This weekend, about 150 men living at the YMCA in downtown Schenectady, New York are taking their few belongings to a new home across town
The move represents a big change in their lives, and for lower State Street, where a four-story building that has been part of the Y since 1928 will become available for redevelopment.
The Y fills a prominent space at 13 State St., its red-brick and white-columned facade a familiar sight on the busy street, kitty-corner from Schenectady County Community College.
The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority will soon take ownership of the property and market it for new uses. Possibilities include housing, office space for start-up firms, or a combination of both.
“Anyone who is going to be developing this building is going to have to use historic tax credits and innovative financing,” Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said. “That’s one of the reasons that Metroplex exists.”
The taxpayer-financed Metroplex, working with private developers, has invested tens of millions of dollars improving downtown over the past decade. Its focus now is on lower State Street.
The Y closed the gym and moved in 2010 to a new branch several blocks away. Membership more than tripled at the new location.
The non-profit organization has been working for years to find a new home for indigent men, who live in one of 188 tiny rooms. They pay $180 to $400 a month, mostly with federal social security benefits. The conditions are tough in summer since there is no air conditioning.
The new men’s residence is in a former industrial plant at 845 Broadway. The building, owned by The Galesi Group, underwent a $30 million renovation and converted into 155 single-occupancy rooms. The work, which is continuing around the clock until the men move in this weekend, is being done by Bonacio Construction of Saratoga Springs.
The new rooms will be at least four times larger, with private bathrooms, central heating and air conditioning, and community rooms on each floor. The new housing will be a big improvement, though some of the men are anxious because they are not comfortable with change, said Lou Magliocca, executive director of the Schenectady Y.
One man looking forward to moving is Tony Vianna, who has lived there off and on in the ’70s, ’80s and in more recent years.
“I think it’s fantastic for the guys,” said Vianna, 54, who has started packing his clothes into plastic bags. “We can live in dignity. It’s just a great opportunity for everybody.”