BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Judge Patrick Carney, Buffalo’s housing court judge, has denied the City of Buffalo’s request for residents to vacate a condemned apartment building in the Elmwood Village.
That apartment building is Elmwood Heights, which for years, has been issued citations for poor living conditions. Residents have described the property owner as a “slumlord.”
The denial is happening as state prosecutors have intervened in the situation, urging the owner of Elmwood Heights to make repairs to the property.
Richard Berger, an attorney for the property says the property owner, has agreed to make some maintenance improvements immediately, with much larger repairs in April and May.
Judge Carney’s denial of the City of Buffalo’s request for an order to vacate was frustrating to city inspectors. They have raised major safety concerns about the apartment building, which has about 50 apartments inside.
Large holes in the ceiling are allowing water to get inside and the fire escape is rotted out, according to city inspectors. Carney said he believes the biggest safety hazard is the fire escape and that the property manager has backed away from having responsibility for the property.
A statement from Cathy Amdur, the Commissioner of Permit and Inspection Services for the City of Buffalo says:
“ I was surprised at the Judge’s decision. We have a team of inspectors addressing the issues with the building and they found extensive code violations. The building has human feces in the hallways that reek of urine, the basement is covered in a carpet of rat feces, and the structure is not secure from outside intrusion. The fire and life safety systems are not in compliance, including sprinkler systems, fire alarms, and means of egress. Our inspectors don’t request orders to vacate casually or without extensive deliberation. The code violations are so concerning that the Attorney General’s office is working with us to hold the owner accountable. Our inspectors are monitoring the situation closely and they are pressing the owner to make the necessary emergency repairs. Our main concern has been the health and safety of the tenants and surrounding community.”
Cathy Amdur, City of Buffalo Commissioner of Permit and Inspection Service
News 4 spoke to Berger after Friday’s court hearing.
“The building management will take care of these items that are really easy to fix over the weekend, get an exterminator in there next week and go on do the stuff that can be done,” he said.
When asked if they’re so easy to fix, how come they weren’t fixed before, Berger was unsure.
“I don’t know, I don’t know the answer,” Berger said.
For the time being, residents will remain living in a condemned building, but some residents are looking to move out.
According to a spokesperson for the New York State Attorney General’s Office, their office has intervened in the situation and contacted the property owner of Elmwood Heights, encouraging them to make repairs to keep people in their apartments. The A.G.’s Office adds that it contacted Elmwood Heights, LLC after news reports surfaced about the conditions at the property. A spokesperson says the Attorney General’s Office is not investigating the property or the property owner.
Despite the property being condemned, city inspectors say that people have been removing the condemned signs from the building.
Judge Carney says he wants to give the property owner ‘one chance’ to make these initial repairs. This case returns back to court on April 28. Next week, Elmwood Heights, LLC will be arraigned on various housing court violations.
Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here .
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