Herkimer officials and residents point to the elementary school on North Washington Street and the former Glory Days bar on North Main Street as eyesores. North Main Street alone has about 19 vacant storefronts.
Fred Weisser looks out his storefront every day at one of several massive dormant buildings in the village.
The view from his business, Weisser's Jewelers, is of the former H.M. Quackenbush buildings on North Main Street in Herkimer, just one vacant property plaguing the village.
Officials and residents point to the elementary school on North Washington Street and the former Glory Days bar on North Main Street as eyesores. North Main alone has about 19 vacant storefronts.
Abandoned buildings are not unique to Herkimer, said Gene Bunnell, associate professor of the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Albany.
“It's the same problem in Albany and Buffalo and other upstate cities,” he said. “It's a serious problem.”
Having these abandoned buildings remain in communities doesn't bode well for business.
“It's the way in which it drags down the value and ability of adjacent buildings,” Bunnell said. “You'd be generating more property tax and sales tax revenue in all kinds of ways if you stabilize (the area) and stop the hemorrhaging.”
Weisser also pointed to the danger the buildings create.
“They don't attract anything desirable,” he said. “They attract vermin, rodents, bats, fugitives hiding from the law.”
Last month 64-year-old Kurt Myers hid inside the Glory Days building - formerly the General Herkimer Hotel - after killing four people and seriously injuring two others in a shooting rampage that ended with Myers being shot and killed by police.
While the incident that occurred in Herkimer and Mohawk is rare, the villages' police Chief Joseph Malone said police calls to abandoned buildings happen a couple times a month.
“There are a couple that are abandoned that keep getting broken in, to steal the metal,” he said. “Others squat there.”
Malone said there were no issues with Glory Days beyond codes violations, however, he mentioned a few noteworthy spots:
- Quackenbush: People break in and strip the metal.
- The elementary school: Kids break in and start fires.
Malone said codes can address some of the issues, but police must deal with trespassing and vandalism.
“The owner has to come forward with complaints,” he said. “We can't make an arrest if the owner won't prosecute.”
Bunnell said it's important for the owner to take responsibility, which isn't an easy task.
Herkimer village Mayor Mark Ainsworth said it's a challenge finding out who's responsible.
“You're always trying to chase someone down,” he said.
Ainsworth said officials are frustrated further when they don't have authority over a building, such as the Quackenbush buildings.
Page 2 of 2 - “The (Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency) holds the lease, and someone else has the mortgage,” he said. “We can't market it, we can't clean it up.”
Bunnell said public officials and residents must band together to come up with creative ideas to tackle the issues facing their communities.
In Albany, there have been attempts to make boarded up buildings blend in with occupied ones by painting a storefront.
“It's an illusion,” Bunnell said.
The Herkimer Now Main Street Revitalization Committee has been working with interested parties to fill storefronts, member Matthew Powers said.
“We still have some hooks and lines out there,” he said.
Powers added that when it comes to the larger buildings, the community can see them in several ways - nostalgic, possible potential or generator of hard feelings.
“It's a challenge among other challenges,” he said. “It's something we try to address as best we can.”
And while his view may not be ideal, Weisser remains dedicated to the area.
“We're on our third generation of customers,” he said. “I have people who come in here because their grandparents used to come in here.”