UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY-TV) – The city of Utica evacuated 58 residents from the Olbiston Apartments on Genesee Street. After years of battling with the property owner to bring the building up to code, the building was deemed unlivable. The city now hopes to see changes after a case is settled in the supreme court.
18 of the 58 residents were placed in transitional housing while many of the other former tenants have been put up in hotels and shelters. The city says they are working diligently to place these residents in new homes.
The city filed code violations, but those violations were ultimately ignored, and the necessary repairs were not made. This inaction lead to a case before the city courts, and eventually, in 2018, the case was brought to the New York State Supreme Court. The case before the supreme court is still active, and the city hopes it will hold the owner accountable and find them responsible for the deplorable condition the building is in now.
Utica mayor Robert Palmieri estimates over $2 million in repair costs for just the roof alone. He says the city will not contribute any money to the building renovation, leaving it up to the current owner or a future owner to fund the repairs on their own. However, the city would help them seek funds should they need financial assistance.
Mayor Palmieri described the condition of the building as overwhelming, neglectful and unhealthy. Water damage is slowly destroying the building from the top floor to the bottom. The ceiling is falling apart as are the walls and tiles. The elevators do not have a permit to operate, and many windows are broken. In addition to all of this visible damage, the fire systems are not working properly which posed an even greater threat to the health and safety of the tenants.
“The issue that we’re having also is that the water is impinging on the fire department devices,” said the fire marshal Gerard Foster. “So if these are not working if something was to happen here such as a fire, this is the early warning system. It wouldn’t work and the tenants still in the building would be exposed to a fire or wouldn’t have the opportunity to get out, because these couldn’t or wouldn’t work. It’s more than just the building. It’s the services within the building. We have to make sure that people that are in the building are safe, and the owner is just not providing that fire protection to the current tenants in the building besides the building deterioration.”
There have been a few interested buyers that have approached Palmieri about the building during the years that he’s been the mayor, but none of those sales have gone through. The city hopes to see the building sold or start to be repaired within the coming months.