October 27, 2021

Cortland ReUse sells materials salvaged from homes

Kevin L. Smith/staff reporter

John Zelson, a volunteer with Cortland ReUse, removes rafters of a house on Fairview Drive in Cortlandville on Thursday. Cortland ReUse, a fledgling non-profit, recovers housing materials and other items to be sold for reuse. It has been deconstructing the house since July.

Thursday morning at a vacant house on 3692 Fairview Drive in Cortlandville.

“I feel kind of manly taking this stuff down,” said Zelson, a volunteer for Cortland ReUse. “In all seriousness, it’s great to see that we can preserve these rafters in some way.”

When you walk into the house, there is no roof and the walls show a clear view of the outskirts of Cortlandville.

All that remains is a pile of unusable material, the rafters with wood on the sides and middle holding them up, and wood that was being de-nailed.

For the past couple of months, Cortland ReUse — a fledgling non-profit working to start a facility to sell reusable materials and used goods — has been deconstructing those materials and selling them at the Finger Lakes ReUse Center in Ithaca.

The materials sold at the ReUse Center will offset the cost of the project while also raising funds for Cortland ReUse, said Kat McCarthy, head committee member for Cortland ReUse and a Cortland city alderwoman.

Thursday was the last day the program worked on the house.

“While we are sad to see the project draw to a close, we are excited to move forward and to continue to provide opportunities for reuse,” she said. “We’ve met some wonderful volunteers and made connections in the community that we look forward to building upon.”

“This has already been such a rewarding partnership,” said Diane Cohen, executive director for Finger Lakes ReUse, who helped Cortland ReUse with the house project. “We have been able to keep a significant volume of materials in active use.”

McCarthy said the house started intact. Since then, volunteers have been pulling off the trim inside and out of the house, removing light fixtures and cabinetry, pulling out flooring and taking out drywall.

“A lot of the drywall was covered in plaster, so that made it fun to pull it down,” she said.

McCarthy said volunteers preserved materials such as red oakwood flooring, light fixtures, stone, brick, fencing and tile.

Volunteers like John Busch have learned more about what can be taken out of a house that was built in the 1950s, adding the project “has come a long way.”

“It’s amazing to see wood that is 50 years old and still good for reuse,” he said. “We’ve also been able to preserve a lot of metal, including iron and copper.”

Cortland ReUse doesn’t yet have plans to work on another house, McCarthy said. However, the program will be on the lookout for other houses.

McCarthy also said plans are moving forward to have a Cortland ReUse in the Homer Avenue Plaza by the spring, although details remain to be worked out.

“There’s planning and steps we need to take to get ourselves in order for the center,” McCarthy said.