Often times, the only way to get something done is to do it yourself. At least that’s the mindset of Buffalo Common Council Member and President Pro Temp Christopher P. Scanlon. For three years, Scanlon has been taking his message to the streets, that The City will not stand for property owners to neglect their yards. The first sign of neglect usually comes in the form of a majorly overgrown lawn. This tends to happen when the homes are vacant.
In order to combat the neglect, Scanlon has formed a South Buffalo task force that cleans up the yards, mows the lawns, and then bills the property owners (sometimes banks) for the work. In order to complete the tasks at hand, Scanlon has enlisted the help of Mayor Byron Brown, the Department of Public Works, and the South District Impact Team. The Mayor’s Impact Team has also agreed to donate equipment for some of the larger jobs.
“Modeled after Mayor Brown’s Impact Team, I started the South District Impact Team out of my office to ensure that the overgrown lawns are addressed in a reasonable time frame so that residents can spend our few precious, warm months outside enjoying their neighborhood,” said Scanlon. “Although it’s the banks/owners’ responsibility to maintain these properties, we cannot sit back and wait for them to address the high grass at the expense of nearby residents’ quality of life. By billing the responsible owners for the completed work, we are sending a message that the City of Buffalo does not tolerate absentee property owners, no matter who they are.”
Each week, The South District Impact Team can be seen picking up garbage, mowing lawns, and tending to eyesores and public nuisances. That usually equates to about a dozen properties each week. So far, a total of approximately $8000 has been billed to banks and private owners.
It would be great to see this group issuing citations to repeat offenders. It was also be good to see this program expanded upon – why not hand out a contract to a private mowing service that could handle a bigger work load? The same system could be applied to derelict houses that are in need of paint jobs. If the bills aren’t paid, then the houses are in jeopardy of being seized. Those seized homes would then be auctioned off, thus ensuring that the maintenance bills get paid. The new property owners would have then have to properly tend to the property, or they would be subjected to the same billings, citations and seizures. This could extend to maintaining sidewalks in the winter… if property owners aren’t willing to keep their properties up to snuff, then they should either sell at a reasonable price, or face the consequences. This is an excellent way to hold slum lords accountable for their messes, while safeguarding the architectural assets of our neighborhoods.
Councilmember Scanlon encourages South District residents to report any vacant properties with overgrown grass to his office by calling 716-851–5169.