EX-FIREHOUSE LIKELY DAMAGED BY RAINS

Building to be stabilized; further collapse can be prevented, officials said

JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: D3

Date: Thursday, September 8, 2011

ALBANY -- The owner of a former city firehouse that was discovered partially collapsed on South Swan Street Wednesday morning as heavy rains soaked the region is working to stabilize the building and save it from further damage, city and preservation officials said.


Firefighters were alerted to the roof collapse at 125 Jefferson St., former home of long-shuttered Engine No. 6, by a 911 call, Chief Robert Forezzi said.


When they arrived, they found a roughly 40- by 20-foot section of the southeastern corner of the roof had caved in, pushing debris through one of the large green bay doors facing Swan Street and out onto the sidewalk.


An engineer contracted by the city, Russ Reeves, ultimately determined the building could be stabilized, a plan that the local representative of the building's owner -- listed in property records as Behrus Jahan-Parwar of Ventura, Calif. -- agreed to, said the city's director of Building and Codes, Jeffery Jamison.


"The system worked," Jamison said. "We contacted the local person, the local person came and when the local person got here they already had the contractors on the way."


An inability to reach the owners of derelict buildings has long hobbled the city's efforts to enforce laws that require their upkeep.


The Historic Albany Foundation lobbied fire officials to spare the building at the corner of Jefferson and Swan streets, arguing the costs to demolish it would far exceed the cost to stabilize it.


"It's very solid," said Historic Albany's executive director, Susan Holland, who praised the city for recognizing that saving the building was the right choice.


Authorities did order the station's roof-top flag pole near the collapsed section taken down after it began leaning precariously toward the collapsed section of roof.


The boarded-up firehouse has been closed since 1986, when neighbors appealed to then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, who at the time lived in the nearby Executive Mansion, to convince Mayor Thomas M. Whalen III not to shutter it as part of a plan to increase staffing at other fire stations.


Holland said the interior of the firehouse is actually composed of several buildings that could date to the 1800s but that the sturdy exterior, encased in a thick jacket of yellow brick, was overhauled in the 1930s as part of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.


Holland -- who was working with the owner to find a buyer -- said she was shocked to learn of the collapse because she said she had been on the roof within the last two years and that it seemed to her to be in good shape.


Plans to convert the building to apartments or condominiums have circulated since its closure.


Forezzi said officials are not worried about the stability of a rear tower, hardly visible from the street, that rises much taller than the rest of the two-story building. The structure, which was used to hang and dry long stretches of hose after fires, is located on the opposite corner of the building from the collapsed section of roof.


Forezzi said the likely culprit in the collapse is the heavy rains that have soaked the region since Tropical Storm Irene.


Reach Jordan Carleo-Evangelist at 454-5445, jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com or on Twitter @JCEvangelist_TU