Schenectady tries a gentler approach to addressing code violations

Tuesday, July 1, 2014
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— In an effort to highlight a friendlier, gentler code enforcement department, inspectors hit the streets Monday on an “educational effort.”

Inspectors pointed out less-obvious code violations to homeowners in the Upper Union Street and Central State Street neighborhoods, starting from the assumption that the owners didn’t know they were in violation.

Then, rather than threaten them with a fine, inspectors explained how the violations could be addressed. Inspectors also argued that improvements would raise the value of their property and help the entire neighborhood.

Then the owners were given a written notice of the violation — but not a citation. It was called a courtesy notice, and asked homeowners to fix the issues.

But there were teeth behind the friendliness.

Residents who ignore the courtesy notice and do not repair their houses will face a fine. So will those who harbor unlicensed dogs — Monday’s sweep was also the first day of the dog program.

Teens will be walking the city, looking and listening for signs of dogs as they ring doorbells. Their job isn’t to confront anyone; they simply write down the address of any house with signs of dogs, and if there is no record of a license at that address, the owner will face a fine.

Building Inspector Eric Shilling said training the teens was a big part of Monday’s sweep.

“Today was an effort to get that program kicked off,” he said. “Get them settled in to knocking on doors, asking questions.”

City officials picked an affluent area of town with the teens in mind.

“We just wanted to ease them into an area that was not as challenging as other areas,” Shilling said,

They will now be spread out among the city’s neighborhoods.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said he hoped the code sweep would remind homeowners to maintain their houses.

“We’re going to keep going back,” he said.

He also wants the sweeps to change residents’ view of inspectors.

“We don’t want people to view them as adversaries. They’re here to help people,” he said. “We’re giving these polite warning notices. We’re not citing them.”

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July 1, 2014
6:05 a.m.
safny says...

I have been in Schenectady 15 years. Other than downtown - the rest of the city has largely deteriorated over that time. It's filthy in many areas. The houses look like they are ready to collapse, people NEVER shovel, the city itself cannot keep up with snow removal, and generally it is depressing to drive through. The kinder gentler way is no way at all. Of course they sent the kids to a more affluent area - it would hardly be safe for them in the Hill or Mt. Pleasant - or Yates Village area. With these enormous taxes we should be able to expect more. This is just a pre-election vote grab and I think time will tell, a failure.

July 1, 2014
7:54 a.m.
summer says...

Inspectors also argued that improvements would raise the value of their property and help the entire neighborhood. they left out the part that this would also bring your property taxes up. lol

July 1, 2014
4:35 p.m.
joycemadre says...

Most people can't afford to keep up their house they spend all their money paying taxes to many places in NY. The elderly are taken of advantage of and the others are unemployed or on welfare. The city brought in too much welfare and now its a problem that is growing

July 2, 2014
8:26 a.m.
joycemadre says...

Hate to say this but the most of the code enforcement personnel like Mr.Schilling is far from friendly but very rude. When I brought the water issues to the cities attention they laughed " yeah she's got water" and Mr Schilling at one point told me its my fault that they had a me put in a retaining wall in the basement, since I brougth it to their attention". Wasn't I suppose to and upon review of the plans next door why wasn't there a drainage system installed as required by code ??? Ummm maybe revamping the city internal works should be a start!

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