reimbursed by the county.

“They will go ahead with the foreclosure process if the owners don’t pay the bill,” he noted.

LaJoy said the building department did its part by handing out citations and fines and taking homeowners to court to make sure they were held accountable. He had been communicating with the owners of the building for some time, but said there had been no resolutions in court or otherwise.

“It’s up to the courts to hold these people accountable and force them to maintain or sell the buildings if necessary, but they need to be in the hands of responsible people,” he said.