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Restoration work was in progress, landlord says, when city condemned apartment building on Jackson

By Howard B. Owens

The four-unit apartment building at 113 Jackson Street has been condemned by city officials and its residents relocated, but the owner says things sound a lot worse than they really are.

The most notable problem is the south wall, according to Guy Pellegrino, which is clearly bowed out, but Pellegrino said it was that way when he purchased the building 15 years ago and was in that condition years before he bought it.

It's never been an issue with city officials until now, he said, and it may not even be necessary to repair. He will need to hire a structural engineer to make that determination and present findings to the city.

The 4,000-square-foot building is 180 years old. The property is assessed at $115,000.

City Manager Jason Molino said 113 Jackson was closed for electrical, mechanical and structural code violations.

Molino said the Red Cross assisted, at least for the first day, the two tenants living in the complex after the building was condemned.

City officials only acted on the property after there was a report of a possible fire in one of the apartments Tuesday, Molino said. Firefighters found suspected code violations and a code enforcement officer was called to the scene.

According to Molino, tenants at the apartment were living in "deplorable conditions." The building was condemned, he said, because it was unfit for human occupancy.

Pellegrino has a different version of what city inspectors found at the complex.

First, the second-story apartments have been vacant since the Fall and are currently undergoing a complete restoration. The apartments have been gutted. The floors have been removed, the walls are being repainted and all the junk left by previous tenants thrown out.

"My plan has been once Spring rolls around is to finish the apartments and turn them into better quality units," Pellegrino said.

Pellegrino believes that it was the former upstairs tenants who have been the source of suspected criminal activity in and around the apartment building. After there was an armed robbery of a pizza delivery driver reported at that location, Pellegrino evicted both tenants, having them physically removed from the property.

A lifelong Batavia resident with a large family locally and other business interests, Pellegrino said the reports of criminal activity at the address, especially the suspected armed robbery, were a real embarrassment.

"That's not who I am," Pellegrino said. "I don't want people to have that impression of me. Once I thought they had something to do with it, I got rid of the tenants."

What Pellegrino didn't know, he said, was that one of his downstairs tenants was a hoarder and was stealing electricity from a neighboring apartment.

"The only person living in deplorable conditions was the hoarder," Pellegrino said.

The woman who lived in the other apartment kept her place clean and there was no problem with that unit, Pellegrino said.

The man had lived in the apartment for 10 years, according to Pellegrino.

"His rent was $600 a month and he paid it like clockwork," Pellegrino said. "I had no reason to believe he was a problem and I had no cause to go into his apartment."

The resident, Pellegrino said, created the alleged electrical code violations by removing electrical panels so he could tap into the power lines of another apartment, and running extension cords into his apartment.

Each apartment has its own electric meter and tenants are responsible for their own utilities, so Pellegrino doesn't get the electric bills and had no idea the tenant no longer had his own electric service to his apartment, he said.

One thing people don't understand, Pellegrino said, is that when a landlord rents to Section 8, HUD or any other social services tenant, the apartments are inspected by the government before the tenants move in. There's never been a problem with his apartments, Pellegrino said.

Other than the issue with the south wall, everything the city says is a code violation will be easy to fix, Pellegrino said. If a structural engineer clears the long-standing bowed south wall, then it will no longer be an issue, Pellegrino said.

There's a dumpster behind the apartment that's half filled with junk and garbage bags. The dumpster was originally brought in to help with the gutting of the two upstairs apartments. It's also being filled with the decades-long accumulation of junk left in the basement by former tenants, and, Pellegrino said, the hoarder has already started cleaning out his apartment and throwing stuff in it.

After 15 years in the residential rental business, Pellegrino is ready to get out. All of his properties are going up for sale, he said.

He was leaning in that direction before 113 Jackson was condemned, he said, but he's been "just sick" about what happened with the property and he's had enough. He thinks a lot has changed about the kind of tenants a landlord has to deal with in Batavia over the past 15 years. It's just not a good business to be in, he said, especially for someone who values his reputation in the community.

Phil Ricci

I know Guy and his family. They are upstanding people, and I know that he is just sick to death over all of this!!

I also know that he is the type of person to make everything right, and be an asset to this community. Guy is not the kind of individual to allow such things to persist!

Thank you, Howard for writing a two sided piece. I have come to expect a little thing called journalism from you, and regardless of my opinion on the given topic, I know that it will be thorough.

Apr 5, 2014, 9:44am Permalink
Dave Olsen

"The resident, Pellegrino said, created the alleged electrical code violations by removing electrical panels so he could tap into the power lines of another apartment and running extension cords into his apartment."

Good Lord, the sheer audacity of some people surprises me from time to time. I hope the other tenant gets some reimbursement from this guy.

Apr 5, 2014, 10:25am Permalink
Christopher Putnam

I rented the upper right apartment from guy, from about 12 years ago when i started college to 10 years ago when I finished junior college and moved into brockport to be close to school. I have to agree with his assessment of the situation. He was always a communicative landlord. If you had a problem he would fix it. Nice guy, good landlord, poor situation with the neighborhood and string of bad tenants.

Apr 5, 2014, 12:01pm Permalink
Lincoln DeCoursey

It's unfortunate to hear a landlord say that it's difficult to rent apartments in Batavia. I hope that Pellegrino or a subsequent owner will commit to do any work that does turn out to be necessary and will be rewarded with a new batch of quality tenants for his effort. The building looks gorgeous in the photo and it would be nice to see it become occupied and made to be of use again.

Apr 5, 2014, 4:16pm Permalink
Kyle Couchman

Very interesting article.... I love the obvious contrast with Howard's actual journalism with this same story covered in another local news source. Kudos Howard on getting both sides.

As for the subject matter here, some of the people slamming Pelligrino seem to be showing their ignorance and need to educate themselves. The simplification of "simply screen tenants" isn't always the answer, not by a long shot.

Thats like opening a resteraunt and then screening your customers for neatness and table ettiquette. Your in a business to provide a service. If you do as people advise in here then your setting yourself up for failure.

Tenants have alot of rights that empower them over their landlords. Read up on some of them you'd find some big surprises. This is the go to reference for the tenants rights here in NY…

There are security, and privacy rights that lean heavily toward tenants over Landlords.

As Mr. Pelligrino said, most of the violations are minor fixes. However with buildings of this age the bowed south wall may simply be the brick facade separating from the wall. Thats why an engineer is required to look at it. But honestly there would be cracks and separation in the buildings rooms on that southern side is it was the entire wall. I have dealt with this as well with some 1820's homes I helped rehab and it's not a very difficult fix. I'm sorry that Mr. Pelligrino has these issues but his voiced position in this article gives me the impression that he is a more honest and respectful landlord than some in this city.

His loss from this business might not be such a good thing for our area, but it's his choice, and that must be respected.

Apr 6, 2014, 1:41am Permalink
Raymond Richardson

Jeff, choosy as in from the uppercrust welfare recipients?

As poor as the economy and job markets are, there's nothing better to choose from.

Apr 6, 2014, 8:40am Permalink
jeff saquella your saying that the only people looking for apartments are welfare recipients?....I think not....but that section of town has such a black eye from years past right up to present that not many "non welfare" people probably would be interested in living in that maybe your right with there being nothing better to choose from

Apr 6, 2014, 10:57am Permalink
Mark Potwora

Is this going to be another lawsuit for the city...If this action was found to be unfounded Mr.Pellegrino will be able to collect the rents that are lost because of the action the city took against him....Did the police arrest the tenant that was stealing electric power from another meter?That is a crime.I didn't see his name in the police blotter for theft of services ......The city tried to stop Terry Platt from using his building on Main St. for single room housing and lost in court...Shouldn't Malino check with the city atty first before he takes this kind of action....Its this action that gives many a not too favorable view of the so called sweeps of neighborhoods..Last thing anybody wants is the code police coming in and condemning your property...

Apr 6, 2014, 12:22pm Permalink
John Roach

Lets remember that nobody was out to get anyone here. There was no code police running around looking to condemn a building. This not some sort of plot by Molino.

There was a report of smoke. The Fire Department did what it is paid to do, they responded. When the fire department personnel arrived they found what they thought were code violations and called the code enforcement people

Maybe the code people were wrong in determining how serious the matter was, and maybe not. Maybe they made the right call.

If Mr. Pellegrino wants, that can be decided in court.

Apr 6, 2014, 1:30pm Permalink
John Smalls

I just find it to be interesting how Mr.guy say all the crimes were cause by the two upstairs tenants but if he actually payed any attention to his property he would have realized that all the crimes were being done by ppl that didn't even live there.young kids sitting in a hallway that had nothing to do with the upstairs renters specially seeing that the pizza robbery happen after the two upstairs apartments were empty . Just thought that was copout for not taken care of the property or keeping track of who actually lived there and those we just used it has a flop house for there crimes

Apr 6, 2014, 2:42pm Permalink
Tim Miller

Comments about Howard's reporting are spot on... I confess I don't always agree with Howard's views of situations but he and all involved with The Batavian are always perfectly clear when their opinion is being stated vs. when reporting is being done.

I am confident that when The Batavian states "this is what happened" or "this is what person X claimed" it is really what happened or was stated.

Apr 6, 2014, 11:19pm Permalink

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