No Siesta, Close The Fiesta!

On February 14th, 20 SUN leaders visited Mayor Matt Driscoll in his City Hall office. This was not a typical Valentine’s Day affair, SUN demanded that the Mayor earn his gift. SUN wants the city to close the Fiesta Market (317 S. Geddes St.) under the city’s Nuisance Abatement law. SUN also wants the city to evict a junk-collecting tenant at a property (328 Midland Ave.) that the city declared unfit for habitation in May 2004.

SUN was forced to make its
surprise visit because of no progress made by the city departments responsible for these problems–the Law Department for Fiesta Market and the Division of Code Enforcement for 328 Midland Ave.

Despite 12 arrests for drug sales on its property, and an agreement with the city to hire private security and install cameras to monitor its parking lot, the Fiesta has made no effort to clean up its act. In fact, in the time after the store’s agreement with the city, the store has been the site of an arrest for underage sales. At the time of this arrest, drugs were found on the property.

Code Enforcement had towed out massive amounts of junk from the property at 328 Midland after SUN held a meeting on the problem in May 2004. The house, which has had no running water since 2000, was declared unfit at that time. However, the tenant continued to live there and collect more junk–cars, refrigerators and other large size appliances.

SUN held another meeting in February with the director of Code Enforcement Jim Blakeman and area residents. When confronted with pictures of what residents are calling Blakeman’s Blooper, SUN was informed that there was nothing Code Enforcement could do about the tenant and Code would not resume towing out junk in the winter.

After SUN’s visit at noon, Code Enforcement was called into an emergency meeting with the Mayor and towing of junk resumed that afternoon. Code Enforcement also spoke directly with the absentee landlord and reached an agreement for the landlord to start eviction proceedings.

Later that same afternoon, the city’s Police Chief issued the order to close the Fiesta Market within business 5 days. The store appealed the order to the state’s Appellate division and the case will be heard on February 28th in Rochester.

Oh, SUN’s Valentine gift to the mayor? Two big sheets of plywood to board up the problem properties. Practical AND Thoughtful!

SUN Wins Passage Of City Business License For Corner Stores & Bars

On September 22, 2003 the Syracuse Common Council unanimously passed legislation creating a city business license for corner stores and bars operating in the city. The license, called a Certificate of Use, also requires the owners of the business to run a clean operation that does not threaten the health and safety of its neighbors.

The new law becomes part of the city’s existing Nuisance Abatement ordinance. The law creates a point system for violations of the city’s Property Code, quality of life violations (trash, noise, loitering) and being the site of arrests and convictions for more serious drug and weapons offenses. If a business collects enough violations, the business can have their certificate of use revoked for up to a year.

Syracuse United Neighbors has been fighting for this legislation for over a year. SUN collected commitments from 9 common councilors to support this legislation at a series of meetings held with neighborhood residents in 2002 and 2003. This summer, several working meetings with SUN members, the police, Code Enforcement and city attorneys were convened by Councilor Kate O’Connell in her role as chair of the Council’s Public Safety committee. SUN salutes her hard work and dedication to our neighborhoods.

Many corner stores and bars have become one-stop crime stores. They sell little more than alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets. The more enterprising sell hot foods to the crowds of drug dealers loitering on the corner and in their parking lots.

The corner stores and bars in our neighborhoods play a leading role in the crime ravaging the south and near-west sides of the city. Before police raided and closed the store in May, Ariel’s Market on the corner of Ontario and Otisco streets was the site of a cocaine and heroin ring netting over $100,000 of sales per week. Bo’s Place, a bar near the corner of S. Salina and Lafayette Ave., was the site of this summer’s most recent gang-related murder.

The certificate of use is SUN’s strong message to those businesses that do not recognize their obligation to their neighbors–Clean Up Or We’ll Close You Down!