Nuisance Properties Impede Neighborhood Progress

They’re in most neighborhoods – problem properties owned by careless, oftentimes out-of-town owners that drag down property values and discourage investment. Many are vacant and unkept. But occupied buildings can have just as negative of an impact. 51 E. Mohawk Street in the burgeoning Ellicott Street corridor is one such property.

The four-story building at the corner of Ellicott and E. Mohawk is a 36-unit rooming house. Others who are less politically correct call it a rat-infested flophouse full of drug addicts and dealers, registered sex criminals, and drunks. On the ground floor it has a dive bar that opens at 7 am and a nail salon. It is the scourge of the neighborhood that is seeing an increased amount of investment and is along Ellicott Street, a critical north-south connector between downtown and the Medical Campus. electric2

The building is owned by Orlin Enterprises Inc. with a Hamburg mailing address. It’s assessed at a paltry $135,000. Considering its run down condition, it may be over-assessed.

Alarmingly, the owners are seeking to expand their low-end empire by purchasing an adjacent building at 47 E. Mohawk, the location of the now closed Mohawk Place. The buzz on the street is the building could accommodate another 25 shabby boarding rooms. A bad situation could get a whole lot worse.

New development along Ellicott Street is on the upswing. Pioneers along the corridor include Rocco Termini and his Ellicott Lofts, Ellicott Commons and IS Lofts projects and Roger Trettel’s Buehl Block and adjoining properties. Later projects include the Historic Warehouse Lofts, Hotel Lafayette, Electric Tower, Genesee Gateway, and most recently Tappo restaurant. More is planned. Uniland Development is converting 505 Ellicott into office space and Big Ditch Brewing Company is taking space Iskalo Development’s 337 Ellicott Street. While many millions have been spent on rehabbing buildings and bringing new positive life to this corridor, the Orlin Enterprises flophouse has done nothing but continue to drag down the neighborhood.

So what to do? Neighboring property owners are seeking City help. They want to make sure the corner building is up to code. They want the owners to screen tenants and be a good neighbor. They certainly do not want the problems to double with a newly-licensed rooming house. And if the current owners do not want to invest in the property, to sell it to someone who will.

The issue isn’t gentrification, it’s a matter of an owner maintaining and managing a property in a manner that doesn’t negatively impact downtown employees, residents, visitors and businesses, and contradict the positive momentum that has been created.

About the author  ⁄ WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

55 comments
ChetKowal
ChetKowal

 Maybe it's a just a matter of building walls across the library's underpass, to keep these nasty people away from Rocco's New Lafayette.  

  A fun article, this;  I enjoy seeing "dive bar" followed by "the now closed Mohawk Place" & they don't reference each other.  har har.  

warehousedweller
warehousedweller

all of you people who are complaining about this building are jealous of the owner ! the owner is making a killing.someone could probably get this place if they offer lets say 3 mil.

MerleGorko
MerleGorko

Holy cow, what an arrogant elitist article. where do these people go i the building is taken down or converted into f-ing mixed use lofts??? & this is really the whole problem with this site, elitist with very little emphasis on reality.

Spock1
Spock1

I'm actually in agreement with some of the usual city haters on this topic.  I too don't care for the tone of those calling for the existing residents and businesses for more desirable groups and uses.  There's plenty of room downtown for walks of life, including those who patronize "flophouses" and "dive bars."

Publius V Publicola
Publius V Publicola

Gentrification is a great.  It adds value to undervalued neighborhoods.  It pushes undesirable elements out of areas with economic potential.  It leads to an overall revival of a neighborhood that otherwise would never be considered by the middle-class.

Many neighborhoods of Buffalo are vacant.  These vacant neighborhoods would be better served by a concentration of poor people than the emptiness that now defines them.  The natural shift of low-income families through gentrification is good for Buffalo.

micahh64
micahh64

"It’s assessed at a paltry $135,000. Considering its run down condition, it may be over-assessed."

Forgive me as I, like the author, am also currently "exiled" in CA . . . but going by just the pictures, I see a building

- with no external graffiti on the brick or the base

- one that's fully occupied

- and has two operating businesses in its storefront

How does that constitute "run down"?

.

buffaloroamer
buffaloroamer

I say move them to Richmond, bordering on the Elmwood Village.  Lets see what happens then.

In all seriousness people, there is a difference between classes of people that are section 8, needing assistance and those that are derelict and criminally minded.  No one would mind sharing a neighborhood with residents of section 8 housing as long as the residents act in a correct manor of citizenship.  However, when the section 8 housing is overcrowded as this property is and full of criminal activity, it is a problem and should be addressed.  Where should they live....that's always going to be an issue, but I can tell you that the residents of these units are Problem citizens and they do put an ugly scar on our city...a city trying to climb out of a hole.  And yes they can be a detriment to what can be a golden opportunity for us.  As for those of you who think they're fine where they are and their behavior is acceptable; stop selling our city short, we are better than this and need to act as such.

foreverbflo
foreverbflo

This is a very serious problem in most communities of the city. There needs to be some kind of task force made up of citizens, businesses, community leaders, city hall, law enforcement, etc... 

Some of the properties and businesses are located right next to playgrounds and community centers! These continue to operate under the "law". They are proven havens for selling drug paraphernalia, swapping food stamps for cash, selling to minors, etc... They do whatever it takes to make a buck. Then, the gangs and "clients:" they sell to use these businsses as all day and all night hangouts intimidating people and making the community look like and seemingly function as "Escape from NY". ! 

Perhaps this would become an issue in any Mayoral debates? 

I know for a fact that a recent $20,000 playground installed at a community center on Broadway Ave has lost about 90% of the community residents that used it due to the drug and gang activity next door to the playground. The playground, as it is locked during the evening, has become an occasional dumping ground for drugs, weapons and assorted contraband when the gangs are corralled by the police - which is almost nightly. 

The store owners know EXACTLY what is going on. They claim it's a "free country". 

These type of properties, businesses and owners are what brings down a community - or prohibits it from trying to get back on it's feet and show some progress. One step forward and ten back. 

warehousedweller
warehousedweller

WHY IS EVERYBODY WORRIED ABOUT A BUILDING THAT TEY DONT OWN ? THE PERSON WHO OWNS IT IS MAKING A KILLING . GETTING DIRECT PMNTS. FROM THE GOV. HOW CAN ANY OF YOU PEOPLE TELL SOMEONE WHAT TO DO WITH THIER PROPERTY ?WHY DONT ALL YOU PEOPLE POOL YOUR MONEY TOGETHER AND BUY IT ? OH THATS RIGHT , YOUR ALL STILL LIVING IN YOUR PARENTS BASEMENT !

buffalofalling
buffalofalling

1. It is gentrification when the argument is to increased the investment in a building beyond what the market is willing to pay in order to drive out current tenants in favor of an implied higher social and economic class.

2. As was troublesome in prior threads with regard to Marine Drive, it's pretty scary that some propose moving people to declining neighborhoods. I find it disgusting that some think that they have the right to socially engineer urban space to meet their own agendas and don't care one bit about those that are displaced so long as the gentry determines the use and who lives there. Pushing the marginalized into more marginalized neighborhoods is a pathetic, ignorant idea driven by a complete lack of any solution to the problem. Marine Drive was a dumpy area when it was constructed and now that the state has funnel hundreds of millions into a 3-month destination silver bullet project, a place no one cared about before suddenly is a target for more economic development driven gentrification.

3. The buildings are the problem caused by a failed market. Your other option is the owner walks away, leaving a building to fall victim to the elements... which this board doesn't like either. Until you solve the economic and housing market problem of continued growth on the fringe in the absence of population growth, many, many areas will see decline resulting in owners, smartly, unwilling to throw money into buildings where the return isn't there.

4. No one hides behind an LLC, some simple knowledge will help you find the person in minutes. But that would require some work, rather than a simple opinion.  

grad94
grad94

i've always thought that getting rid of single-room-occupancies (boarding houses, if you prefer) greatly increased the numbers of homeless.  just as tearing down crack houses does not cure addiction, banning boarding houses does not cure poverty.


the key is for buffalo to find successful sro buildings (they do not automatically have to be a problem) elsewhere and write the regs to replicate them here.  this could be a great project for the ub school of social work.

NorthBuf
NorthBuf

I'm totally for gentrification and it looks like you are too, it does wonders for my property values and state of mind.  Lets stop pussyfooting around and admit you're pro-gentification and that, in the end, we want to push the dirty poor people out so the neighborhood can become nicer.   There's probably some weekly's out on NFB or Sheridan we can move them too.  Then they are completely out of the city. 

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

It only takes one problem property on the block to greatly impact the quality of life for all the other residents. We have a property here on Amherst St. that has a long history of absentee ownership and troublesome tenants. The previous owner resided in Brazil, the new owner is hiding behind a LLC and has hired a "property management company" as is typical of most slumlords. I have seen this act before, buy cheap, make no improvements, rent until the property is worthless, walk away, let the city pay to demolish. It is just too easy to exploit property and in turn ruin neighborhoods here in Buffalo.

saltecks
saltecks

The land alone has to be worth more than 135k. The landlord is getting a free ride flying under the radar. Assess the property at its true value and hit hamburg man in the pocketbook.

Buffalowegian
Buffalowegian

How is this article NOT gentrification? Just because the author says its not? 

Webster definition- the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents

walters14150
walters14150

Speaking of this wonderful area of Ellicott street(in which I live) what's going on with the buildings on oak and Genesee? One would think with all of the development/ building in the area that the buildings would be gobbled up, but nothing seams to happen with them? Talk about a boarding house, I think that there is on right on Oak and Genesee and I always see the worst of the worst people coming in out of there and hanging outside there, all hours of the day(by the worst people I mean the people so messed up on drugs they cant tell you the time of day, the people that scream at them selves while walking down the street, the extreme pan handlers, the ones the follow you to your car and are relentless.). Maybe that's why these building have not been bought yet? maybe that's why the Corner of the Genesee Gateway Complex has never had a tenant? Why would the city even allow boarding houses, and homeless shelters in the middle of the city where our prime real estate should be. They need to go!! There is plenty of room in the east side for them... no offence.

David Steele
David Steele

I would suggest that it is more accurately " Problem Owners" rather than "Problem Properties"

brownteeth
brownteeth

@MerleGorko I think you may be missing the point of the article, or at least the bigger picture here.  The people living here certainly deserve a place to live, however given the nature of their lifestyle and certain afflictions (ex-cons, drug addicts, mental issues, etc) it's not really prudent to house so many in one building without properly trained management in place that can handle the day to day issues that arise with such residents.  It's really no different than a group home or even child day care setting that has regulations in place (ie, staff to resident ratios), however it's not treated that way.  Often times these rooms are rented out with no discretion to whoever has the paperwork in order to have the rent paid by whatever gov't agency is paying it. 

Frankly it's not doing anyone justice in these scenarios.  The residents who are law abiding and trying to get back on their feet have to deal with the problem residents.  The neighborhood suffers because the problem residents have little to no regard for the laws they break and there's no recourse when they do.  The property owner does have a responsibility over the actions of the tenants, just like any land lord.  That means if they know their tenants are causing problems for the neighborhood the proper action should be taken.  It's gross negligence on their part to let their tenants wreak havoc on the neighborhood simply to collect a steady rent check.  If I knew my tenants were acting this way they'd be kicked out asap.  There's nothing elitist about maintaining a reasonable quality of life for everyone.

solonggone
solonggone

@MerleGorko But the building does not have a parking lot...so THUMBS UP!  Fvck Poor people and cars.

buffaloroamer
buffaloroamer

@Spock1 You are right Mr. Spock, but you must agree living in the area doesn't give these residents the right to act in an illegal and disgusting manner.  Live here in the neighborhood, that's fine, get public assistance; fine.  But use your own toilet, use the trash cans available instead of the ground and don't ask me for my hard earned money.  And last, I choose not to smell your weed when I come home from work- I stopped smoking in High School and choose not to smoke now!!!

buffaloroamer
buffaloroamer

@micahh64 It's what's on the inside that is the problem.  If you don't walk these streets daily and deal with the urine, pot, alcohol, sleeping individuals and garbage they throw all over the street after picking through the trash cans, then you really can't join in this conversation or understand those of us that do.  And again I'll reiterate my stand- I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH PEOPLE THAT NEED PUBLIC ASSISTANCE.  I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH RACE.  I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ANY INDIVIDUAL THAT IS BREAKING THE LAW AND DESTROYING MY NEIGHBORHOOD.

micahh64
micahh64

@buffaloroamer

"I say move them to Richmond, bordering on the Elmwood Village.  Lets see what happens then."

Seriously.  Every time the problem of the homeless or low income people is brought up on this forum, the knee-jerk reflex response is always, "send 'em to the East Side"  -- as though the East Side is nothing more than a repository for people you don't want to be around . . .

Dashwood1
Dashwood1

@buffalofalling 4. Hiding behind an LLC is a skill that many Buffalo slumlords have turned into almost an art form. The key is to make a separate LLC for every property with slightly different names. This makes it difficult for Housing Court, the city and anyone who is interested to even find out how many properties are owned by a particular person or entity. When 1 person controls 20 LLCs that each have problem properties, the city and Courts have traditionally had to treat that as 20 different issues as opposed to the 1 very large problem that it actually is. A relatively small percentage of property owners costs the taxpayers a disproportionate amount of money that goes towards city inspectors, housing court, police and all the other agencies that are involved.

Some of this is changing as communication and record keeping is improving and modernizing between the different agencies, but it is still a great problem. So, I have no problem with creating an LLC and would probably use one myself, but they are often used in ways that aren't intended. Also, I have no knowledge that the building in this article has any code violations or has ever been to housing court etc.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

On #4, owners do indeed hide behind LLC's, finding the persons name is not the same as making personal contact with them to address issues at their properties. As for work, I have over 35 years of neighborhood activism behind my opinions.

MCW302
MCW302

Hiding behind an LLC? If you owned an apartment building, you'd likely want it in an LLC (or a corporation), too.

jvgriffis
jvgriffis

@lafayette1985 Right on.

Get 'em away from the medical corridor because they're dirty and lazy. Off to the East Side with them!


brownteeth
brownteeth

@Buffalowegian Even if it is, how is promoting or allowing the opposite better?  I get that forcing existing residents out may be considered the negative effect of gentrification for their sake, but why should we let them expand an environment that further deteriorates the quality of life for the majority of the neighborhood? 

pskeptic
pskeptic

@buffaloroamer @Spock1 The residents doing things illegal isn't the fault of the property owner, but instead the fault of the individuals breaking the law.

If laws are not being enforced, then the Buffalo police need to actually do their job, and enforce the law.

micahh64
micahh64

@buffaloroamer

"It's what's on the inside that is the problem."

Well, unless you're spending time on the inside, how do you know for certain that it is them that's urinating in the street and tossing garbage?

 "If you don't walk these streets daily . . .then you really can't join in this conversation or understand those of us that do."

Um, the author of this article him/herself does not walk these streets daily (unless they're doing so from California) and yet made a commentary on the building, its occupants, and the neighborhood -- why can't I?

Unless you're this site's owner or a moderator, you have no call to be telling me which conversation(s) I can or cannot participate in.

"And again I'll reiterate my stand- I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH PEOPLE THAT NEED PUBLIC ASSISTANCE.  I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH RACE.  I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ANY INDIVIDUAL THAT IS BREAKING THE LAW AND DESTROYING MY NEIGHBORHOOD."

And I'll reiterate what pskeptic said:

 "If you have an issue with individuals breaking the law, then your appropriate target is the person breaking the law, not the property owners who are acting in accordance with the law."

And I'll include with that any of this building's occupants who are acting in accordance with the law.

.

pskeptic
pskeptic

@buffaloroamer @micahh64 I walk that area daily.  The property owners can't force people to not piss on the stoops.  Alcohol is legal.  Pot should be anyways.  And, people picking through garbage cans are actually doing a service and removing recyclable items from the garbage stream.

If you have an issue with individuals breaking the law, then your appropriate target is the person breaking the law, not the property owners who are acting in accordance with the law.

texpat
texpat

I am pretty sure he was saying to move them someplace more upscale and watch the response then.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

I did own rental property for many years but I was a responsible landlord and took care of my properties and held my tenants accountable as well. This is not the case with many landlords and LLC's today.

saltecks
saltecks

@Captain Picard  No one talking about raising taxes. Tax this property at its fair market value  under the current tax rate. There are probably plenty of single family home owners in Buffalo who would love to have their homes appraised at  only 135k, let alone multi-family dwellings,.

walters14150
walters14150

@jvgriffis @lafayette1985 I think moving them to a dangerous neighborhood would help them clean up faster, I have lived down town 3 years and can honestly say its been the same people going to these places. Inconveniencing these people is good! it will help them get back on track, giving them hand outs? why would they change?

solonggone
solonggone

@brownteeth @Buffalowegian 

I could be wrong but I don't think you can just remove these folks. I always thought there were laws to prevent that.  

That's not to say I am against it.  Hell, I would be all for it.  I would take it a step further and do it at seveal sites.  The logic you're using could be applied to Marine Drive.  Right?

Why not move those folks into the core of the city and then allow a developer to build an amazing waterfront village connecting to CanalSide?

What about the housing projects?

pskeptic
pskeptic

@buffaloroamer @pskeptic @Spock1 I'll have to re-examine NYC...  They seem to be pretty successful as a city, and they most certainly have neighborhoods like that.  Alphabet City comes to mind.

whateverr
whateverr

@buffaloroamer

Except your last point, your complaints look valid although there isn't much that can practically be done  about it.  

For police to catch non-toilet use in the act isn't easy. And even when rarely they do witness it, the time spent arresting for that then taking an accused person to the lockup when there will be very little if any punishment from City Court... probably leads to thinking arrests won't make much impact.  Same for messing up trash. 

Asking for money on public sidewalks isn't illegal when not threatening or harassing.

Even though all of the above can be annoying, not a lot can be done about it.  I'm skeptical that people who are willing to do those things for who-knows-what reasons or substances would change their ways based on threats of an occasional night in the Holding Center.  Even one night probably happens only very rarely considering it's often nearly full of people charged with more serious crimes.

Also skeptical about whether your last point is  accurate about major cities -

roam>"look at any major successful city and or neighborhood and these properties do not exist." 

Neighborhoods ok, but what are any whole U.S. cities where no property like that exists?  Don't all major U.S. cities have some areas with similar issues & behaviors?

buffaloroamer
buffaloroamer

@pskeptic @buffaloroamer @Spock1 I never mentioned the property owner, only the tenants that reside there.  Yes, the tenants destroying a neighborhood is not his problem, and yes the police should patrol more often instead of sitting in a vehicle somewhere.  I guess my point is that I was raised to throw my trash in a can, pee in a toilet in private and respect my community....I guess it's too hard to ask the same of others.  And to the person who responded that having the garbage picked is good for the environment, because of recyclables- yeah, great when they take what they want and put the rest BACK in the trash can not all over the ground.  Last, look at any major successful city and or neighborhood and these properties do not exist.  So if you want Buffalo to be a successful city, it should be "filled" with successful people or those that aspire to be as such.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Only ridiculous if you are uninformed, I had a comprehensive insurance policy with umbrella coverageof my properties, didn't need to form an LLC to protect myself. As for being accountable, some LLC's are but many are not and have done great damage to my neighborhood and city.

J_Campbell
J_Campbell

@Black Rock Lifer most ridiculous statement ever! An LLC allows you to be protected if an insurance company sues you when a passerby slips and falls at your property at 3 a.m. in the morning before you've had a chance to shovel or salt. Just because someone is incorporated doesn't mean they're not accountable... 

pskeptic
pskeptic

@saltecks @Captain Picard Median assessment in Buffalo is in the neighborhood of 65K...  I doubt many homeowners in Buffalo would appreciate a 135K assessment...

jvgriffis
jvgriffis

@walters14150 @jvgriffis @lafayette1985 I work down here. I avoid scary people.

But really... you solution (?) is to make their lives worse so they'll want to make them better? You think living in a rat-infested crap hole makes them want to stay there for the "hand outs"?

pskeptic
pskeptic

@solonggone @brownteeth @Buffalowegian Why can't Marine Drive residents be a part of that amazing waterfront village?

Do you actually KNOW any of those people that live in the Marine Dr high-rises?  Do you actually go near them?  I do.  I work across the street from there.

I'm not really seeing a problem with incorporating them into the amazing Waterfront village, instead of removing them like a disease.

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