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October 21, 2008 - 2:15pm

Fixing up the Neighborhoods: Part Three: What to do when it's right next door...

posted by Philip Anselmo in community, city council, Neighborhoods.

A few weeks ago, we started a series called Fixing up the Neighborhoods: a series we hoped would spark some further conversation on the topic of neighborhood improvement. Our first post featured a handful of questions on the issue and responses from Batavia's City Council President Charlie Mallow. We're hoping to have those same questions answered by a few other members of Council, as well. In our second post, we addressed some details from a "public nuisance law" that "failed" in a Council session three years ago.

In this third part, we offer up one man's story of how he perceived a situation of neglect at the home next door to him and what he did to try to get that problem solved.

Ryan Neal moved into his home on Ellsworth Avenue in 2000. A few years ago, the home next door to him was sold, and Neal watched as the condition of the property grew worse and worse under the new ownership. Below here is a photograph of the property's back yard taken by Neal over the summer:

In a letter he read to the City Council last month, Neal had this to say:

I have watched this property, which was originally a landlord occupied apartment home, deteriorate since it’s purchase by it’s present landlord.  The back yard needs desperate attention with parts of the yard containing weeds that are waist high, trees and shrubs that grow amuck, trees that grow from the foundation of the property, and a parking area that he had filled with gravel which is now filled with weeds and gravel.  This is my neighbor’s landscaping which I get to enjoy daily.  In addition, the paint is peeling from the garage, siding is blowing off the home and additional pieces of siding periodically disappear.  These pieces are not replaced, leading to further siding deterioration.  The windows on the first floor of the home are the original windows without storms and are rotten.  He has had his maintenance crew re-glaze some windows, but has never once painted them.  During wind storms, his rotten roof blows into my yard and adjoining drive.    Additionally, the home’s electrical service wire’s sheathing had rotted to a point that the wires within were visible, a safety concern which I also reported to the City.  The landlord’s response to this was to wrap the wire in electrical tape, which I can not believe is a code satisfactory solution to this unsafe situation.  This situation not only endangers my property, but the lives of his tenants.

Neal several times called the homeowner in the spring to ask for the property to be maintained, he said. Not receiving a response, he reported the situation to the City Council in June. When a Council member phoned the owner, the property was mowed once. That was fine, said Neal, but nothing had yet been done about the "major safety concern" of the exposed wires. Neal was told by his neighbors and tenants at the time that National Grid had at one time refused to turn the power back on after it had been previously cut off.

"To drive by the house, you wouldn't know the severity of the situation," said Neal. "But if you get close to the house, you'll see it's really shoddy work."

Some examples of what Neal describes as "shoddy work" includes the tape job on the wires, some of the siding that is held up by duct tape and the rotten window pane that was glazed over to keep it from falling out.

In the week following Neal's plea at the Council meeting, the property owner was "here more this week than ever before," said Neal. He only hopes that the maintenance will be ongoing and some of the stopgaps will be eschewed in favor of more lasting solutions, particularly in the case of the rotting roof and taped up service wires.

The Batavian attempted to contact the property owner. Our message was never returned.

What do you think? When does a problem property become more than just an eyesore?

John Roach
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As we know now, that law never "failed", the council tabled it, meaning no action was taken on it for over 2 years. What is so bad that they refuse to bring it back up? Is it that slum lords will have to take care of property? Maybe you can get an honest answer. There is no excuse for having a good law "tabled" for 2 years. Bring it back and help clean up slum property.
lazario Ladou
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How many times did this guy try helping personally before calling authorities No issues with him notifying Just wondering I mean, if you REALLY care don't you try to help and inspire Also Do we want everywhere to be Wisteria Lane? Sure, it looks swell
John Roach
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Laz, Maybe we missed you, but where you on any of the street clean ups? NO, just cheap talk from a guy who has no idea what he's talking about.
Philip Anselmo
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Lazario: Ryan Neal helped quite a bit before calling anyone. As he tells it: he initially had a deal worked out with the property owner that he would mow the lawn and clear the snow whenever it was needed for a nominal fee ($150 per year). He said that he went above and beyond this, trimming weeds and trees and cleaning up, but it got to be too much. Garbage piled up in the yard and made his routine landscaping much more than just routine. He then called the property owner several times to work something else out. His calls went unreturned. Then he sent a certified letter. Also unanswered. That was when he called the "authorities," if you want to refer to his ward representative on City Council an authority.
lazario Ladou
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No, I was not. Lets not start believing that in order to be a good citizen you have to come out to every event I'm responsible I like to do things and not be thanked I pick up trash whenever it's where it shouldn't be If unable to actually take it with me -to garbage can/home for whatever reason I put it out in the open where it can be picked up by someone else or by me on a return visit I have participated in a heal the bay and a few school beautifications The campus beautifications were much more enjoyable Your work during these clean-ups is supposed to inspire/challenge those lacking You're not out there for me, John Which streets? How many a year? How many people and how much garbage in total?
lazario Ladou
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I can only go on what is there to be read Thanks for providing more info I'll give him the benefit the doubt but my question is less about One Person than it is about society in general Not sure expecting money to do a few things that's really only an extension of ones own duties is really all THAT kind but I'll give him the botd sounds like the owner just doesn't care why he doesn't is my next question
Ron C Welker
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YAWN...........

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