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October 30, 2015 - 10:51am

Christian calls for state audit of 400 Towers

The recent death under questionable circumstances of a 91-year-old resident along with a series of complaints from tenants of 400 Towers has prompted Councilwoman Rosemary Christian to contact NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and request an audit of the senior housing complex, which is operated by the Batavia Housing Authority.

A spokesman for the comptroller's office said it's not unusual for the office to receive requests for audits from public officials and it is a factor in deciding audit priorities. 

Public housing complexes in New York do fall under the office's jurisdiction to audit, said Brian Butry.

He couldn't comment at this time, of course, on whether or when there might be an audit of 400 Towers.

"There seems to be a lot of problems and complaints from the residents there," Christian said in her e-mail to DiNapoli. "I have heard from many people who live there and they aren't very happy there."

Earlier this month a man was found dead on the roof of 400 Towers. It appears that the man, who may have suffered from mild dementia, wandered in the middle of the night from his apartment and onto the roof. A magnetic lock on the door leading to the roof may not have been operating correctly at the time, make it easier for the man to access the roof, but then he was unable to find his way back into the building.

Yesterday evening, Christian, along with Kyle Couchman, who had been hired by the deceased gentleman's family to help provide day care for the man, addressed a meeting of the housing authority board and said they would like answers to why certain things are taking place at 400 Towers.

Concerns include:

  • A resident other residents seem to fear wanders freely and may have access to other residents' apartments;
  • There have been a few thefts from apartments and there are concerns that somebody has a master key, or that there are too many master keys floating around; Christian would like to know why the locks haven't been changed;
  • Why residents are not allowed to sit in the lobby for more than 30 minutes at a time and face fines if they violate the rule; Couchman said his client had been written up for such a violation and he found that disturbing and also suggested the rule violated existing leases;
  • Christian wonders why a resident in a wheelchair was fined $45 after his wheelchair hit a metal door frame;
  • Residents have been fined when the tires of their cars are on the yellow lines of parking spaces;
  • Fine money must be paid separate from rent checks, and Christian wonders where the money goes and what it's spent on;
  • Christian expressed concern that applicants for apartments are interviewed at the window in the lobby instead of a private room to protect their privacy.

Christian also raised these issues in her e-mail to DiNapoli.

While housing authority board members are appointed by City Manager Jason Molino, the city's involvement with the housing authority pretty much ends there. The authority operates independently of the city.  

Following the remarks by Christian and Couchman at Thursday's meeting, the board said it would not be discussing the questions or concerns at that meeting.

John Roach
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Sell the 400 Towers. What business does the City of Batavia have being in the apartment rental business. And we own 3 other apartment complexes, why? They should be sold, with some protection for the current residents and the properties put on the tax rolls.

The City created the Housing Authority, it can dissolve it also.

I would like to know if Councilwoman Christian addressed these concerns with Council President Brooks Hawley, who sits on the Housing Authority Board? Does he agree on the need for an audit?

I also would like to know how many members of the Board are attending board meetings on a regular basis. I have sent a FOIL request to Henry Moscicki, the Board president, but so far he has not gotten back to me

Kyle Couchman
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John the board meeting are supposed to be public meetings..... Next one is Nov 17th I believe.

John Roach
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Kyle, it should not take a FOIL request to find out who has attended Board meetings for something that is publically owned.

Tim Miller
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My parents lived at 400 Towers for a few years, as did my Aunt's widowed mother. I see no problem with a local municipality arranging for affordable housing for retired residents.

As to the individual accusations, if there is any basis to them they should be looked in to. 30 minute limit in the lobby? Non-private interviews when criteria for residence is financial? Yeah - look in to it.

Raymond Richardson
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"...it should not take a FOIL request to find out who has attended Board meetings..."

You're right.

However, if you had attended the meetings regularly, you would have the answer to your question, and not needed to have filed a FOIL request either, which I believe is what Kyle is conveying to you.

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