After filing a Freedom of Information request, YNN received 40 pages of violations for the properties at 1315 and 1317 North Salina Street. In the second part of a three part series, YNN's Katie Gibas asks how these violations fell through the cracks.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Once the violations on 1315 and 1317 were referred to the city's lawyers, they were never brought to court.
When we asked why back in June, city spokesperson Alexander Marion told YNN in a statement, "The owners of the property were not taken to housing court because the individual code violations were not severe enough to warrant the opening of a case. There were a number of complaints against the property but even in the aggregate their severity did not warrant being brought to court."
Sharon Sherman, the Greater Syracuse Tenants Network Executive Director added, "If there are so many cases and the tenants have not reached out for assistance, the neighbors are not screaming about it, that sometimes a case where there are a lot of violations, but they're not as serious, that they could fall through the cracks."
The portion of the city law department that deals with housing violations has two lawyers, Meghan McLees Craner and two other staffers.
"The nice thing is she has a great disposition. And I believe she told me she was offered a different position to do something different. But she wanted to stay there because she has a genuine concern about it and really does do a great job of staying on top of it," said Hon. Theodore Limpert, the Syracuse Housing Court Judge.
Sherman said, "This has been kind of the least resources that we've seen. We understand the city budget issues, but more cases could be brought if there were more lawyers."
Every year, the Department of Code Enforcement refers about 1,000 cases to the law department. Just a few hundred of those cases make it to housing court.
"When they get served with the petition and they see that with each violation, there's a daily charge, and the allegation is they have a few code violations , it may add up to $3,000. They look at that, and say they don't want a violation against them for that. And if they go and complete the work, what the city will do is generally just charge them for the cost that the city incurred to bring the case, which is generally under $100," explained Limpert.
When people don't comply, there are consequences.
"Then we have the ability to grant default judgements, an order to compel them to fix the property, and they can get a judgement against them for the costs. And there's an ability, if the city asks for it, to have the people, have a warrant issued for their arrest," said Limpert. "It definitely has teeth. There's definitely incentive to get those violations fixed. But they should understand that the city is wiling to work with them. There's a lot of programs out there thought home headquarters and other entities, that can help them, PEACE Inc, a lot of places they can go to get low interest loans to do some of these improvements before they get into the court system."
However, the weight of enforcement relies on the case actually being brought to court.