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Advise offered for dealing with downtown gulls

By Howard B. Owens

Last week, we reported an update on the downtown gull situation.

BID Director Don Burkel asked that we share the following information with readers:

If you are having a problem with gulls landing / nesting on your building there are some possible solutions by the USDA Wildlife Services:

  • String 100-pound test fishing line in a grid pattern
  • Use a “BirdX” (sound system)
  • Use inflatable “Scarymen” by Reed Joseph Co.

If you need some advise on your particular gull problem, Carl Cranker, biologist for the USDA Wildlife Services, would be willing to visit your property. There is no fee for consultation and accessing your situation. If you want the Wildlife Services to perform a service, i.e. remove nests or eggs, there would be a fee involved. You can contact him directly by calling (315) 532-4835 (cell) or email: .

Some progress on downtown gulls, but business owners still complain about the mess

By Howard B. Owens

It's possible Verizon has conquered the sea gull problem it had on its Center Street building.

The mobile phone and internet company brought in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove birds and eggs two weeks ago, and today, employees spread netting on the roof to discourage the return of the birds.

Meanwhile, gulls continue to menace cars and pedestrians from their roosts atop the old Latina's market building on Ellicott Street, though their numbers seem fewer than last spring and summer.

Owner Vito Gautieri said he's done everything the state Department of Environmental Conservation has told him he can do, but the gulls have not completed vacated the premises. 

"We've spent a ton of money," Gautieri said.

He said he's deployed fake owls and pelicans, installed noise makers and sends employees up to the top of the roof at least twice a week.

"Two days later they get used it (the decoys and noise) and they're back," Gautieri said.

Both Gautieri and Verizon received code violations for alleged failure to maintain their properties, according to City Manager Jason Molino.  

The owners were advised to keep the premises clean in order to comply with city code.

Local business owners say the problem was unusually acute on School Street this summer, largely because of the migration of the birds to the Verizon building. One store owner said the problem has seemed to lessen in the past two weeks.

Michael DeFelice, owner of Michael Anthony's Salon, said last summer he could safely park his car in the lot off School Street, but this summer, there has been no safe place to park.

Gautieri said the gull problem is an entire city problem and city officials need to address it as a citywide problem.

"They (the gulls) are going to continue to be a problem for all of us unless the city gets involved and the agency that protects them gets involved," Gautieri said.

Molino said it's not that simple. It's not like the city can go around cleaning up properties for landowners. The gull problem is a basic maintenance issue, he said. 

"It's like mowing your lawn," Molino said. "It's easy, but you've still got to do it."

Molino said the city hasn't had problems with gulls on City Centre for three years, since it started getting the permits necessary to take care of the problem (removing the eggs) and keeping the roof properly maintained.

As for the old Latina's building, Gautieri said he remains hopeful he could have new tenants soon. He said he's also been discussing the idea of turning the building into an office complex and recruiting firms with offices in Rochester and Buffalo to consolidate their offices in Batavia.

"That would be great for downtown," Gautieri said.

Another option for the building is to add another six or eight feet of height (which is possible because the building was originally constructed to have warehouse space on the second floor), which would make it possible to turn the second floor into apartments. If he did that, Gautieri said, he would add a steeple roof, which would keep the gulls from nesting on the roof.

Gulls find 'not welcome' signs on the roof of former Latina's building

By Howard B. Owens

Right on schedule, the migratory gulls that have plagued downtown buildings the past few years -- most notably the former Latina's location on Ellicott Street -- are returning.

This March, they're getting a slightly different reception.

The one-time Montgomery Ward store has a new owner, V J Gautieri Constructors, Inc., and CEO Vito Gautieri is determined both to get new tenants in the building and keep the gulls away.

"The key is to keep them from nesting," Gautieri said. "Once they nest, we can't touch them."

To that end, employees of Gautieri's were recently on the roof installing streamers and decoy owls (mean-looking ones at that).

Today, the gulls circled the building and cried their perpetually angry sounding cry, but none were landing on the roof.

Friday, Don Burkel, executive director of the Business Improvement District, sent a message to BID members asking them to deal with any developing gull problems promptly.

As the gulls return downtown we should be prepared to resolve any problems that may develop. If they are beginning to nest or create a problem with your property do not hesitate to contact us. We can put in touch with the Wildlife Services who professionalyl deal with these issues promptly.

As for the building on Jackson, Gautieri said he is weeks away from signing at least one new tenant for the building, and possibly two. He said he's had interest in the building from two or three grocery store operators and discount retailers. One particular retailer and one grocery store would be a particularly good fit as neighbors in the building, he said.

"They would be a draw for each other," Gautieri said.

Gautieri recently closed his purchase of the building from Tom Lewin's LKLWL Properties. Lewin made regional headlines late last summer as the city took steps to condemn the building and press code violations charges against the Buffalo-area resident.

Gautieri said it's in his best interest to keep the property clean and gull free, especially if he hopes to attract a grocery store to the location.

The second floor, Gautieri said, will also be available for office space or apartments. The plans are still being drawn up but, in either case, Gautieri said he is planning to install an elevator to help draw tenants to the location.

Gautieri was the contractor who built the structure and he said because of a high water table under the building, it was too expensive to put in a basement, so the second floor was originally designed as warehouse space with the ability to hold a150 lbs.-per-square-foot load.

Gulls at Latina's market a nuisance again this year

By Howard B. Owens

There are times you can stand in the parking lot next to the vacant Latina's market and swear that you were on the film set of  The Birds. The screeching gulls seem to get louder and grow in number.

But rather than swoop down and pluck your eyes out, these feathered varmints are more likely to poop on your car.

And those droppings have area residents complaining once again, but to little avail. 

According to City Manager Jason Molino, there is no city ordinance that the property owner is violating by allowing gulls to nest on the Latina's roof.

When the city had a problem with gulls on top of City Hall, it got a DEC permit to remove the gull eggs. Once the gulls can't nest on a roof, they look for another nesting location.

Last year, we are told, the Latina's owners didn't do anything about the gulls.

Vito Gautieri is a co-owner of the building. He hasn't returned the call The Batavian placed to his office on Thursday.

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