Business owners, politicians weigh in on Jay Street redevelopment

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Six months have passed since the blaze erupted in downtown Schenectady that consumed two buildings, but Mayor McCarthy says that residents will have to wait awhile longer for redevelopment to begin.

The fire was responsible for leaving 60 residents in downtown Schenectady homeless and killing four.

Officials quickly deemed that the buildings at 100 and 104 Jay Street were unsafe.  They were demolished in the weeks that followed.

More than seven small businesses in the area were affected.

The owner of Esmeralda Jewelers, Benjamin Morales, describes how he lost everything with those fires.  “I was in shock,” says Morales.  “I think I would never come back as a business, because I lost everything.”

Although the building wasn’t consumed by the fire, investigators told him that the building was not stable.

Morales says he never got the chance to go back in and retrieve his jewelry or his money. “”I don’t have insurance. I don’t have anything,” he says.

Jim Salengo, the executive director of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corps (DSIC) tells us that most of the businesses received at least $5,000 from fundraisers for reconstruction efforts.

“Most of them got $5,000 payment upfront from the fundraising efforts,” says Salengo. ”Then the businesses that have been closed for an extended period of time and either had to move or completely renovate their space were eligible for a second round of funding.”

Morales says that he received $10,000.  He used that money to move his store down the road to the Jay Street market. The father of his grandson stepped in and helped him renovate the new store that opened August 1.

Nathan Schulenburg help to rebuild Esmeralda Jewelers with Morales.  Schulenburg says, “It’s coming along. You know little by little. And hopefully it’ll be very busy eventually where I can’t handle it on my own.”

The mayor explains that the reason why we haven’t seen any new construction is largely because the sites in question are privately owned. “At this point the city does not have site control of both of those lots,” says Mayor McCarthy.

“There are lawsuits that are pending, but over the course of the next year we expect those to be resolved,” McCarthy continued to say.

He says that once this happens, the city will be able to move ahead with the long-term redevelopment of the property.

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