“Little Falls wants to be a worthy partner of the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank (GMVLB), and we have acted to prove it,” declared Little Falls Mayor Mark Blask. He spoke at an evening of presentations hosted by Main Street First on February 15 at Benton Hall Academy.
Blask said that the Common Council had passed resolutions in support of the Land Bank from the beginning. He pointed to the Council’s recent, unanimous support for the NYS Land Bank 5/50 statute. “The City will remit 50% of City taxes collected for five years to GMVLB for properties returned to the tax rolls by GMVLB.” Furthermore, “The Little Falls School District also passed the 5/50 resolution. Little Falls is the first city in the Land Bank’s multi-county region to do this.” “When the Land Bank funds flow, Little Falls wants to be at the head of the line,” he concluded.
Other speakers went on to explain the significance of the regional Land Bank. Among them was Michael Brown, Executive Director of Rome Main Streets, a not-for-profit whose mission is to stimulate downtown and neighborhood revitalization in that city. He spoke of the role that not-for-profits can play by working to support municipal governments.
“We educate by hosting speakers on topics related to neighborhood revitalization,” Brown told the Little Falls audience. “We wrote a grant with the City, and we are working with Rome’s Codes Department to populate the Zombie Property list.
He emphasized, “The important thing to remember is that fighting blight involves many partnerships, and not-for-profits and municipal governments can make much progress by working together.
” Mark Domenico, Rome’s Codes Enforcer, spoke of how Rome handles blighted properties. “For us, it’s every day, all day,” he said. “We use many different tools and treat each problem property in a way that is most effective for the owner.” His department meets regularly with property owners to listen to their problems and to offer guidance. “If they are income-eligible, we work with them to find resources.” The results are impressive. “We now have more than 85% compliance.”
Domenico also praised the new (2016) state Zombie Property Law. “It requires banks to take responsibility for abandoned homes. If banks do not maintain the property, they face a significant fine each day the property is not maintained.” He also added that he believes that “a top-down approach is never effective in the long run. Citizens can take action on blighted abandoned properties.” [please see sidebar below]
There are many options for action. Tolga Morawski, interim Executive Director of GMVLB, gave examples. “We can rehab and sell, or stabilize a property until a qualified buyer is found. Also, we can recycle up to 90% of house materials if the property is too far gone for rehab, and, finally, after all other options are considered, we can raze a property and sell the land, perhaps to neighbors.” Over time, blight dissipates.
MSF’s president Judy Wolf announced a follow-up meeting to be held on Monday, March 13 at 6:30 pm. Due to space considerations, it will be held at the Travelodge, 20 Albany St., Little Falls. Everyone is welcome.
Robert Albrecht is former Chair of the Keep Mohawk Valley Beautiful Board of Directors.