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Sunday, February 22, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Man complains of side pain after being struck by vehicle on Elm Street, Batavia

post by Billie Owens in batavia, accidents

Mercy medics are evaluating a man struck by a car on Elm Street near the 7-11 on the corner of East Main Street, Batavia. He is complaining of side injuries. The vehicle that struck him is no longer on scene. But whether this was a hit-and-run is not clear.

Friday, February 20, 2015 at 8:30 pm

City DPW called upon again to repair water line break on sub-zero night

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, infrastructure

Another sub-zero night and another water line break for city crews to repair.

This time on Union Street (see previous post).

The location is between Notre Dame HS and Robert Morris, near Richmond Avenue.

A worker said they're hopeful it will be a quick repair, but the first order of business is finding the leak. Workers dug a hole first where the road was covered only by asphalt. An easy hole to dig, but no luck. The leak is further south, so they're punching holes through concrete (concrete under the asphalt at that location) to find the link. The concrete makes the work that much more difficult.

At the time this picture was taken it was minus five degrees.

Friday, February 20, 2015 at 7:29 pm

City putting pressure on banks to deal with vacant and abandoned properties

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, abandoned properties

The modest yellow house at 420 North St., Batavia, was probably somebody's dream home in 1930.

Today, it's emblematic of the difficulties the City of Batavia faces in dealing with abandoned and vacant homes.

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 such homes in Batavia and City Manager Jason Molino thinks it's an important enough of a problem that he would like to spend more time during his work days on the issue in 2015.

Vacant and abandoned homes can attract squatters. They serve as eyesores for neighborhoods. They bring down property values for surrounding residents. They are safety hazards. They can contribute to economic decline. They use city resources without contributing revenue or economic impact to the city.

It's important that vacant and abandoned homes be returned to the housing stock quickly. That's one reason the city is getting aggressive with banks that hold mortgages, and in some cases even hold title, by putting pressure on them to deal with code enforcement issues. 

Today, six banks were summoned to City Court to answer to code violation citations.  

Three banks were to be represented by attorneys when their cases were called. One bank previously received an adjournment of its case because the property will soon be sold. And counsel for two banks didn't show at all.

One of those was Bank of America, the bank the city identified as responsible for the quaint 1,600-square-foot house at 420 North St.

After court, The Batavian reached out to Bank of America and our call was returned by Rick Simon, a California-based spokesman for the bank. 

Simon said that Bank of America is not responsible for 420 North St.  

He referred us to Rushmore Loan Management Services in Irvine, Calif.

A spokeswoman for Rushmore quickly returned our call, but said she needed time to research the property before responding to questions.

The confusion over who is responsible for the property is exactly the sort of problem the city runs into as it tries to deal with vacant and abandoned homes.

First, the city must research who the mortgage holder is, whether there's ever been a foreclosure, or if the bank or somebody else ever took title, and then find the right person to talk with about the property.

Often times, Molino said, these big banks aren't even certain what properties they are handling and whether they're now responsible for it.

Simon, with Bank of America, said his company tries to be responsive to municipal governments with troubled properties in their neighborhoods, but it's up to the local officials to contact the bank. They don't know there is a problem unless they're told, he said.

In the case of today's scheduled court appearance for 420 Bank St., Simon couldn't confirm the bank ever even received the summons.

City records indicate the summons was delivered in October to a bank employee in Charlotte, N.C., where Bank of America lists its official headquarters.

The Bank of America employees responsible for these properties, whom Simon could normally check with, the spokesman said, were all off on this Friday afternoon.

After an initial phone conversation, he did further research on 420 North and called back to report bank records show responsibility for 420 North was transferred to Rushmore.

To help smooth away these wrinkles in the accountability process, Molino would like to see the state pass a "zombie law." The law would make it possible for municipalities to hold banks who issued the mortgage on the property accountable for the condition of the property. It would be harder for bankers to throw up their hands and say, "not our problem."

For the most part, however, bankers have been responding to the city's code enforcement efforts.

Of the four properties represented by attorneys in City Court today, all four are either now in compliance or moving toward compliance.

"We are getting some banks to take responsibility for the properties," Molino said. "We're serving papers and finding ways to get them into court where judges are receptive to telling them they have to comply with the code."

Today's successes:

  • 35 Manhatten Ave., with Michale Jabloski representing Wells Fargo. Many repairs were completed Feb. 1, though there is still some work to be done. The case was continued to April when the city expects Wells Fargo to be in full compliance.
  • 129 Summit St., another Wells Fargo property. Wells Fargo was not aware it was responsible for this property until just recently. The bank is awaiting more information from a code enforcement officer on what work needs to be done on the property. The bank was given until May 15 to bring the property into compliance.
  • 6 Manhatten Ave., with Jason Racki representing Ocwen Mortgage. Since Racki's last court appearance on the case, many of the required repairs have been completed, but there is new water damage to the structure that must be repaired. Ocwen has also put the property out for bid and anticipates accepting a bid soon. The matter was continued to May 15.
  • 40 Manhatten Ave., with Richard Fay representing Citi Mortgage. There have been previous appearances on this property and some work has been done, such as repairing and repainting the garage door. The chimney has been stabilized and the bank is now putting siding out to bid. The case was continued to May 15.

Also not showing today was HSBC bank, whom the city is holding accountable for 128 Ross St.

Another bank, J.P. Morgan, had its case adjourned in advance because it's about to sell 42 Porter Ave.

Some of these properties, like many vacant and abandoned properties in the city, are worth a lot less than it would cost an investor to buy and rehab the property.

Even if an investor can get the house for a song, he might be looking at spending $50,000 to fix up a place that he can't sell for much more than that, so he's now upside down on the so-called investment.

To help address that problem, Molino is working on a local law that would allow the city to offer tax abatements to would-be homeowners who buy distressed homes and fix them up.

"For every $1,000 paid in taxes, that's $1,000 that can't be paid on a mortgage or for rehabilitation," Molino said. "We're already not collecting taxes on it and at that valuation, the amount of taxes you would collect are miniscule, so why not redirect those taxes to rehabilitation."

A vacant home, Molino said, doesn't have a family in it who is bringing their buying power to our community.

"This is a process we really have to vet and decide whether it's appropriate for some of these upside-down properties," Molino said. 

He also thinks there are opportunities to work more with groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Neighborhood Works and Pathstone to help identify people who would be productive homeowners even if they can't afford to buy a home without assistance.

"They have the capital, the overhead, to acquire properties and if they can get them cheaply, they are able to screen for good homeowners and arrange for financing, or they have the financing tools to help people get into homes," Molino said.

The first step, though, is bringing vacant and abandoned homes back into the housing stock, and that's only going to happen to the degree the city is successful in identifying responsible parties and getting them to move the property.

Previously: The problem of distressed properties complex and easy solutions elusive

6 Manhatten Ave.

40 Manhatten Ave.

129 Summit St.

Friday, February 20, 2015 at 5:40 pm

City employees responding to water line break on Union Street

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, infrastructure

Press release:

City employees are responding to a water line break on Union Street. Residents on Union Street between Richmond and West avenues will be without water from approximately 5:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. this evening while crews repair the leak. If you should experience discolored water after the service is restored, please run a faucet until the water runs clear.

Thank you for your patience as we make the necessary repairs.

Friday, February 20, 2015 at 2:13 pm

By mid-April, what's left of the Wiard Plow factory buildings will exist only in pictures

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Wiard Fire, Wiard Plow

Old industrial buildings off of Swan Street that weren't destroyed by arson in 2010 are being felled by code enforcement in 2015.

Tom Mancuso, current owner of what was once the Wiard Plow Factory, appeared in City Court today to update Judge Michael Del Plato on his progress toward bringing the property into code compliance after citations were issued by the City of Batavia.

The case was continued to April 17, giving Mancuso time to complete demolition of the half-dozen brick structures on the property.

The only thing that will be left of what was once one of Batavia's landmark companies will be the former office building, which is owned by Smart Design and undergoing renovation.

Two of the old factory buildings were destroyed in a fire in 2010 that was deliberately set by a 14-year-old resident of the city. (For The Batavian's complete and comprehensive coverage of the fire and its aftermath, click here.)

For decades after Wiard Plow closed up shop, the buildings were used to house several small businesses. The Mancuso family invested money to help bring in business and support those businesses, but the buildings were all vacant by the time of the fire.

Tom Mancuso still had plans for the wood and brick industrial buildings, but the fire was a big set back.

"The arson fire destroyed everything we had invested," Mancuso said. "The insurance proceeds did not cover the loss, so we came out of pocket on the fire and now we're going to be out of pocket again on the demolition."

It took some time to get the necessary demolition permits from the state, but Mancuso is through that process and a contractor is on site, preparing the property to be ripped apart beam-by-beam, brick-by-brick.

Asked how much the demolition is costing his company, Mancuso said, "Too much. More than we have."

Still, Mancuso is looking at the bright side.

"It will make the street better," Mancuso said. "It's a good thing for the community. You hope something good will come of it. For years, we've tried to find somebody to build something or do something there so we can redevelop it. We'll hope this allows something good to happen sooner."

Friday, February 20, 2015 at 1:55 pm

City still seeking nominations for annual recognition awards, deadline is March 1

post by Billie Owens in batavia

The City of Batavia continues to call for nominations for the following annual recognition awards:

  • Community Volunteer of the Year
  • Homeowner of the Year
  • Business of the Year

Nomination forms are available on the home page of the city Web site:  www.bataviany.com or they can be picked up at the city Manager's Office, or requested by phone -- 345-6333.

Nominations will be accepted through March 1.

Please submit your nominations to Lisa Casey by e-mail at [email protected] or by fax 343-8182 or by mailing to:

Office of the City Manager

One Batavia City Centre

Batavia, NY  14020

Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Ithaca College congratulates two local students named to dean's list for Fall 2014

post by Billie Owens in batavia, corfu, Milestones

Kaitlin Logsdon, of Batavia, a communication, management and design major in the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College was named to dean'slist for the Fall 2014 semseter.

Maureen Edwards, of Corfu, a musical theatre major in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Ithaca College was named to dean's list for the Fall 2014 semseter.

From day one, Ithaca College prepares students for success through hands-on experience with internships, research and study abroad. Its integrative curriculum builds bridges across disciplines and uniquely blends liberal arts and professional study. Located in New York’s Finger Lakes region, the College is home to 6,100 undergraduate and 460 graduate students.

Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Tender Loving Family Care to offer adult day programs at Office for the Aging in Batavia

post by Billie Owens in batavia

Press release:

As of March 1st, seniors in Genesee County will have another option to get out of the house and stay active. Tender Loving Family Care, a Brockport-based business with roots in Batavia, has reached an agreement with Genesee County to operate Adult Day Programs in the Office for the Aging location at 2 Bank Street in Batavia.

Adult Day Programs are dynamic, multifaceted programs that focus on fitness and wellness, entertainment, personal care and nutrition. A typical day starts out with a continental breakfast of muffins and pastries along with discussion of current events and socialization. Seniors then participate in different activities including: arts and crafts, card games, indoor bowling, baking, or simply watching "The Price is Right!" on TV.

Morning activities are followed by a hot lunch and afternoon activities like bingo, trivia, wii bowling, and others. Some days, seniors enjoy field trips to area attractions. TLFC founder and CEO Annika D’Andrea says Batavia will be the fourth location for her company that currently operates similar programs in Albion, Brockport, and Le Roy.

“Tender Loving Family Care began in Batavia and we are happy to be back in the city doing what we do best, helping seniors and families live happy and productive lives,” D’Andrea said. “Adult Day Programs offer families the flexibility and support they need to thrive. In some cases transportation is available, making this a smooth transition for those involved.”

Tender Loving Family Care offers a variety of services for seniors including both medical and non-medical in home care, and assisted living facilities including Canal View in Albion and Garden View in LeRoy. To find out more, visit www.tenderlovingfamilycare.com or call (585) 637-0333.

Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Local developer announces plans to restore and preserve Mid-century building in city's central corridor

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, D.A. Tufts Construction, preservation

There are few examples of Mid-century Modern architecture in Batavia, especially among commercial buildings, and one that has been neglected for a long time has found a savior.

D.A. Tufts Construction has purchased 438 East Main Street, which is at the corner of Main and Harvester and is perhaps most often thought of as the former WBTA building.

Dave Tufts said he's admired the building since he was a little kid and is a big fan of Mid-century Modern, so he want to be sure to preserve the era's clean lines and Jetson-style modernism of the structure.

"It's one of my favorite periods, so we're excited about it, to be honest with you," Tufts said. 

Tufts plans to convert the 2,900-square-foot first floor to office space, suitable for business or medical use, and the second floor will become two large apartments (1,300 square feet each) with open floor plans (appropriate for the era) and high-end amenities.

In a statement about their plans, the Tufts said, "The repurposing of the building goes along with the current trend of people returning to urban areas to enjoy downtown living."

They will also construct two more apartments on the property and all four apartments will have private garages.

The exterior will be upgraded with a new entry way and balconies for the apartments, but preserve the stamped brick facade common to the Mid-century Era and simple lines that dominate the look and feel of the current building.

The last tenant of the building, T-Shirts Etc., moved downtown four years ago, and the building has been vacant since. It's sort of gone to seed over all those winters and summers of emptiness.

Renovation work has begun inside, but there's a lot of work ahead for his crews, Tufts said, to bring out the best the building has to offer.

Tufts said Julie Pacatte, economic development coordinator for the city, has helped them throughout the planning process.

Pacatte said she helped the Tufts by developing a marking list for potential office space tenants and also helped them with an application for a grant from National Grid for main street revitalization projects, which she expects will be approved.

"We're thrilled about the project," Pacatte said, because it hits on so many of the city's economic development goals -- from providing mix-use buildings; bringing more viable commercial space and residential space to the central city corridor; and providing higher-end housing (apartments with garages) that doesn't currently exist in the market.

"We love that they're honoring the architectural style of the property," Pacatte said.

Lucine Kauffman, president of the Genesee County Landmark Society, said the Tufts' plans sound like good news.

"I think it's great to start raising awareness to start saving Mid-century buildings," Kauffman said. "When we think about preservation, we usually think of buildings from the 1800s, especially in this area, but there are a lot from the first half of the last century that are certainly worth preserving."

Converting a former commercial building into a mix-use structure (apartments and commercial) fits right in with the trend nationally toward what planners call "new urbanism," Kauffman said, which has so many benefits for local communities, such as economic growth and reduced crime, and it's good for the environment, by reducing the need for commutes and not filling landfills with demolished buildings.

"It's especially true in a city like Batavia, where there has been so much urban renewal and so much devastation," Kauffman said. "I think it's important to move forward and make the best of what we have now. When you see the plans for the Save-A-Lot building, what was done with the Williams building (Alberty Drugs), and what Tompkins has done with their building where WBTA is now, where they're kind of dressing it up, that's the best we can hope for, where people make the best of it."

Kauffman is aware Mid-century Modern may not be to everyone's liking, but that doesn't mean Mid-century Modern shouldn't be preserved.

"Buildings don't have to be grand," Kauffman said. "They don't have to be fancy. They don't have to be anything. They don't have to be esthetically pleasing to everyone. So long as a building represents a specific era or a specific architectural style, it's worth saving."

Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 10:38 am

Batavia PD announces house checks on registered sex offenders

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD

Press release:

The Batavia Police Department has launched a proactive sex offender house check campaign that will have officers checking registered residences for sex offenders that live in our community. The check is to encourage compliance with NYS sex offender registration laws and to bring offenders who are in violation into compliance. These checks will be random and unscheduled.

The Batavia Police Department has also launched its new Local Sex Offender Web page on the City of Batavia Web site. Citizens can view information pertaining to all the sex offenders that are registered in the City Of Batavia. The page can be found by clicking on “Click for the list of Sex Offenders in the City of Batavia” located at http://www.batavianewyork.com/police-department/pages/sex-offenders.

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