Gloversville Common Council aims to beef-up ‘Public Nuisance’ code

PHOTOGRAPHER:

The Gloversville Common Council has set a public hearing for June 28 for a change to the city code that will allow violations of New York state’s Property Maintenance Code to count as one of the categories of violations that can accumulate to define a city property as being a ‘Public Nuisance’, rendering it eligible to be shut down by court order for up to six months.

Mayor Vince DeSantis said the city code was changed years ago, near the turn of the century, to include provision 213-2, providing for the “Abatement of a Public Nuisance.” He said the city code allows for a property/building to be declared a public nuisance based on convictions of both penal law violations that occur at the property as well as city code violations, if they accumulate to combine up to 4 violations over a two-year period.

“What we intend to do, actually for the first time since this was enacted, to actually use this and count the number of violations and convictions that are connected to a property and apply to the court for an order closing it down, and that means that everybody has to be out and the place is padlocked for up to six months,” DeSantis said. “I was the city judge when this was enacted, and the city never used it. I thought at the time maybe they’ll use this, and they’ll ask me (for a court order), but there was never an application to me as the judge to close down a building. And I don’t think it’s ever been used, so we when looked at this we thought maybe this could give us another tool to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”

Under the current City Code section 213-2 “owners, tenants, occupants, or any combination thereof, at a building, dwelling, premises, structure or place” that are convicted of different penal law offenses and or city code violations can trigger the ‘Public Nuisance’ declaration.

Under the current city code it would always take up to 4 violations of the city property maintenance code, which would be 3 new violations after an initial conviction, to qualify a property as a Public Nuisance, but for penal law offenses the number can be fewer. If a felony conviction is made after an initial conviction of a violation, that is enough to qualify a property as a ‘Public Nuisance’, and 1 penal law violation involving the sale of marijuana after an initial conviction can do it. For loitering, disorderly or any penal law violations involving the use of marijuana 3 violations are required after an initial conviction.

During the June 14 Common Council meeting City Attorney Amanda Rose explained the city’s reasoning for adding the New York state Property Maintenance Code as a new category of violations that could be added into the calculation for declaring a property a ‘Public Nuisance.’

“Essentially what (we’re doing) is expanding on the definition of ‘Public Nuisance’,” Rose said. “Oftentimes the code enforcer will write code violations and they will refer to the New York state Property Maintenance Code, so (we’re adding) that as a subsection ‘D’, under 213-2 to expand the definition of a Public Nuisance.”

DeSantis said his administration believes the ‘Public Nuisance’ abatement provision of the city code would probably only ever be used on the most problematic properties.

“We have certain properties that are really, really detrimental to neighborhoods – four or five of them, and maybe less than that – where we’re getting complaints from neighbors that there is noise coming from them, anti-social behavior, very loud music, and it’s a constant thing,” he said. “So, it’s come to our attention that these things can really have a negative impact on the quality of life because of one house being neglected by an owner and has people in it who are just not behaving in a civilized way.”

By Jason Subik

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