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400 Towers

Photo: Residents at 400 Towers celebrate 90th (and 95th) birthdays

By Howard B. Owens


There was a birthday party at 400 Towers in Batavia on Sunday, with four of the residents celebrating their recent 90th birthdays and one, his 95th.

Pictured: Hazel Preedom, 90, Eleanor Day, 90, Julia Scalia, 90, Frank Aquino, 90, and Donald Hart, 95.

Photo by Howard Owens.

Residents of 400 Towers proud of painted pumpkins

By Billie Owens

Photos and information from Heather Klein, 400 Towers case manager.

Some of our residents at 400 Towers in Batavia painted pumpkins. It was a fun way to have some activity for our residents during times of COVID-19.

One that stands out in particular (top photo) was made by a resident who painted a pumpkin the colors of candy corn and added a mask. 

Another resident thought it was a great reminder to the community to wear masks and suggested that we contact The Batavian.

The pumpkin painter of the top photo is Pauline Hensel.

Below, the top left and bottom right pumpkins were done by AJ Taylor. The top right and bottom left were done by Patricia (Pat) Larson.

Some residents at 400 Towers slow to comply with new no-smoking policy

By Howard B. Owens


A group of non-smoking residents at 400 Towers are demanding stronger enforcement of a no-smoking policy that was instituted in April and they've prepared a petition for the Housing Authority asking for sterner measures against rule violators.

Nathan Varland, executive director of the Housing Authority, said the agency is doing everything it can to enforce the ban on smoking in apartments, in the building and anywhere within 25 feet of the building.

"I'm also frustrated," Varland said. "We put a policy in place in order to help us go in a healthier direction and it's something I feel strongly about and something I want to move forward on."

Varland has been the director since 2015 and he said work on the policy began under the previous housing director. It took a long time to implement because the authority wanted to make sure it was rolled out to residents in a way that gave them time to adjust their living arrangments if necessary.

There was a 60-day notice prior to the policy becoming official. That gave residents who wanted to continue smoking in their apartments time to move and while some people did move during that 60-day period, Varland couldn't say whether they left 400 Towers specifically because of the new policy.

There have been five residents who quit smoking as a result of the new policy, however, Varland said.

According to the non-smoking residents, many who gathered in a meeting Friday night led by resident Beverly Morgan, most of the residents who smoke are complying with the rules, but there are about 20 residents who continue to either smoke in their rooms, in hallways and stairwells or in the front of the building.

"There's no place you can go outside and not smell smoke," Morgan said.

Residents expressed concerns about the dangers of secondhand smoke, especially for vulnerable people, such as seniors and those with related medical issues. It's not just an issue with smelling smoke, they said, but a real health concern.

Under the new policy, smokers who violate the rules get three chances to comply. First, there is a written warning, then a fine, and then eviction.

"I know for a fact there are some people who should have been evicted already," said one resident at Friday's meeting.

That isn't accurate, Varland said. There are a few residents who are on the cusp of a third violation, but they haven't crossed the line yet.

"There are certainly not people who have three strikes right now," Varland said. "We go by our own policies as much as we try to enforce our policies fairly. If we have evidence we move ahead with eviction."

Getting evidence can be difficult, however. During non-office hours, the only people around to file complaints about smokers are other residents. There is a group of volunteers who are empowered to patrol the building and grounds and turn in complaints, but those complaints must still be substantiated in order for the housing authority to take action.

While the Batavia Housing Authority developed its own policy, during the period of implementation, the Housing and Urban Development Department issued its own policy banning smoking at HUD-funded facilities.

"A few tenants have been slower to realize that it's time to change their habits or move," Varland said. "That's up to them. We can only enforce our policy the way it is intended and we're going to enforce it."

The authority also recently received a grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation to build amenities, outdoor spaces, for non-smokers and those projects should be completed by late spring or early summer, Varland said.

Cigarettes aren't the only smoking issue Varland is dealing with. Residents said, and Varland confirmed, there is also some marijuana use at 400 Towers. 

Varland said the housing authority is bound by federal law to treat smoking marijuana like any other illicit drug use. It's a crime and Batavia PD has been cooperative in trying to investigate these crimes, he said.

"We are forced to take it very, very seriously," Varland said.

Man who killed cat in oven given five years probation

By Howard B. Owens

The 400 Towers resident who admitted to baking his cat to death will serve the next five years on probation, Interim Judge Michael Pietruszka ruled in Genesee County Court today.

The defense attorney for Darren Annovi, Lisa Kromer, argued that jail was not an appropriate sentence for Annovi because he has had persistent mental illness and has suffered from mental health issues since childhood.

Annovi has limited intelligence and did not intend to harm his cat, she said, even though he knew it would die in the hot oven, he apparently thought it would painlessly go to sleep and pass away.

During the term of Annovi's probation he will not be allowed to own any pets.

Wendy Castleman with Volunteers for Animals was hoping for more. 

“I think the concern I would have is the signal it sends to the public," she said. "This is a person who killed an animal in a cruel way and received probation. So does that make it OK for other people?”

Via our news partner, WBTA.

Housing Authority selects new executive director

By Howard B. Owens

A months-long vacancy in the executive director position for the Batavia Housing Authority has been filled, Brooks Hawley announced during Monday's City Council meeting.

Nathan Varland, most recently the housing director for Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, has accepted the position.

Hawley said Varland was one of four candidates interviewed for the position and the board of directors were impressed with his qualifications.

Varland steps into the role while the board conducts an internal investigation into the death of a 91-year-old resident of 400 Towers, who apparently wandered onto the roof of the building and died of exposure. Batavia PD is still awaiting results of an autopsy report in the death of the resident, who may have suffered from mild dementia. 

Hawley, president of the City Council, also serves on the BHA Board.

Christian calls for state audit of 400 Towers

By Howard B. Owens

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.

Death at 400 Towers will be investigated, board member says

By Howard B. Owens

There will be an internal investigation into why a door to a roof was left open at 400 Towers, apparently contributing to the death of a resident of the facility, said Brooks Hawley, a member of the Batavia Housing Authority Board of Directors.

Yesterday morning a 91-year-old man with dementia was found dead on the roof, apparently the victim of exposure after wandering onto the roof and seemingly unable to find his way back into the building.

The name of the man has not yet been released.

Hawley, who is also president of the City Council, called the incident "unfortunate."

"We will be doing an internal investigation to find out what went wrong and whose responsibility it was," Hawley said. "I believe something slipped through the cracks and unfortunately the door to the roof was left open and we need to investigate that and find out why."

This is the second death of questionable circumstances in the past six months at 400 Towers, but Hawley said the two incidents are totally unrelated.

In the prior incident, a resident apparently died of natural causes in his apartment, but his death wasn't discovered for at least two weeks.

"The only reason he was not found is because he didn't have any friends and there are liability issues for just entering somebody's apartment unless there's a cause."

UPDATE: Here's a press release about the incident from Batavia PD:

The Batavia Police Department is currently investigating the death of a 91-year old -male that occurred sometime overnight, Oct. 12 – 13, at 400 E. Main St. in the City of Batavia.

Officers responded at approximately 8:36 a.m. for a missing person report at that location. The call was placed by a caregiver who had stopped to check on the deceased early that morning. After a brief search the man was located on the roof of 400 E. Main St. deceased. Video recovered from the premises shows the man wandering the halls until approximately 1:40 a.m., he appeared to be disoriented. He is last seen going into a stairwell leading to the roof where he was later found.

The Police Department is working closely with the Housing Authority as the investigation proceeds. The body was sent to the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. Further details of the investigation will be available pending the results of the autopsy. 

Previously: Resident of 400 Towers reportedly dies of exposure after wandering to roof during the night

Our news partner, WBTA, conducted the interview with Hawley.

Resident of 400 Towers reportedly dies of exposure after wandering to roof during the night

By Howard B. Owens

For the second time within six months a resident at 400 Towers has died under questionable circumstances.

Yesterday morning a 91-year-old man who reportedly suffered from mild dementia was found dead on the roof of the west wing of 400 Towers. He apparently died of exposure.

Chief Shawn Heubusch, Batavia PD, confirmed last night the death and that the man was found on the roof, but officials have yet to release the man's name.

Kyle Couchman, who was hired as an independent contractor to help care for the gentleman, called police yesterday morning after he found the man was missing from his room.

Couchman said the man would occasionally get up in the middle of the night and be confused about where he was and would wander off. Typically, when that happened, he would first move things around his room, so when Couchman arrived in the morning and found his room in a bit of disarray he knew the man had another wandering episode.

He tried calling the man's cell phone and began searching the stairwell to see if he might have stopped to rest or fallen. On the sixth floor, in a walkway outside the stairwell, he found the man's phone, wallet and towels from the man's room.  

It was now after 8:30 a.m., he said, and the 400 Towers Office was open for the day and he asked if surveillance video could be reviewed and he said he was told he would have to wait until the maintenance supervisor was available, or he could call police for assistance, so he called police.

A short time after Officer Frank Klimjack arrived on scene, the maintenance supervisor found the gentleman's body on the roof. 

A county coroner pronounced the man dead at the scene, Couchman said.

Couchman speculated that the man wandered up to the roof, became confused, and couldn't relocate the doorway that would lead him back into the building.

"He was in a common sleeping position for him when I would come in and wake him up in the morning," Couchman said.

According to Couchman, there was a magnetic lock on the door leading to the roof that was left unsecure, perhaps after fire maintenance work on Friday. The lock is supposed to be secure at all times, Couchman said, and only open during a fire alarm.

In June, a resident apparently died in his room and was left unattended or unchecked upon for two weeks.

A phone call to the Batavia Housing Authority placed this morning seeking comment has not yet been returned. We will continue to update this story or post new stories as additional information becomes available.

Nothing suspicious in death of person at 400 Towers whose body wasn't discovered until much later

By Howard B. Owens

Investigators found nothing suspicious in the death of a resident of 400 Towers whose body was discovered Friday morning and had apparently been dead for a long period of time.

Batavia PD spokesman Det. Eric Hill said there is no exact time of death for the male resident, but that he had been dead for an extended period of time before his body was found.

WBTA, our news partner, attempted to contact leadership at the Batavia Housing Authority, which runs 400 Towers, for comment on the situation, but the calls were not returned.

In response to our question about whether this sort of circumstance is rare or common, Hill said, "It’s not unusual for a person to be deceased for a while before they are found. It’s also not something that we keep records on so I couldn’t say if it happens more often at one place than another."

Hill said the name of the deceased is being withheld out of respect for the family. He did say the deceased had a number of medical conditions. 

Little information available on body found in 400 Towers apartment

By Howard B. Owens

The body of a male who had apparently been dead for an extended period of time was found this morning in an apartment in 400 Towers, located at 400 E. Main St. in the City of Batavia.

Det. Eric Hill, spokesman for Batavia PD, said there isn't much information available now because the officer handling the case is off duty and paperwork has not yet been completed.

There is a investigation, but Hill said he couldn't say one way or the other if foul play is suspected or if it's a death by natural causes.

The name of the deceased is not available.

More information will likely not be available until Monday.

Batavia PD looking for help in solving bike theft case from 400 Towers

By Howard B. Owens

Batavia PD is looking for the public's assistance in resolving an alleged bike theft at 400 Towers on the night of May 19.

The subject in these photos is wanted for questioning and police are asking the public's help in identifying him.

Anybody with potentially helpful information should contact Officer Jamie Givens at (585) 345-6450.

Photo: 400 Towers' expands space for its library

By Howard B. Owens

Residents of 400 Towers celebrated the opening of a new library today. The old library was in a smaller room. Now in a bigger room, there's more space for residents with walkers and wheelchairs to move around, plus more titles can be added. The library carries fiction and nonfiction, DVDs and VHS tapes.

Pictured are Thomas Baines, executive director of 400 Towers, Cathy Plaisted, SAGE coordinator for the Richmond Memorial Library, and Pat King, 400 Towers librarian.

The titles in the library's permanent collection are all donated. Plaisted brings a cart of new titles over from Richmond every couple of weeks to supplement the permanent collection. She praised King for keeping the 400 Towers library well organized, better than libraries available to seniors in many other locations.

Man's fall from 400 Towers in June ruled accidental

By Alecia Kaus

The Batavia Police Department has concluded an investigation regarding the death of William E. Hastings, who fell from a window of 400 Towers June 12, 2012.

The Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office has determined that the fall was accidental and toxicology points to a very high level of medication in his system causing him to be intoxicated at the time of his death.

Batavia Police say Hastings was alone in his apartment at the time of the incident. He spent a large amount of time at the window of his apartment observing the parking lot area to the east of the housing complex.

The investigation also revealed Hastings had a habit of abusing cough medication. The investigation, including an examination of the scene, has indicated his death was likely the result of an accidental fall.

Photo: Yard sale at 400 Towers

By Howard B. Owens

Residents of 400 Towers are hosting a yard sale today on the shuffle board court in front of the building.

The same location from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday will be the site of a concert by The Ghost Riders and the public is invited.

Murder ruled out as cause of death of man who fell out of window at 400 Towers

By Howard B. Owens

Investigators have ruled out homicide as the cause of death for William Hastings, 52, who fell to his death from the seventh floor of 400 Towers on Tuesday.

In a press release, Batavia PD detectives said today that thorough examination of the apartment building's surveillance system and interviews, Hastings was alone at 2:52 p.m. when he fell out of the window.

Detectives, in cooperation with the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office are still working to determine whether the death as an accident or suicide.

"It's just hard to know what happened," Det. Pat Corona said. "I don't know if we ever will determine if it's a suicide or an accident."

No note was found in the apartment, Corona said, but "it sure was nice that 400 Towers had the surveillance system installed so we could sit down and review those tapes and determine he was alone at the time."

Witnesses said they heard no sounds indicating a disturbance in the apartment prior to Hastings' fall.

Corona said the M.E.'s office has also not yet determined whether Hastings had any sort of medical issue prior to his fall.

Monroe County has yet to complete toxicology tests, which could take 90 days or more.

Police unsure how man fell from seventh-floor window at 400 Towers

By Howard B. Owens

Batavia PD investigators are still unsure how a 51-year-old resident of 400 Towers fell from a seventh-floor window to his death Tuesday afternoon.

Police officials believe William Hastings was alone in his apartment at the time of his fall.

He fell through the screen of the window, partially tearing it away.

"I was in the parking lot and seen the man falling so I ran over immediately," said 22-year-old Richard Smith. "I called 9-1-1 as I was running. I was the first to get to him. It was a pretty bad thing to see. I'm a little shaken up. It's a hard thing to see. I've never witnessed anything like that in my life."

Dispatchers received Smith's call just before 2:55 p.m.

Medical personal were on scene less than a minute after Smith's call, but there appeared to be little chance to revive Hastings. Less than five minutes after the initial call, personnel were covering Hastings body.

Smith said when he reached Hastings the man didn't appear to be breathing and Smith believes Hastings had already succumbed to the trauma of the fall.

Coroner Robert Yungfleisch arrived a short time later and pronounced Hastings dead.

Lt. Eugene Jankowski said detectives were conducting a thorough investigation, looking into all possible reasons Hastings might have fallen from the window. They were gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses and people who knew Hastings.

'It's still too early to say what happened," Jankowski said.

Hastings was taken to the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy. 

Autopsy findings have not yet been released.

Jankowski said Hastings was married, but he didn't know if his wife lived with him at 400 Towers.

The facility is run by the Batavia Housing Authority and contains 148 apartment units occupied by both senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Person reportedly trapped in elevator at 400 Towers

By Howard B. Owens

A person is reportedly in an elevator at 400 Towers, 400 E. Main St., Batavia.

The floor is not known.

City Fire Department is being dispatched.

UPDATE 10:44 p.m.: It's the west tower elevator, 2nd floor.

UPDATE 10:50 p.m.: On-call maintenance notified, reporting a five-minute ETA.

UPDATE 11:04 p.m.: The person is safely out of the elevator.

400 Towers Election Day Bake Good Sale

By Bea McManis

The 400 Towers' bakers worked all weekend to present an array of delicious bake goods for their sale on Election Day.

Remember to vote, then browse the tables for your favorite sweets.

The Snack Shop is also open throughout the day.


Event Date and Time

Photos: Halloween party at 400 Towers

By Howard B. Owens

Residents of 400 Towers enjoyed a Halloween party on Thursday night that included a costume contest, karaoke and sweets.

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