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Rebecca Webster/Recorder staff Margaret Hampson, a resident of the Highland and Holland Gardens in the city of Amsterdam, remarks Tuesday in her kitchen about moving into a renovated building.

Rebecca Webster/Recorder staff Construction equipment, taped doors, and caution tape line the outside of one of the Highland and Holland Gardens in Amsterdam Wednesday as renovations begin.

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Repairs under way at Amsterdam complex

Thursday, November 15, 2012 - Updated: 7:09 PM

By REBECCA WEBSTER

Recorder News Staff

The Highland and Holland Gardens apartment complex in the city of Amsterdam began getting its facelift this week.

It has been months in the making, as Liberty Affordable Housing has worked to secure the apartment complex from the former owner and work with the city on a payments in lieu of tax arrangement, commonly known as a PILOT, which was approved by the Common Council and Mayor Ann Thane in an adopted resolution in early September.

"We're very much looking forward to the property being revamped," Thane said Friday.

Liberty owns the complex, but the managing agent is CRM Rental Management out of Rome.

John Varecka, president of CRM Rental Management, said the closing of the property officially happened Nov. 7.

Crews began construction Wednesday morning, removing asbestos from the roofs, Varecka said, and as construction continues the apartments will be completely gutted and rehabbed.

"When the property is completely finished, you will have 200 units of great housing in Amsterdam," Varecka said.

The roofs will be the first to be rehabbed, he said, adding that the "whole look of the buildings will change."

Asbestos will be abated properly, then the interiors will be worked on.

It will be a "complete gut rehab," as Varecka called it, where everything will be new, including: electrical, fixtures, carpeting, kitchens, bathrooms, doors, flooring, appliances and windows.

"(It will be a) completely different look of the property."

Landscaping and even playground equipment will be included in the rehab.

Margaret Hampson, who has been a resident of the complex for three years, said that the New York State Department of Housing and Urban Development began coming to the complex earlier in the year with eviction notices.

Hampson, 66, said she was given no explanation.

But the next thing she knew, maintenance was doing inspections and in August she, along with the other residents, were told in a large meeting with CRM Rental Management that the complex had been sold to Liberty Affordable Housing.

Varecka said that they met with the tenants in a group forum to explain to them what was happening in the process.

Once construction of the occupied buildings begins, the agency will meet with the tenants individually, building by building, as the construction starts effecting their building.

The two apartment buildings that are currently vacant will be the first to be renovated over the months of November and December.

Once those buildings are rehabbed, tenants will begin to be moved into the new apartments, building by building, while renovations continue.

Once those buildings are completed, tenants have the option to move back to their former apartments or stay put.

But Varecka said most will likely stay.

"Most of them when they see the apartments and they're so remodeled and so beautiful they don't want to leave," he said.

This is the case for Hampson.

Though she likes her one-bedroom apartment -- one she thinks doesn't need the work -- she is excited at the opportunity to move into a completely revamped apartment, and knows she won't want to move back.

Even though all of the financial paperwork that had to be done throughout the process was frustrating, she said now its all coming together.

"I'm like in shock because it went on for so long," she said. "To have them do all they're going to do, you're not even going to recognize this place."

As for how this intense rehab will affect the tenants' pockets, Varecka said it, for the most part, won't affect their rent, but will affect the subsidy portion.

However, it is a case-by-case basis, he added.

"They'll be meeting with our compliance managers on a case-by-case basis," he said.

And for those tenants whose rent it will affect, there will be vouchers and subsidies available, he added.

According to a CRM Rental Management letter to a Highland Holland resident obtained by the Recorder dated early September, the resident has already received notification of a rent change, amending their lease agreement.

The new rent, the document explained, will become effective April 1.

Another CRM letter to one resident dated early November, explained that HUD increased the contract rent effective Dec. 1, with rents for one, two and three bedroom units increasing by $124, $128 and $134, respectively.

But the document does note, "If you obtain a voucher through Amsterdam Housing Authority your monthly rent may not increase."

Varecka said they have had great support from the city's Common Council and mayor, and feels it will be wonderful for the city.

"It's made the paper quite a bit for the conditions that were out there and it's going to be a nice change for the city entrance, the gateway to this community, seeing a beautiful complex that the city of Amsterdam and the residents will be proud to call home."

     

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