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Grant aids the rehabilitation of more homes in Batavia

By Bonnie Marrocco

The City has been awarded another grant in the amount of $400,000 for housing rehabilitation projects over the next two years. The Community Development Block Grant is from the NYS Office of Community Renewal.

The first housing rehabilitation grant the City received was in 2010 for the same amount, which led to successfully rehabilitating 19 homes. Major projects completed in many of the homes included roof repair/replacement, porch repair/replacement, heating, plumbing, electrical, masonry work, window and door replacement, siding and rain gutters.

“Nearly all of the rehabilitation work in 2010 was performed by Genesee County contractors, keeping local dollars in the community,” City Manager Jason Molino said.

The program will assist single-family, owner-occupied homeowners to upgrade their properties. Assistance will be provided in the form of grants, up to $24,500, for the cost of home improvements. It is estimated that the program will be able to assist 15-18 homeowners with needed repairs.

“This is another $400,000 that will be invested in City housing stock and contributing towards revitalizing our neighborhoods. This is a great opportunity for our community and I look forward to another successful program,” City Council President Brooks Hawley said.

“This grant is citywide and income-eligible property owners may apply. The city expects to start working with property owners within the next 90 days and would expect the program funding to be committed by the end of the Summer of 2015. Home repairs should be completed within a year of when the funds are committed,” Molino said.

Anyone interested in applying for the grant program should call the Office of the City Manager at (585) 345-6330 and have your name added to the list. Once the office receives the necessary paperwork from NY State, the people on the list will be contacted to fill out applications. Recipients will be chosen from those who meet the necessary criteria and whose earnings have been verified. The income requirements are based on HUD guidelines for Genesee County.  

Aside from the 2010 CDBG award, the City also received a $450,000 grant in 2011 from the New York Main Street program to assist 10 Downtown building owners that have invested more than $1.2 million in Downtown buildings, including nine residential units. All three grant awards, 2010, 2011 and 2014, are in line with the City’s Strategic Plan focusing on Neighborhood Revitalization as one of the City’s seven strategic priorities.

Photos showing before and after views of Batavia homes that have received grants provided by the city. From top, 175 Summit St., 164 Ross St., and 47 Hutchins St.

Photos: Redfield Parkway 100th Anniversary

By Daniel Crofts

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley shook the hand of "Mayor" Jim Owen today at the Redfield Parkway 100th Anniversary celebration (see Wednesday's article, "Redfield Parkway celebrates 100 years Saturday," for previous coverage).

There was a pretty good turnout, including some folks of considerable importance locally.

Batavia City Manager Jason Molino attended the ceremonies with his wife, Anna, and their two daughters, Sophia (standing) and Stella.

Local historian and published author William F. Brown (whose book, "The Story of Redfield Parkway: The Beginning," was for sale at the event) also attended.

Wayne Fuller, of WBTA, served as Master of Ceremonies.

Fuller presented proclamations on behalf of Senator Michael Ranzenhofer and Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, who could not be there.

More after the jump (click on the headline):

Also presenting proclamations were:

City Councilman Pierluigi Cipollone

County Legislator Ed DeJaneiro Jr.

Assemblyman Hawley

Fuller said that Redfield Parkway is more than just a place where people live -- it is a community where people take pride in their neighborhood. That, along with the parkway's 100-year heritage, definitely called for a celebration.

In the spirit of this celebration, DeJaneiro officially proclaimed August 18 "Redfield Parkway Day."

Geoff Redick of YNN (formerly of WBTA) sang the national anthem at the beginning, followed by the final performance of the Batavia High School "Blue Belles" (all four graduated from BHS this year, and will be headed off to college shortly).

The "Blue Belles" are, from left, Sarah DiBacco, Catherine McAllister, Melzie Case and Catherine Taylor.

Today was also the day for a last glimpse at the Redfield Parkway time capsule, which will be going underground soon.

Here are some final photos of the "Mayor" and attending dignitaries.

Fuller and Owen posed for a picture with Steve Carr, grandson of C.L. Carr (founder of C.L. Carr & Company, a longtime Batavia store).

National Night Out a big hit for Norris Avenue

By Daniel Crofts

Faith Smith, 8, cooled off with an ice cream sandwich on Norris Avenue yesterday...

...or maybe she was warming up in preparation for the donut-eating contest that came later.

Treats and games like this one kicked off the seventh annual National Night Out -- a yearly event designed to bring neighborhoods and community police together -- in Batavia. Last evening's event on Norris Avenue was the first of three "National Nights Out" this year. August will feature two more -- one at Birchwood Village, the other on Pringle Avenue.

This is a big change in the way National Night Out is done. Traditionally, it has been geared toward the community as a whole and held at public venues like Austin Park.

According to City of Batavia Youth Bureau Director Toni Funke (pictured right, with Lydia Schauf), who's in charge of National Night Out this year, there's a "different spin."

"We want to try and enhance relationships within neighborhoods," she said. "People can get out, meet their neighbors, and talk to their department heads in the city."

In other words, it has become a way to revive the lost art of the block party.

What has remained the same, however, is the goal of fostering positive community relations. City police officers, public servants and representatives of various agencies/organizations in Batavia were there to answer questions, provide information on their services, and just give everyone a good time.

Activities, attractions and goodies for kids and families included food, fingerprints, art, a balloon toss, an egg race, a K9 demonstration (courtesy of Sheriff's Deputy Brian Thompson), an ambulance, two fire trucks and more!

Members of the local "who's who" were there to greet everyone including:

City of Batavia Police Detective Rich Schauf

City Manager Jason Molino (who, upon hearing that I was on assignment for The Batavian, asked: "Where's Howard?!") 

Police Chief Randy Baker

Batavia City Council President Marianne Clattenburg

Local organizations/agencies included:

Justice for Children Advocacy Center - Coordinator Colleen Marvel collected a saliva sample from Peyton Woeller. She gave the Woellers and other families Child I.D. Kits, which parents keep handy in the unfortunate event that their children go missing.

Genesee County Youth Bureau -- There's Peyton again with his sister, Quinn, doing sand art.

City of Batavia Water Bureau

City of Batavia Fire Department

And here's folk from Target!

People also had a chance to win two prizes: a Muckdogs Family Four Pack for participating in a scavenger hunt, and a six-month membership at Next Level Fitness for filling out a survey for the city.

If you are interested in hosting National Night Out in your neighborhood next year, call Toni Funke at 345-6420.

More pics:




Detective Schauf gets "busted" in the K9 demonstration.


Sarah Adams gets to see what life is like behind the wheel of an ambulance.

Lastly, a nice local relic:

A 100-year-old wooden water main, courtesy of the City of Batavia Water Bureau.

Fixing up the Neighborhoods: Part Four: Another Councilman weighs in...

By Philip Anselmo

Another member of the Batavia City Council has answered our questions on the topic of neighborhood improvement. Sam Barone sent us his responses earlier this week. We still have yet to hear back from several other members of Council.

Follow these links to access the previous three posts in this series:

Answers from Sam Barone:

How do you define a problem property?

A problem property is one that is constantly in the news for negative reasons, such as, it's a drug house, it attracts large crowds, litter is present, the yard is unkept, etc.

When is it decided that a property owner has been given enough warnings? Is that threshold defined? What action then follows? What action ought to follow?

Presently, the city has a procedure for addressing chronic problem homes by issuing three warning letters over a period of 15 days and then a possible court action. This procedure works but is too lengthy. We need a policy with a shorter span of time. I think a citation followed by a fine within two weeks would work. If the owner or tenant is responsive and shows cooperaion, the fine could be lifted. If the owner or tenant is unresponsive, fine them a second and third time; then court.

What are the best ways to take preventive action against absentee landlordism?

The best preventive action is twofold. It involves continued inspections and cooperation among various agencies. The city inspectors have to be on the same page with agencies, such as, DSS, HUD, Section 8 and others involved in placing people in homes. For example, everytime a tenant leaves a rental property, the city inspector should visit looking for code violations, such as, lack of smoke or fire alarms. Another example is a house listed under city properties as a three bedroom home. The city inspectors and dss should be aware of that to prevent overcrowding. I am aware of a three bedroom house where dss placed an adult with eight children in that home. The inside was a disaster.  Fortunately the occupants were finally remove after a city inspector was able to enter the home.

What is the difference between a slum lord and a lazy tenant or homeowner? Is there a difference if the outcome is the same? Ought they to be treated differently?

A lazy tenant can be educated and trained by city inspectors and landlords. A slumlord needs to be fined after every infraction.

When should a tenant and not the landlord be held responsible for the condition of a property, if ever?

The tenant should be held responsible for the rental but only after the landlord has explained to the tenant what the codes are both written and verbally.

Video: Boy saves dog

By Philip Anselmo

Heroes come in all sizes—some under four feet tall. And whoever said a damsel in distress couldn't be a beagle in peril? This particular hero is named Alex Smith, and he's 7-years-old, and he saved the life of his dog, Sasha, and it happened like this...

Alex was hanging out on the driveway at his father's home in Batavia when Sasha burst out out of the shrubbery above him and nearly hung herself there on her leash. (You see, that part of the driveway is sunken down below the yard where Sasha was chained up). As soon as the dog started squealing, Alex wasted no time and ran underneath her, pushing the dog up as high as he could hold her—not bad considering the dog is almost as big as he is. He got her high enough for the leash to loosen so Sasha could breathe. Then Alex was the one who set to squealing, shouting for his grandfather to come out and help Sasha before Alex ran out of strength. His sister Ashley was the first to hear and came to the rescue of brother and dog. We'll let her tell the rest of the story...

Fixing up the Neighborhoods: Part Three: What to do when it's right next door...

By Philip Anselmo

A few weeks ago, we started a series called Fixing up the Neighborhoods: a series we hoped would spark some further conversation on the topic of neighborhood improvement. Our first post featured a handful of questions on the issue and responses from Batavia's City Council President Charlie Mallow. We're hoping to have those same questions answered by a few other members of Council, as well. In our second post, we addressed some details from a "public nuisance law" that "failed" in a Council session three years ago.

In this third part, we offer up one man's story of how he perceived a situation of neglect at the home next door to him and what he did to try to get that problem solved.

Ryan Neal moved into his home on Ellsworth Avenue in 2000. A few years ago, the home next door to him was sold, and Neal watched as the condition of the property grew worse and worse under the new ownership. Below here is a photograph of the property's back yard taken by Neal over the summer:

In a letter he read to the City Council last month, Neal had this to say:

I have watched this property, which was originally a landlord occupied apartment home, deteriorate since it’s purchase by it’s present landlord.  The back yard needs desperate attention with parts of the yard containing weeds that are waist high, trees and shrubs that grow amuck, trees that grow from the foundation of the property, and a parking area that he had filled with gravel which is now filled with weeds and gravel.  This is my neighbor’s landscaping which I get to enjoy daily.  In addition, the paint is peeling from the garage, siding is blowing off the home and additional pieces of siding periodically disappear.  These pieces are not replaced, leading to further siding deterioration.  The windows on the first floor of the home are the original windows without storms and are rotten.  He has had his maintenance crew re-glaze some windows, but has never once painted them.  During wind storms, his rotten roof blows into my yard and adjoining drive.    Additionally, the home’s electrical service wire’s sheathing had rotted to a point that the wires within were visible, a safety concern which I also reported to the City.  The landlord’s response to this was to wrap the wire in electrical tape, which I can not believe is a code satisfactory solution to this unsafe situation.  This situation not only endangers my property, but the lives of his tenants.

Neal several times called the homeowner in the spring to ask for the property to be maintained, he said. Not receiving a response, he reported the situation to the City Council in June. When a Council member phoned the owner, the property was mowed once. That was fine, said Neal, but nothing had yet been done about the "major safety concern" of the exposed wires. Neal was told by his neighbors and tenants at the time that National Grid had at one time refused to turn the power back on after it had been previously cut off.

"To drive by the house, you wouldn't know the severity of the situation," said Neal. "But if you get close to the house, you'll see it's really shoddy work."

Some examples of what Neal describes as "shoddy work" includes the tape job on the wires, some of the siding that is held up by duct tape and the rotten window pane that was glazed over to keep it from falling out.

In the week following Neal's plea at the Council meeting, the property owner was "here more this week than ever before," said Neal. He only hopes that the maintenance will be ongoing and some of the stopgaps will be eschewed in favor of more lasting solutions, particularly in the case of the rotting roof and taped up service wires.

The Batavian attempted to contact the property owner. Our message was never returned.

What do you think? When does a problem property become more than just an eyesore?

Adventures in Alabama (Part Two): Alabama, you're gorgeous...

By Philip Anselmo

So we've talked about the good eats at the Alabama Hotel, the fine meats at Alabama Holley Farms, the camels and the general sentiment in town that there ain't much to see, which I'm going to go ahead and ascribe to the maxim: you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. Alabama is gorgeous. Maybe that's why folks say they've got not much to see. They don't want the rest of us cretins to go stomping through the splendor of it all.

At the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, they've got nearly 11,000 acres of pristine lands. Dorothy Gerhart told me they see about 264 species of birds pass through each year, most of which stay for at least a little while. Then there are the bald eagles that build their nests—some the size of a Buick—on site and only leave the refuge when everything freezes and are usually back by the end of January. Dorothy is the visitor services manager at the refuge.

Folks come to the refuge just to walk the trails, some come during hunting season for the waterfowl and game, some come in the middle of the winter for the ice fishing on the marshes. It truly is a bit of old country upstate.

Dorothy and I got to talking about all of the caterpillars in the road. I must have seen about a dozen of them down the half mile stretch to get to the visitor's center off Route 77. (Throughout the day, in fact, I'm sure I saw at least 30 of the suckers inching their way across the gravel.)

Dorothy told me that all of these woolybears, as they're called, are a sign that we may be setting in for an especially severe winter. I read much the same in the Farmer's Almanac. All of the extra berries on the trees, too, are such a sign, said Dorothy, that shows nature's own effort to take care of her own in the coming of a cold winter.

As for the other sights and sounds of Alabama, here's another video and some photos that should cover the rest of my trip. Enjoy.

Here's an especially regal-looking home on Lewiston Road:

Here are some sights from around town:

Adventures in Alabama (Part One): Alabama, the land of the... Camel?

By Philip Anselmo

South Alabama is parked on a fine stretch of Route 63 bordered on either side by green flat land, trees, homes and ditches that stretch out in every other direction. There's a quaint old town hall not much more than a stone's throw from Route 77, which, north, takes you to the marsh and woodlands of the wildlife refuge—more on that later—and, south, into the rolling hills of Indian Falls—and I know that because I got lost down there for a little while after I missed a turn. No matter. It was a nice drive.

Anyhow, back to Alabama. My first stop was the town hall, which I later found out used to be an old schoolhouse. It was closed. Another fellow who had stopped by and found that out told me so. He also said, when I asked what there was to see in Alabama, that I should check out the meat market where folks come from all around to pick up a hock or a flank and the Alabama Hotel, which is no longer a hotel, only a restaurant that serves a good fish fry on Friday evenings, he's been told, and both places are on the same corner, acorss the street from each other, where Route 63 and Route 77 meet up for the second time at the flashing red light. Other than that, he said, there's not much else to see.

Most other folks that I saw said much the same.

Driving down Lewiston Road, after a stop at the wildlife refuge—more on that later—and after I stuffed myself full of a half-pound of seasoned ground beef and fresh-cut fries at the Alabama Hotel—oh so good—I nearly drove off the road and into a tree after I thought I saw... was pretty darned sure I saw: a camel. A dromedary, if I wasn't mistaken, just hanging out in a little dirt hole in the ground (literally) chewing cud.

You'll have to excuse me. Camels are a rare sight for me. I was giddy like a kid at the zoo for the first time when I saw it. Have you seen this camel before? Does anyone know his (or her) story? No one seemed to be around to tell me about it.

So, after the camel experience, I kept on down Lewiston Road until I spotted a sign for maple syrup. Now, for those who don't know, there's a rare delicacy known to a certain circle of bootlegger syrup makers and their fans as 'Grade B' maple syrup. This is the dark stuff, often black as molasses, that tastes like liquid maple sugar candy and makes your eyelids twitch. Unfortunately, it is kind of illegal, so you won't find it very often, unless you know where to look or happen upon a clever purveyor of the stuff who knows the tricks of the trade, so to speak.

This fellow didn't have that stuff, which is probably safer for him and me anyway, but he had crates full of quart jars of the fancy maple syrup for only $12 a jar. Just look for the sign on Lewiston Road if you're interested. Don't be intimidated by the sign on the door that reads: "Open Door and Yell." It means what it says, and it got me inside. Too bad that syruper Ken Howard wasn't up for a video interview today. At least he was kind enough to invite me to a tap run in the spring.

Tune in later this afternoon for part two of my adventures in Alabama.

On the Move: Alabama ho!

By Philip Anselmo

Well folks, the way I see it, if the birds get to migrate, so should The Batavian. Don't get me wrong, I love our office in the Masonic Temple with its frosted glass windows and door, the antique radiator adorned in arabesque—that feel of the old shamus, Philip Marlowe, who keeps a cork-topped fifth of rye in the desk drawer and just sits and waits for the next dame to peek demurely through the crack of the door. Yeah, our office is nice.

Nevertheless, it's time for a change of scenery. Genesee County is a big beautiful place. Let's get out and see what she's got to show us. Since each town and village name speaks its own hidden secrets to me, its own individual promise of undiscovered treasure, there's only one way to do this: start at the top... of the alphabet, that is.

So on this, our first day of migration, I shall travel to Alabama. Don't know what I'll find there. Don't know what to expect. All I need is a place to sit, a place to eat and some folks to talk to about life and about whatever else folks talk about in Alabama.

Do you have any ideas where I should go? What are the must see sites of Alabama? Who's got the best BLT in town? Well... that's enough talk. Time to hit the road. Alabama, here I come.

Fixing up the Neighborhoods: Part Two: Drunk and Loud, Shut it Down

By Philip Anselmo

Earlier, in our discussion of what the city should and should not do to help deal with the potential blight of absentee landlordism and other problem properties, city resident John Roach told us to take a look at what he called the "Slum Lord" control law. Roach said that this law was proposed in 2005, then tabled, never to return again. We asked the city for this law, and the office of the clerk responded quickly and courteously, sending us a copy of the proposed law with the note that the law had "failed" at a meeting of the City Council on December 12, 2005.

We have telephone City Councilman Frank Ferrando twice, yesterday and today, left two messages and sent him an e-mail to inquire more about this law, and get his thoughts on how the city ought to handle the problem. Ferrando was president of Council when that law "failed" in 2005.

We thought some further conversation on the issue might benefit if we took a look at some excerpts from that "failed" proposal. Before we do so, let me sum up what I found in the law: This law does not seem aimed at controlling properties in decline due to absentee landlordism, otherwise known as slum lord properties, as has been suggested by John Roach. Rather, it seems to concern properties that are frequently cited for loud noise and drunken reveling.

That being said, let's first look at the reasons outlined in the 2005 proposal for instituting such a public nuisance control law:

The City Council, after public hearings, finds that there is an increasing use of real property within the City of Batavia for the purpose of flagrant violation of the penal and alcohol, beverage control laws as well as the codes of the City of Batavia relating to continued violations of the law.

The City Council finds that this situation seriously interferes with the interest of the public in the areas of quality of neighborhood life and environment; diminution of property values; safety of the public upon the streets and sidewalks; and increasing costs of law enforcement as a result of these illegal activities.

The City Council, therefore, finds it in the public interest to authorize and empower the appropriate city officials to impose sanctions and penalties for such public nuisances as an additional and appropriate method of law enforcement in response to the apparent proliferation of these public nuisances without prejudice to the use of any other procedures and remedies available under any other law.

Making sense of the legalese that follows is an arduous task. But this much we've figured out. This law gives city officials the right to act against "public nuisance" properties. Quaified as "public nuisance" properties are those that violated specific statutes—typically on two, three or four occasions—of either the state penal code, the alcohol beverage control law or city code (dealing with alcoholic beverages and noise).

Importantly, there are no details regarding problem properties that are not "kept up"—where the grass is waist high and the lawn is littered with trash, for example. That is, this law treats only those properties which are drunken and/or noisy.

So what happens to these properties if they are found in violation?

In addition to the enforcement procedures established elsewhere, the City Manager, or his designee, after notice and opportunity for a hearing, shall be authorized to:

A. Order the discontinuance of such activity at the building, structure or place where such public nuisance exists; and/or

B. Order the closing of said building, structure or place to the extent necessary to abate the nuisance, as prescribed below.

For more information, download a copy of the proposed law here, and be sure to check out Part One of this series, which features an interview with City Council President Charlie Mallow.

Fixing up the Neighborhoods: Part One

By Philip Anselmo

We said yesterday that we'd be working on a series of posts related to neighborhood improvement issues. For the first part of our series—not that we've yet flesh out a second part—we would like to focus on problem properties, in particular: what they are and how to deal with them. We've already sent out questions on that topic and left messages with a couple members of the City Council. We expect to hit up a couple more. Council President Charlie Mallow was kind enough to get right back to us, and we have his answers below. He's got some real insights into the issue. Check out his comments.

We're also hoping to hear from you. When does a neighboring home turn from annoyance to nuisance to real problem? How should the city handle its problem properties? When should people be left alone?

Please be sure to check back with the site in the coming days and weeks. We hope to get up many more posts on this issue, which we're sure is an important one for this community.

Answers from Charlie Mallow:

How do you define a problem property?

A problem property is one that isn’t adding to the balance of a neighborhood. It’s the sore thumb of the area. Its owner is not keeping up with maintenance or its residents are causing disturbances. There also has to be some intent to avoid doing routine maintenance or create disturbances routinely. Since anyone could have health problems that keep them from being able to keep up with property maintenance from time to time.

When is it decided that a property owner has been given enough warnings? Is that threshold defined? What action then follows? What action ought to follow?

These thresholds are found in our code and state code. They are pretty ineffective; I would like to see some changes. I would like to see a property given notice and asked to respond, and then I would like to see a follow-up some time later, where a court appearance ticket is issued with a fine. We have been too easy in the past and people know how to work the system at this point.

What are the best ways to take preventive action against absentee landlordism?

Tough question. I believe you need to make it easier for people to own their own home. That’s easier said than done in our current mortgage crisis. Proper property maintenance inspections by city staff will take care of most of the problem. Our cities real issue is that we have not enforced the laws on the books for years. We have been understaffed and this has never been a priority of city government.

What is the difference between a slum lord and a lazy tenant or homeowner? Is there a difference if the outcome is the same? Ought they to be treated differently?

Right now there is no punishment for being a lazy or bad tenant. The landlord gets left holding the bag. There is another side to the problem. Most landlords are good people who care about and for their properties. There are some rotten apples but, we can’t keep beating on landlords and cast them all in a bad light. We need to find a way of punishing the right person. How? That is something we in the NIC (Neighborhood Improvement Committee) have talked about over and over again and can’t seem to find an answer for.

When should a tenant and not the landlord be held responsible for the condition of a property, if ever?

See above..

In the photo above is a neat home on Walnut Street. Batavia has many such colorful and interesting residences. We can only hope that the residents do their best to take care of them.

News roundup: Traffic woes

By Philip Anselmo

Residents of Batavia's southside neighborhood assembled outside the home of Anne Marie Starowitz on Chestnut Street yesterday to talk traffic, according to the Daily News. Several city officials came out. Also on hand were engineers from FRA Engineering, the firm that is handling the construction of the Oak Street roundabout.

Reporter Joanne Beck writes:

[Residents] fear what may happen once a roundabout project gets going next spring ... at the intersection of Walnut, South Main, Pearl, Oak and Franklin streets. The plan includes a detour along Route 98, at Law Street, to alleviate some traffic congestion near the construction zone. All of that detoured traffic will then spill into the southside neighborhood, the Starowitz's said.

Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian passed out a letter that said other parts of the city have also been affected by construction projects. That sounds like a good point to make. When we're talking about downtown construction projects and traffic detours, isn't there always a neighborhood that has to bear the brunt of it?

Anne Marie Starowitz:

"My major concern is this is just politics as usual. It's done, and your voice means nothing. These (City Councilmen) are elected to represent us. I'm really concerned about the children."

Residents were told that their concerns will be taken to the city for consideration.

Speaking of construction, the Genesee County Economic Development Center is about finished with all of its projects for the season, save for the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park. Work will get underway on that project this fall, weather permitting.

Speaking of traffic, a pickup truck was engulfed in flames at the intersection of Lewiston Road and Veterans Memorial Drive in the town of Batavia yesterday afternoon. Traffic through the area was redirected while fire crews put out the blaze.

We encourage you to pick up a copy of the Daily News at your local newsstand. Or, better yet, subscribe at

Batavians choose not to live like they do in big cities.

By Charlie Mallow

There have been a few postings about the state of our neighborhoods and people’s opinions of the rate of decline. From someone new to the area or familiar with big city living, some missing paint and a little litter are not anything to be concerned about. People in big cities have had to live with falling property values, absentee landlords and drug activity for years. The obvious question is, why wouldn’t the people of Batavia point to the precursors of decline and pull together to keep the quality of life we have always enjoyed?

Make no mistake the natural instinct of someone in elected office is to gloss over the obvious decline in the quality life. If you’re in public office and you want to stay there, why would any rational person draw attention to the problems? It’s not an election year.. Besides if you draw attention to the problem and you are in office, you will then be expected to do something about the problem. That is how the system has worked for years. Inaction or denial by elected representatives has been the reason for decline in all our major cities.Batavia is a little different and so are its people. Batavians care about our quality of life and elected people who understand that there is a problem and are willing to do something about it. In this city, improving our neighborhoods is not a political issue. We are past the notion that there is a developing problem, we are on our way to looking for solutions.Last night’s Neighborhood Improvement meeting was another small step forward. Those meetings have become gatherings for landlords, volunteer groups, public officials and regular citizens to work together and find solutions to our small problems before they get bigger. Our acting police chief reported on a new program to help landlords protect their property and help police spot drug activity. City inspections reported over 800 letters being sent out for violations in the last month, more than double what we did all of last year. They also reported that almost 80% of the violations were taken care of quickly and how most property owners accept the letters as a reminder. There was a report on the success of the “helping hands” volunteer group with their work on Thorpe and Watson Streets over the weekend.  Ideas were passed on for ways to educate the public, so that they can be more aware.With a little work and by people taking responsibility for the problems we have, Batavia will never be like Buffalo, Rochester or Chicago. Batavians choose not to live like they do in big cities.


In search of decline — can't find it

By Philip Anselmo

After a chat with City Councilman Bob Bialkowski this morning, I went in search of the "pockets of decline" that he mentioned. Bob said to check out the southside of the city around Jackson, Maple and Thorpe streets, if I wanted to find the "problem" neighborhoods.

That was where I thought to find the trash and debris, the buckled-under homes and general malaise. Not so. At least not by this city boy's estimation. I've seen streets in Rochester, streets in Buffalo, New York, Chicago, even some in Canandaigua that would make those Batavia blocks look like paradise on high, like a stroll through Green Acres.

At the very worst, I spotted some peeling paint, a couple (maybe) ramshackle porches, a stray tricycle or two, a leaf-swollen gutter — maybe. But really, what I saw as I drove down Dawson Place, Ganson Avenue and Thorpe Street were people. What I saw were people outside, sitting on their stoops, walking their sidewalks, talking to each other, mowing their lawns. I saw a community. I saw regal, Victorian-looking homes, a little bruised, sure, but not broken, not even bent.

So, maybe I wasn't looking in the right place. Maybe I wasn't looking with enough intent — I should say I was driving my car. Maybe those homes are rotten and rotting from the inside, really putrid and crumbling, which could explain why everyone was outside, hanging out. Or maybe — and this may be closer to the truth — maybe some Batavians have unusually high standards, higher standards than I have ever cultivated myself.

What do you think of these (and other) neighborhoods in the city? Are they in decline? Are they run down? Do you live there? Is that how you see it? Is Councilman Bialkowski on the ball? Or is he over the top?

"Helping Hands: Bringing Pride Back To Our Neighborhoods"

By Charlie Mallow

I'd like to extend my thanks to everyone that participated in this week’s clean up on Thorpe, Watson and Maple streets, it was a good step in the right diretion. We were able to make a nice improvement on those streets, giving just a few hours of our time. Deb Pappalardo wrote the following to ask the public for their help with next weeks effort. This is a very important initiative for our cities neighborhoods and I would hope all willing and able will turn out to give a little time to make Batavia a little greener and cleaner. As you may or may not know, New Hope Church was involved and provided volunteers as well. It was a terrific turn out, more than we could have hoped for. Seeing the residents of that neighborhood coming out with their children to help was reassuring. It appeared as though our efforts were appreciated and may inspire them to continue to make their neighborhood more aesthetically pleasing. This will be an ongoing effort throughout the coming months, and maybe even years to come. New Hope Church will be working with us or we with them, however you want to look at it. Since it will be executed on a strictly volunteer basis we are counting on the residents of Batavia for help. Everyone has something to offer. For those who want to be a part of this effort but really don't have a lot of time to spare, they can donate money, product or both. We have someone donating yard signs. A kind of "Helping Hands Was Here" sort of sign to be moved from place to place. We have people donating the use of trailers to haul garbage and debris away. There are those who are paying the fees to where the garbage and debris are going. Some are donating tools to rake yards and sweep streets, gloves and garbage bags to pick up and bag garbage and yard waste. For a time, Julie and I are going to bring our rolling kitchen out to prepare donated food for the volunteers. What we need the most are able bodies. We had such a great turnout on our first run but we don't want to see people burn out. And, those who donated trailers won't be able to offer them up every Saturday. If there are others who have trailers and willing to donate we certainly could use them. I have a hitch on my truck. Next week we will be working Jackson, Highland and Liberty Streets. We need volunteers. We need equipment. Rakes, brooms, yard waste and garbage bags, gloves, mowers, weed eaters, hauling trailers, anything that can be deemed yard care equipment. We need food. Hotdogs, hamburgers, buns, chips, condiments, bottled water, propane. Anything anyone wants to donate. It's a community effort and no one's donation is too great or too small. Deb Pappalardo If anyone wants to know what he or she can do to be a part of this effort please call New Hope Church at 585-343-2997 or email Barb Toal at

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