Sprucing Up the City

GLOVERSVILLE – A local group is trying to improve the city’s neighborhoods.

The Gloversville Housing and Neighborhood Improvement Corp., a nonprofit group, was founded about a year and a half ago with the intention of enabling individuals and families to live in decent, safe, affordable housing in quality neighborhoods.

Earlier this month, the Fulton County Board of Supervisors gave the group a boost. The county gave five vacant parcels of property in the city to the corporation for $1 each. The properties are located at 131 E. Fulton St., 4 Phair St., 6 Phair St., 40 Burr St. and 12 Mill St.

Tim Mattice, the executive director and founder of the corporation, is a lifelong resident of the city and works as a city planner for Troy.

“It’s the first and only not-for-profit that’s dedicated to Gloversville housing,” Mattice said.

He said he started the corporation because he’s trying to help the city. Mattice said the city is facing housing challenges that it needs to overcome.

According to Mattice, more than 75 percent of the housing in the city was built before 1939, and he has seen little investment into city housing.

“We have a surplus of housing units, but those surplus of housing units are all sub-standard. They don’t meet the needs of the 21st century family.”

Mayor Dayton King said he trusts the intentions of the men and women in the corporation.

“I think it’s great,” he said.

The corporation requested a donation from the county supervisor for the vacant tax-foreclosed properties in the city to repair them for future development opportunities. The county agreed to sell them for $1 as part of a pilot project.

According to Mattice, the properties will be turned into “land banks.” The corporation will grate and seed the lots, establish a grassy area, install split rail fences and plant two evergreen trees on each of the lots.

The corporation will also try to work with neighbors to help develop the land.

The corporation previously turned a piece of land off Fremont Street into a community garden. The city leases the land for $1 per month. Currently, there are 30 homeowners who participate in the garden and can grow whatever produce they like in the garden. The garden is targeted toward people in the surrounding neighborhood, but anyone can secure a plot.

Mattice said the corporation may convert the vacant lots it is receiving into more community gardens if it can get the resources and volunteers.

According to Jon Stead, clerk of the Board of County Supervisors, the tax-foreclosed properties used to have buildings on them, but they were demolished as part of the county’s Green Scene Operation, all within the last two years.

“We tried unsuccessfully to auction off the properties,” King said.

Before they were demolished, the properties were brought to auction, but there was little interest from buyers, Stead said. According to Stead, the goal the corporation stated is similar to that of the county’s Green Scene Operation: to redevelop land.

Stead said it’s still early yet and depending how this first pilot project goes, the county may consider working with the corporation again.

According to Ward 1 County Supervisor Marie Born, the properties were in pretty bad shape. Now there’s a chance to make them look better, pick up the neighborhoods and possibly attract someone who wants to do more with the property.

“Anything we can do to improve our city, we have to try,” Born said. “Every little step helps.”

Work on the lots should start in late August, after the paperwork is filed and the titles are officially transferred to the corporation’s name, Mattice said. The complete cost of transferring and renovating the properties is between $8,000 and $10,000. That figure includes state transfer fees and property insurance. The corporation is waiting for funding from a local trust.

If the trust falls through, Mattice said, “one way or another we’ll secure the funding.”

According to King, the corporation is still in the beginning stages, but he’s hopeful that there will be more opportunities to work together.

“We’ll partner with anyone within our mission,” said Mattice.

The corporation has not started any projects related to housing. It has a $250,000 application pending for the 2013 New York State Affordable Home Ownership Development Program – Homeowner Housing Rehabilitation Grant. If it doesn’t receive the grant, it will submit the same application this September for 2014, according to Mattice.

Mattice said the corporation’s first step is their Gloversville Home Improvement Program, which will help local homeowners rehabilitate and improve their homes. Funding will come from the Homeowner Housing Rehabilitation Grant. Mattice said 30 homeowners have already filled out applications.

The second step is to acquire land for housing projects and try to get developers to build housing, Mattice said.

“That’s the idea through the land bank program,” said Mattice. “It’s a small piece of a larger, overarching strategy.”

Homeowners can get more information about the Gloversville Home Improvement Program by calling the Gloversville Housing & Neighborhood Improvement Corporation at 788-4765. People looking to volunteer or donate money can also call.