The Gloversville Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to update the city’s ‘Abatement of a Public Nuisance’ ordinance to include the provisions of New York state’s Property Maintenance Code — a move Mayor Vince DeSantis says will help the city to contain problems being made worse by New York state’s bail and discovery reform.
The ordinance change to section 213-2 of the city code effectively opens up more options for the types of violations that can accumulate to the point of the city declaring a building to be a Public Nuisance — enabling it to be shut down for up to six months — if convictions of either penal law violations taking place a particular property and/or city code violations accumulate to combine to up to four violations at a given property over a two-year period.
Although Gloversville up until now has never used the Public Nuisance Abatement section of its city code, DeSantis told the council Tuesday night that it may be a useful tool to restore order in some of the city’s more unruly neighborhoods.
“One thing we’ve had some problems with lately is complaints about problem properties, a property that, by the conduct of the people living there, has had a detrimental effect on the quality of the life in the neighborhood,” DeSantis said. “We really struggle with that, and I don’t think people realize what we’ve had to adjust to in the last couple of years. Because, before, there was a real protocol when these problems, if there was disorderly behavior in a neighborhood, a domestic dispute, an alcohol problem, or some kind of a fight, something where a neighborhood was disrupted, the police would get called and they would go to the scene and try to defuse the situation as much as possible, and if someone was unruly, or threatening or violent they would arrest that person for disorderly conduct, which is only a violation and not a crime.”
DeSantis said, in the past, during his tenure as city judge, defendants on disorderly conduct would be held in jail for at least a few hours, if not overnight, until he could preside as judge over their arraignment, which he said often provided time to “decompress” enabling enough “time for the whole situation to calm down.”
DeSantis said New York state’s bail reform has effectively eliminated that for violation-level offenses and nonviolent crimes. He said New York state’s 2017 “Raise the Age” reform, which raised the age of criminal liability for nonviolent offenses to 18, has also tied the hands of city officials with respect to some nuisance-level offenders.
“So, we have a lot of complaints right now,” DeSantis said. “If every member of the Legislature had to spend, even two months as the mayor of a city, they would realize the unintended results of all of this in our neighborhoods. So, we’re trying our best to work around these things and establish order in our neighborhoods, and, if you hadn’t noticed, we’ve made a lot of tweaks to our city code, and those are efforts to establish enforcement of these minimum standards in a different way, using minimum standards of housing habitability, and all of that, to try to increase the quality of life, because the quality of life in our neighborhoods is life or death for any city.”
Gloversville’s city code section 213-2 states that any “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. It takes up to four violations of the city and now also the New York state property maintenance code, which would be three new violations after an initial conviction, to qualify a property as a Public Nuisance, but for penal law offenses the number can be fewer.
According to city code section 213-2, 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 one penal law violation involving the sale of marijuana after an initial conviction can also trigger the abatement of a Public Nuisance. For loitering, disorderly or any penal law violations involving the use of marijuana three violations are required after an initial conviction.
City resident Shannon Blowers, who said she lived at 5 Dean St., spoke during the public hearing for the ordinance change. She said she believes there might be a property in her neighborhood that would qualify for the Abatement of a Public Nuisance.
“We’ve got a big problem,” she said, referencing a particular address in her neighborhood. “I’m sure somebody’s got to be aware of it. There’s been police there several times, garbage is in everybody’s yard. They’ve got stock cars, demolition cars, they rev the engines of — I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 50 years and this is horrible.”
DeSantis told Blowers that city officials will look into her complaint about the property she believes might have enough violations to qualify for the Public Nuisance declaration.