ALBANY -- Fixing up vacant
properties, cleaning unsightly lawns and making sure residents
obey rules about property maintenance might not be too exciting
-- but it can keep neighborhoods from eroding.
"It can have as dramatic an effect on your community as
a good police department," said Timothy Dexter, director of
code enforcement in Beacon, Dutchess County.
The fifth annual Neighborhoods Work conference, held at the
First Lutheran Church on State Street, drew about 70, including
elected officials, municipal workers and members of more than a
dozen neighborhood associations. The free event was sponsored by
the Neighborhood Resource Center and the Council of Albany
Neighborhood Associations. After the first panel on code
enforcement, another was held on zoning issues.
"To see this many people wanting to talk about code
enforcement and zoning on a Saturday morning is pretty exciting
to me," said Andy Brick, attorney for the town of
The dire situation at the Wellington Hotel on State Street,
whose crumbling edifice is costing its owner $17,000 a day in
fines and has already cost the city $500,000 since its condition
became evident in August, has put enforcement issues front and
But while the city is handling the high-profile situations,
Beverly Padgett, a Third Street resident, said many smaller
problems in poor neighborhoods are ignored.
"Bricks are jumping off buildings as if they're trying
to seek rehabilitation themselves," said Padgett, who is
with the Arbor Hill Neighborhood Association.
While part of the problem is a lack of resources -- something
that Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings said forces the city to
prioritize what it needs to tackle -- another major hurdle is
absentee property owners.
Valerie Scott, director of the city's Division of Building
& Codes, said simply tracking down owners of vacant
buildings could be a daunting task.
Common Council President Helen Desfosses said the council had
put money in next year's budget for an extra code enforcement
officer and office worker. The budget is expected to pass at
Monday's meeting, she said.
"Code enforcement is literally where the rubber meets
the road," she said.
Gene Solan, chairman of the Neighborhood Resource Center,
said that as out-of-town investors buy Albany rental units, it
is important to educate them about the need to keep up their
properties. Because while most of the investors are earnest, a
few might not be.
In Beacon, Dutchess County, officials have made code
enforcement a priority. Dexter was on hand to discuss some of
the mechanisms that a community uses, including a law that bars
residents from getting any kind of city permit if they have
unpaid fines on properties they own.
Enforcement can be tricky to implement at first -- in 1989,
when Beacon began getting serious -- "people were insulted
we were actually enforcing the code," he said.
Saturday's event was dedicated to the memory of Elfrieda
Textores, who died last week at 73. The neighborhood advocate,
who lived in the same Third Avenue home all her life, fought
long and hard to arrest the South End's slide.
"She will be deeply missed, not only in her own
neighborhood, but throughout the city," Solan said. Aaron
can be reached at 454-5515 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.