The president of the Batavia City Council tonight said he will utilize all means necessary to rectify a serious situation that has an Otis Street man and woman fearing for their safety and the security of their neighborhood.
“We are working with the assistant city manager (Jill Wiedrick) … she’s going to get code enforcement down there,” said Eugene Jankowski Jr., responding to public comments from Ronald Yantz of Otis Street about the behavior of those living directly across from him.
“We’re going to try to bring all the agencies we can. We already talked to the mortgage agency and they were shocked, but was unable to do anything. They got past their screening … and are kind of confused as to how they made it through and ended up with the house.”
Jankowski said City Council and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch are aware of the problems being caused by residents across the street, noting that 11 people – including six children, unsupervised at times – are living there.
Yantz and Carol Mueller appeared at tonight’s City Council meeting, with the former taking about five minutes to detail how their life has been turned upside down since purchasing their home last August.
Quality of Life Has Diminished
“It was a nice quiet street and a few months later, people bought the house across the street. From there, it has gone downhill as far as my quality of life, our neighbors' qualify of life – our safety,” he said, mentioning the frequent loud parties, large groups of kids, and garbage blowing into his yard from across the street.
He said he was prompted to call police recently after witnessing one of the older kids “pulling out what appeared to be a pistol from one of the cars” and carrying it low into the house.
“If it’s a toy pistol it should have the orange cover on the end of the barrel. It wasn’t a toy as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Then, last month, he said it was about 11:30 at night when he was shaken by an explosion.
“I was just falling asleep and I heard a huge explosion right near the house. You could hear the shrapnel hit my house. It was no M-80, it was a half-stick of dynamite, at least, on the street. It was only 25 to 30 feet away from the gas main that goes into my house,” he said.
“That would have been the biggest tragedy that ever happened in Batavia … that would have blown all those houses up. And the kids that were standing there would have been killed and me, too.”
He said he ran downstairs and out the door.
Threats Aimed at Couple
“I said, ‘What are you guys doing?’ They’re like, ‘Shut the f--- up’ to us and telling her to shut up. We called the cops and all the neighbors came around; they already had called the cops.”
Yantz said when police arrived, the people verbally abused the couple, and threatened them, saying, ‘Wait until you go to work and see what happens to your house’ and ‘See what happens to your (custom pickup) truck when you’re not around.’”
Unfortunately, the police were unable to do anything at that time as they did not witness any unlawful act.
“This is ridiculous,” Yantz continued. “These people have no regards for their neighbors or nothing. What was a nice, quiet street and now it’s … like some of the other streets that have come down in Batavia. It’s just a shame.”
He said that since he is “stuck” in his home for at least five years before he can sell it, he hopes that the enforcement of ordinances or something else can be done.
“All night long, they play loud music – in the middle of the night, you hear thumping and thumping. It’s very … it’s a situation that I didn’t expect to get into at my age. I just want a nice quiet existence in a residential neighborhood,” he said.
Advice is to Keep Calling the Police
Responding to Yantz’ comments, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said that PathStone assisted the people as first-time homebuyers but noted that they have a mortgage through the United States Department of Agriculture. She also said the city has reached out to the USDA but to no avail.
Jankowski urged the couple to keep calling the police because “when they don’t call for a while, then police resources are directed somewhere else.”
“They (police) think the problem is under control if they don’t hear anything so they move to another location that might need it,” he said, adding that he told police to stay vigilant on this and similar circumstances around the city.
Council member Rose Mary Christian, who represents Otis Street residents in the Sixth Ward, advised that these types of disturbances have been going on for months.
“We’re at the point that it is ridiculous that they have to make a harassment charge against these people when we all know damn well that there are violations of the law – and the fact that the city should do something about it,” she said. “We have more power than these poor people on that street that destroy that beautiful, beautiful street.
Sixth Ward Council Member: It's Outrageous
“As far as social services go, those kids are running in the street and everything else, and throwing items at cars that are going by. The vulgar language and everything else that is going on. They (the children) should be taken away from that family. There’s no if, ands or buts about it. And to have 11 people in that household, and to have all the other friends from Liberty Street coming down into that area, it’s outrageous.”
Jankowski said that filing complaints are the best way to resolve the problem.
“We need a more consistent game plan to deal with this,” he said. “Maybe we’ll keep track of what we do to resolve this so if it pops up in another area … we can use some of these tools and solve it a little faster than the six months that this has been going on.”
He then offered his full support as he also lives on Otis Street.
“If you need support from me, I am right down the street. I’ll walk down and help you guys …,” he said.
Police Chief: Charges are Pending
Heubusch said his officers answered that call for service but noted that there is an open investigation, “so I can’t really get into the details of it but, suffice it to say, there are charges pending.”
“We will be dealing with that. We do have a presence on the street as time permits and our call volume permits … we’re doing our best to split all of our resources and make sure you guys are taken care of,” he said.
Council member John Canale asked Heubusch if he had “past experiences” with any of the people, and he replied, “Some of them are known to us, yes.”
Then, Council member Patti Pacino said, “Are you telling me that if two policemen stand there and somebody threatened my life and my property … they really can’t arrest the person?”
Heubusch replied that he wasn’t there that night, but said that “the legal definition of harassment is much different than the casual definition of harassment.”
Council member Robert Bialkowski urged Yantz to lodge complaints, “even if it’s 2 in the morning, call the police and they’ll be over there in a few minutes.”
Jankowski: Something will Come to Light
Jankowski said the people are playing a “cat and mouse” game with police but eventually “something is going to come to light that is pending over there.”
“There were other things that happened a couple weeks ago. They addressed the situation over there with other agencies interested in people that I can’t discuss – but they removed some people at that point,” he said. “So, that made it a little better for a short period of time. And then other people kind of rose to the occasion and they took over and starting causing problems.”
A former city police officer, Jankowski said victims need to call so law enforcement can address it and document it.
“When those things accumulate, the more time we can show a pattern of constant harassment ... that might fit some of the definition over a period of time,” he offered. “If they don’t have the means to actually physically harm you at the moment, and there’s an officer standing 20 feet away across the street, it’s not harassment at that point. If they’re in your face and they’re making contact with you, you’ve got something there.”