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Nuisance Properties Impede Neighborhood Progress

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They’re in most neighborhoods – problem properties owned by careless, oftentimes out-of-town owners that drag down property values and discourage investment. Many are vacant and unkept. But occupied buildings can have just as negative of an impact. 51 E. Mohawk Street in the burgeoning Ellicott Street corridor is one such property.

The four-story building at the corner of Ellicott and E. Mohawk is a 36-unit rooming house. Others who are less politically correct call it a rat-infested flophouse full of drug addicts and dealers, registered sex criminals, and drunks. On the ground floor it has a dive bar that opens at 7 am and a nail salon. It is the scourge of the neighborhood that is seeing an increased amount of investment and is along Ellicott Street, a critical north-south connector between downtown and the Medical Campus. electric2

The building is owned by Orlin Enterprises Inc. with a Hamburg mailing address. It’s assessed at a paltry $135,000. Considering its run down condition, it may be over-assessed.

Alarmingly, the owners are seeking to expand their low-end empire by purchasing an adjacent building at 47 E. Mohawk, the location of the now closed Mohawk Place. The buzz on the street is the building could accommodate another 25 shabby boarding rooms. A bad situation could get a whole lot worse.

New development along Ellicott Street is on the upswing. Pioneers along the corridor include Rocco Termini and his Ellicott Lofts, Ellicott Commons and IS Lofts projects and Roger Trettel’s Buehl Block and adjoining properties. Later projects include the Historic Warehouse Lofts, Hotel Lafayette, Electric Tower, Genesee Gateway, and most recently Tappo restaurant. More is planned. Uniland Development is converting 505 Ellicott into office space and Big Ditch Brewing Company is taking space Iskalo Development’s 337 Ellicott Street. While many millions have been spent on rehabbing buildings and bringing new positive life to this corridor, the Orlin Enterprises flophouse has done nothing but continue to drag down the neighborhood.

So what to do? Neighboring property owners are seeking City help. They want to make sure the corner building is up to code. They want the owners to screen tenants and be a good neighbor. They certainly do not want the problems to double with a newly-licensed rooming house. And if the current owners do not want to invest in the property, to sell it to someone who will.

The issue isn’t gentrification, it’s a matter of an owner maintaining and managing a property in a manner that doesn’t negatively impact downtown employees, residents, visitors and businesses, and contradict the positive momentum that has been created.

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Written by WCPerspective

WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

1874 posts
56 comments
BenniGholami
BenniGholami

I feel it's shocking that the neighbouring businesses and residences have to actually get moving to inform city councils about buildings like these! Should the councils themselves be regulating and doing checks every once in a while and making sure that infrastructure is up to par? Nobody is going to want to buy a house or rent an apartment in neighbourhoods like this!

warehousedweller
warehousedweller

all of you people who are complaining about this building are jealous of the owner ! the owner is making a killing.someone could probably get this place if they offer lets say 3 mil.

MerleGorko
MerleGorko

Holy cow, what an arrogant elitist article. where do these people go i the building is taken down or converted into f-ing mixed use lofts??? & this is really the whole problem with this site, elitist with very little emphasis on reality.

solonggone
solonggone

@MerleGorko But the building does not have a parking lot...so THUMBS UP!  Fvck Poor people and cars.

brownteeth
brownteeth

@MerleGorko I think you may be missing the point of the article, or at least the bigger picture here.  The people living here certainly deserve a place to live, however given the nature of their lifestyle and certain afflictions (ex-cons, drug addicts, mental issues, etc) it's not really prudent to house so many in one building without properly trained management in place that can handle the day to day issues that arise with such residents.  It's really no different than a group home or even child day care setting that has regulations in place (ie, staff to resident ratios), however it's not treated that way.  Often times these rooms are rented out with no discretion to whoever has the paperwork in order to have the rent paid by whatever gov't agency is paying it. 

Frankly it's not doing anyone justice in these scenarios.  The residents who are law abiding and trying to get back on their feet have to deal with the problem residents.  The neighborhood suffers because the problem residents have little to no regard for the laws they break and there's no recourse when they do.  The property owner does have a responsibility over the actions of the tenants, just like any land lord.  That means if they know their tenants are causing problems for the neighborhood the proper action should be taken.  It's gross negligence on their part to let their tenants wreak havoc on the neighborhood simply to collect a steady rent check.  If I knew my tenants were acting this way they'd be kicked out asap.  There's nothing elitist about maintaining a reasonable quality of life for everyone.

Spock1
Spock1

I'm actually in agreement with some of the usual city haters on this topic.  I too don't care for the tone of those calling for the existing residents and businesses for more desirable groups and uses.  There's plenty of room downtown for walks of life, including those who patronize "flophouses" and "dive bars."

buffaloroamer
buffaloroamer

@Spock1 You are right Mr. Spock, but you must agree living in the area doesn't give these residents the right to act in an illegal and disgusting manner.  Live here in the neighborhood, that's fine, get public assistance; fine.  But use your own toilet, use the trash cans available instead of the ground and don't ask me for my hard earned money.  And last, I choose not to smell your weed when I come home from work- I stopped smoking in High School and choose not to smoke now!!!

pskeptic
pskeptic

@buffaloroamer @Spock1 The residents doing things illegal isn't the fault of the property owner, but instead the fault of the individuals breaking the law.

If laws are not being enforced, then the Buffalo police need to actually do their job, and enforce the law.

buffaloroamer
buffaloroamer

@pskeptic @buffaloroamer @Spock1 I never mentioned the property owner, only the tenants that reside there.  Yes, the tenants destroying a neighborhood is not his problem, and yes the police should patrol more often instead of sitting in a vehicle somewhere.  I guess my point is that I was raised to throw my trash in a can, pee in a toilet in private and respect my community....I guess it's too hard to ask the same of others.  And to the person who responded that having the garbage picked is good for the environment, because of recyclables- yeah, great when they take what they want and put the rest BACK in the trash can not all over the ground.  Last, look at any major successful city and or neighborhood and these properties do not exist.  So if you want Buffalo to be a successful city, it should be "filled" with successful people or those that aspire to be as such.

whateverr
whateverr

@buffaloroamer

Except your last point, your complaints look valid although there isn't much that can practically be done  about it.  

For police to catch non-toilet use in the act isn't easy. And even when rarely they do witness it, the time spent arresting for that then taking an accused person to the lockup when there will be very little if any punishment from City Court... probably leads to thinking arrests won't make much impact.  Same for messing up trash. 

Asking for money on public sidewalks isn't illegal when not threatening or harassing.

Even though all of the above can be annoying, not a lot can be done about it.  I'm skeptical that people who are willing to do those things for who-knows-what reasons or substances would change their ways based on threats of an occasional night in the Holding Center.  Even one night probably happens only very rarely considering it's often nearly full of people charged with more serious crimes.

Also skeptical about whether your last point is  accurate about major cities -

roam>"look at any major successful city and or neighborhood and these properties do not exist." 

Neighborhoods ok, but what are any whole U.S. cities where no property like that exists?  Don't all major U.S. cities have some areas with similar issues & behaviors?

pskeptic
pskeptic

@buffaloroamer @pskeptic @Spock1 I'll have to re-examine NYC...  They seem to be pretty successful as a city, and they most certainly have neighborhoods like that.  Alphabet City comes to mind.

Publius V Publicola
Publius V Publicola

Gentrification is a great.  It adds value to undervalued neighborhoods.  It pushes undesirable elements out of areas with economic potential.  It leads to an overall revival of a neighborhood that otherwise would never be considered by the middle-class.

Many neighborhoods of Buffalo are vacant.  These vacant neighborhoods would be better served by a concentration of poor people than the emptiness that now defines them.  The natural shift of low-income families through gentrification is good for Buffalo.

micahh64
micahh64

"It’s assessed at a paltry $135,000. Considering its run down condition, it may be over-assessed."

Forgive me as I, like the author, am also currently "exiled" in CA . . . but going by just the pictures, I see a building

- with no external graffiti on the brick or the base

- one that's fully occupied

- and has two operating businesses in its storefront

How does that constitute "run down"?

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buffaloroamer
buffaloroamer

@micahh64 It's what's on the inside that is the problem.  If you don't walk these streets daily and deal with the urine, pot, alcohol, sleeping individuals and garbage they throw all over the street after picking through the trash cans, then you really can't join in this conversation or understand those of us that do.  And again I'll reiterate my stand- I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH PEOPLE THAT NEED PUBLIC ASSISTANCE.  I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH RACE.  I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ANY INDIVIDUAL THAT IS BREAKING THE LAW AND DESTROYING MY NEIGHBORHOOD.

pskeptic
pskeptic

@buffaloroamer @micahh64 I walk that area daily.  The property owners can't force people to not piss on the stoops.  Alcohol is legal.  Pot should be anyways.  And, people picking through garbage cans are actually doing a service and removing recyclable items from the garbage stream.

If you have an issue with individuals breaking the law, then your appropriate target is the person breaking the law, not the property owners who are acting in accordance with the law.

micahh64
micahh64

@buffaloroamer

"It's what's on the inside that is the problem."

Well, unless you're spending time on the inside, how do you know for certain that it is them that's urinating in the street and tossing garbage?

 "If you don't walk these streets daily . . .then you really can't join in this conversation or understand those of us that do."

Um, the author of this article him/herself does not walk these streets daily (unless they're doing so from California) and yet made a commentary on the building, its occupants, and the neighborhood -- why can't I?

Unless you're this site's owner or a moderator, you have no call to be telling me which conversation(s) I can or cannot participate in.

"And again I'll reiterate my stand- I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH PEOPLE THAT NEED PUBLIC ASSISTANCE.  I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH RACE.  I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ANY INDIVIDUAL THAT IS BREAKING THE LAW AND DESTROYING MY NEIGHBORHOOD."

And I'll reiterate what pskeptic said:

 "If you have an issue with individuals breaking the law, then your appropriate target is the person breaking the law, not the property owners who are acting in accordance with the law."

And I'll include with that any of this building's occupants who are acting in accordance with the law.

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buffaloroamer
buffaloroamer

I say move them to Richmond, bordering on the Elmwood Village.  Lets see what happens then.

In all seriousness people, there is a difference between classes of people that are section 8, needing assistance and those that are derelict and criminally minded.  No one would mind sharing a neighborhood with residents of section 8 housing as long as the residents act in a correct manor of citizenship.  However, when the section 8 housing is overcrowded as this property is and full of criminal activity, it is a problem and should be addressed.  Where should they live....that's always going to be an issue, but I can tell you that the residents of these units are Problem citizens and they do put an ugly scar on our city...a city trying to climb out of a hole.  And yes they can be a detriment to what can be a golden opportunity for us.  As for those of you who think they're fine where they are and their behavior is acceptable; stop selling our city short, we are better than this and need to act as such.

micahh64
micahh64

@buffaloroamer

"I say move them to Richmond, bordering on the Elmwood Village.  Lets see what happens then."

Seriously.  Every time the problem of the homeless or low income people is brought up on this forum, the knee-jerk reflex response is always, "send 'em to the East Side"  -- as though the East Side is nothing more than a repository for people you don't want to be around . . .

texpat
texpat

I am pretty sure he was saying to move them someplace more upscale and watch the response then.