The City of Syracuse is looking at ways to improve the way it handles dangerous vacant buildings.
Ever since he moved into his home on Hatch Street in Syracuse 5 years ago, George Horne says it’s been a constant battle with City Hall over abandoned buildings on his street. “You call city line and you have to make repeated phone calls to get them down here.”, Horne complained.
Recently the front porch on one of the homes collapsed. Though city crews cleared the dangerous debris from the yard the next day, Horne called CNY Central’s Jim Kenyon to look into the way Syracuse handles vacant structures. It turns out, the city is revamping the process according to Neighborhood Development Commissioner Paul Driscoll, “What we’ve instituted lately is a more robust grading system for all these vacant structures.”
Driscoll says inspectors now check all 19-hundred vacant buildings at least once every three weeks. He says each is placed in one of five categories with the worst slated for demolition based on their danger to the public. Driscoll says the five abandoned homes on Hatch Street have been classified as “fair” meaning they’re not yet ready for demolition.
Last year, after Kenyon reported on the vacant home problem in Syracuse, Mayor Stephanie Miner increased the demolition budget to $1 million. Driscoll says he’s lobbying for another million for next year. The average cost to tear down a building is around $20 thousand, according to Driscoll. He says the city has stepped up its negotiations with insurance companies and property owners to reimburse the city for demolition costs. “Unfortunately that’s fairly rare to be reimbursed through an insurance company. ” he said.
The Nieghborhood Development Commissioner says he’s restructuring the bidding process by which the city hires a contractor to take down a building to, among other things, allow for deconstruction. “Deconstruction is a method of taking apart a house and reusing many of the components. It’s much more labor intensive but it’s also greener and provides more job opportunities.” Driscoll claims.
Driscoll is also proposing to use part of the city’s demolition budget to target specific neighborhoods where abandoned houses threaten to bring down property values for everyone.
He’s is considering a plan by which a building can be moved higher on the demolition priority list if a neighbor offers to buy the empty lot. He says that will remove the taxpayer expense of having to maintain the lot.