HERKIMER — The building at 133 N. Main St. is unfit for habitation, according to village codes officials, but that didn't stop five people, including three children, from living there.
“Two weeks ago we did a sweep of North Main Street, and we stalled at this particular building,” Mayor Tony Brindisi said.
The mayor, codes Officer Ralph Franco and fire Chief John Spanfelner conducted the Quality of Life sweep to look for codes violations, hazards and other issues.
The water to the 133-135 N. Main St. building had been shut off since the second week of May, according to Spanfelner. And when they inspected the interior of the building they found the apartments on the second floor had been trashed. But they also heard movement on the floor above and found two women and three children living in an apartment there.
“We called CPS (Child Protective Services) for the kids and the younger woman,” he said. “We told the older woman she’d have to get herself and her things out of the there.”
The woman said she had not paid rent in some time.
National Grid was called to turn off the gas and electricity, and village codes officials and department of public works employees were at the site earlier this week to board up the building and post “no trespassing” signs along with signs stating that the building is “unsafe and its use or occupancy has been prohibited by the Building Department.”
There was black mold in the building and leaking ceilings, according to Franco.
In addition to the people living in the apartment, there were three dogs and a cat, Spanfelner said, adding that the space was infested with fleas. “There were cockroaches running all over.”
He said a letter would be mailed to the landlord, advising him of the findings and that the building has been shut down and cannot be occupied until and unless it is cleaned up and codes violations remedied.
“He’s an out-of-the-area landlord,” he said.
The committee also found a number of violations at another building that also had people living in it, Spanfelner said, adding that a letter was sent to the landlord advising that the codes violations would have to be taken care of or that building would also be shut down.
He said the move is a start at dealing with problems on North Main Street. Unless something is done, he said, “It’s not going to get better.”
Franco was named the second codes officer for the village in June, with Spanfelner overseeing the codes department. “I’m vested in this town too,” Franco said. “I care and I’m going to work to protect everyone’s property values. I hope we can turn around the negative to positive.”
Like other communities, Brindisi said, Herkimer is paying attention to a new Zombie Properties law, scheduled to go into effect in December, which is expected to make it easier to determine who owns abandoned buildings and hold owners, including banks, accountable for maintaining these properties.