Nightmare code enforcement saga

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BINGHAMTON, NY – A Binghamton property owner who feels terrorized by the blight and neglect around him is calling for procedural changes in how the city goes after negligent slumlords.

Steve Menz runs a business around the corner from 2 Fayette Street where a large pile of garbage has been laying in the driveway for over 3 weeks.

Each day, he contacts the city code department seeking relief, yet the refuse remains.

Menz says the ongoing problem is emblematic of the deficiencies in how code is enforced.

If a landlord receives a violation summons and does not rectify the situation, there is a mechanism for the city to come in and clean it up and bill the property owner, the process can take months.

Menz says in the meantime, the neighborhood has to endure a visual and sanitary assault.

“We should be doing it so that it gets done in 24 hours, not 3 weeks. Why should our neighborhood have to live with this for 3 weeks? If this property were next door to City Hall, if it were on Riverside Drive, if it was on Beethoven next to Rec Park, that would not exist. It would be gone,” says Menz.

Richard Knowles, Junior has lived at 2 Fayette Street for about a year.

He says Monaco purchased the apartment building earlier this year and allowed it to fall into disrepair.

His front door lacks a door knob, electrical outlets don’t work and the roof is leaking.

Knowles says he can’t bring his kids over to visit.

“It’s mold. I have to call off of work. I’m calling down to the office. They’re not cooperating, everybody’s got attitude. The roof is caving in. It’s crazy in there,” says Knowles.

City Councilwoman Aviva Friedman says code complaints are the number 1 thing she hears from her constituents.

Friedman says she believes the city’s code enforcement officers are doing the best they can with limited resources.

She thinks they need more personnel so that they can act more proactively than reactively.

“I think that we have to think creatively. Instead of just saying, ‘Okay, we’re doing the best with what we can,’ let’s think creatively to reinvent this process to help prevent problems in the future which will benefit everybody,” says Friedman.

Friedman suggests researching a law in Minneapolis that routinely inspects rental properties regularly, classifies them in tiers, and then makes them subject to higher or lower fines and more or less frequent inspections based on their ranking.

Menz is pushing for a system in which after a first violation notice, slumlords would no longer receive notices.

Instead, the city would hire contractors to immediately clean up garbage, mow tall grass or shovel sidewalks and add the cost to the property tax bill.

Menz says that after nearly a year of ignoring his suggestions, city officials finally got back to him to say the system is fine the way it is.

A message left at Monaco was not returned.

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