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Oversight Committee for Housing Court Sought

Like the drawn-out saga involving the deteriorating Blacksmith Shop in the Cobblestone District, Allentown has its own posterchild for Housing Court ineptness.  The charming three-story residence at 198 North Street has been in and out of housing court for over five years without resolution.  The Allentown Association has had enough.

In a letter to the Common Council and referred to the Council’s Community Development Committee, the Association is asking the City to establish a Housing Court oversight committee, as required.

The Allentown Association has been advocating for the preservation of 198 North for over five years. During that time, the owner of the property has appeared In Housing Court at least four times, and Judge Patrick Carney has adjourned and rescheduled appearances, with no fines or other consequences for the owner’s poor stewardship of this historic property.

The unsatisfactory progress and lack of resolution on this problem property has prompted an inquiry into the way that Housing Court functions. Our findings are troubling, and we ask the Common Council to take action.

In addition to 198 North, many other properties are involved in active Housing Court cases that have been lingering for years, and Judge Carney has declined to use the tools at the court’s disposal, such as fines, jail time, and receivership, to bring properties into compliance.

The Inception of Housing Court document clearly states that the City of Buffalo must establish an oversight committee, which reports to the Mayor and to the State on the disposition of cases in Housing Court. There is no such committee, so Housing Court operates with no accountability for the following:
• Accounting of how the 3 million dollars in the City Budget for Housing Court is actually spent
• Effectiveness of the Housing Court Liaison program
• Analysis of the workload of Housing Court staff and replacement of departing or retiring staff
• Caseload of the Receiver for Housing Court
• Existence of threats to the health and safety of citizens because of fire hazards, criminal activity, and public health issues when cases linger in housing court for years without resolution
• Process for enforcing the tax lien legislation that was sponsored by· Council Members Scanlon and Fontana, and to date has not be utilized by the City of Buffalo

We strongly urge the Common Council to establish an oversight without it, Housing Court will continue to fail the residents of the City of Buffalo.

The circa-1870 198 North is owned by MC 198 North LLC with an address of 2040 Military Road in Tonawanda.  The apartment building east of it, 196 North Street, is owed by Hyde Park North LLC with the same Military Road address.  According to Preservation Ready Sites, the owners, the Morrison Family, have been interested in demolishing the smaller building to expand parking for the apartment building.

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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