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Massena residents tell village board of deteriorating neighborhood

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MASSENA — In the 30 years that Kim Wilson has lived on Liberty Avenue, he has seen the neighborhood surrounding him, including nearby Sycamore Street, deteriorate.

“I could go on and tell all kinds of war stories about that street,” Mr. Wilson told the village’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday.

A handful of residents showed up at the meeting to express concern over blighted apartment buildings on Sycamore, and the conditions in which children live in those buildings. Their concerns sparked a candid discussion on topics not frequently broached at Massena’s public meetings.

Connie Castleman said she grew up in the area and now fears driving down Sycamore because of some of the conditions she sees.

She said some of the children living there are growing up in bad conditions and should be removed from their homes by the St. Lawrence County of Department of Social Services. “These children don’t have a voice,” she said.

“This is our town,” Ms. Castleman said. “This is our community falling apart.”

Mayor James F. Hidy said he grew up close by in the Grove section of Massena and understood the residents’ concerns. The village is placing pressure on certain apartment building owners to make sure the structures are safe to live in.

“It’s one of the concentrated efforts that we’re trying to clean up,” Mr. Hidy said. “We’ve got a plague. We’ve got a cancer in our community.”

Village codes can go only so far, former Code Enforcement Office Dale Beaulieu said at Tuesday’s meeting.

He spoke of an apartment he once checked for code deficiencies. Human or animal feces was on the floor, and a small diapered child was running around the apartment when he visited, he said.

“We tried diligently to clean that up,” Mr. Beaulieu said. “Within two or three months, it was a disaster again.”

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