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Massena mayor holds meeting on neighborhood problems

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MASSENA - A “public nuisance law” could be part of the solution to turning around Massena’s troubled neighborhoods, according to Police Chief Timmy J. Currier.

Mr. Currier circulated information to village board members and to officials gathered at a Wednesday morning meeting organized by Mayor James F. Hidy about a local law used in the city of Rome, N.Y. If a “public nuisance” like the sale of illegal drugs or firearms, gang activity or assaults occur at a property more than once, the village could issue a court summons under the law for civil action.

If the building’s tenants or owner are found responsible for the continuing problems at the property, they could be fined. If the problems continue, the village could then issue a permanent injunction and control the building until the problems stop or are solved, Mr. Currier said.

Mr. Currier said Wednesday night that he was not yet proposing such a law, but bringing it up as one option for discussion. He credited Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, with introducing the idea to him.

“We’re looking at all options to deal with the blighted property issues and the criminal activity occurring in some of our neighborhoods,” Mr. Currier said.

Many of the solutions to turn around Massena’s blighted properties already exist in he village code, Mr. Hidy said after the meeting closed to the public and the press.

Mr. Hidy met with village department heads, County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire, Department of Social Services Commissioner Chris Rediehs and other officials to discuss conditions in Massena’s Grove neighborhood. Mr. Hidy was looking to develop a strategy to address dilapidated apartment buildings and public safety concerns in the area bounded by Liberty Avenue and Chase, Beach and Center streets.

Utilizing the codes that already exist is the “quicker, cleaner” way to turn around the neighborhood and hold landlords accountable, Mr. Hidy said. Village police have already increased their patrols in the neighborhood, he said.

“We’re stepping up everything we can possibly do. We’re going to stay on top of it,” Mr. Hidy said.

Apartment buildings on Sycamore near Liberty Street will be the benchmark the village will focus on and turn around, Mr. Hidy said.

“We’re going to use the east end of Sycamore, moving forward, to address all the other issues in the village,” he said. “It’s going to be cleaned up.”

The village’s code officers have been regularly checking up on Sycamore Street apartment buildings and will continue to do so, according to Code Enforcement Officer Gregory C. Fregoe.

“We’ll do what the mayor wants us to do,” Mr. Fregoe said. “We’ll spend more time with the landlords. We’ll spend more time with the tenants.”

The code office must still issue building permits and respond to issues in the rest of the village and town too, he said.

“We still have a myriad of other things we have to do,” he said.

Mr. Hidy had wondered whether the Department of Social Services was placing individuals needing public assistance in Massena’s neighborhoods.

“I was hoping to find the county had more responsibility in the placement of social services recipients,” Mr. Hidy said. “We’re told they don’t get involved in active placement.”

Ms. St. Hilaire agreed that the county does not direct its welfare recipients to live anywhere in the county.

“It was the belief of the mayor that a number of the individuals who are part of the problem were a recipient of social services,” she said. “It’s not that were sending people to a particular neighborhood.”

She also agreed that much of the solution lies at the local level, in the village’s codes.

“The village has the wherewithal to handle that and to take action,” she said. “The issue is one that needs to be resolved within the community. It’s more a local enforcement issue than something social services can do or the county can do,” she said.

Ms. St. Hilaire also encouraged village officials and police to notify the county any time welfare fraud or abuse is suspected.

“We don’t want to see fraud more than anyone else,” she said. “We’re not in every place at all times ... We can’t do anything about it if we don’t know about it.”

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