It's regarded as one of the more affluent places to live in the Capital Region, but city leaders say Saratoga Springs has a problem with so called "zombie properties." Our Matt Hunter has more on what they're trying to do about it.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – In the eight years Mike Clancy has lived in downtown Saratoga Springs, the two houses directly across from his Phila Street home have sat vacant and fallen further into a state of disrepair.
"One of them has attracted quite a few stray cats; they have a bunch of cats living there now,” Clancy said. “It’s a mess, you can see it taking a look at."
Calling the homes an eyesore, Clancy says they serve as a nuisance to the whole neighborhood.
"We all talk about it,” Clancy said Tuesday afternoon. “Everybody sees it every day, so sooner or later, hopefully they do something with it."
"When you think about Saratoga Springs as being a really well-to-do city, you would not think necessarily that there is a problem like that, but there is,” Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin said. “It is a problem throughout the city."
After receiving a grant to catalog vacant homes last year, Martin said his code enforcement officers identified nearly 80 so-called "zombie properties" across the city.
"These properties are in every neighborhood in the city,” Martin said. “You can’t just pick out one neighborhood and say that’s where the majority of them are."
Martin says vacant homes pose a number of problems, ranging from being a fire hazard and attracting wild animals, to lowering neighboring property values.
"When [a] structure goes vacant and becomes less cared for, it impacts an entire neighborhood," he said.
The new database helps code enforcement officers better identify the owners and managers of such properties, in hopes of getting them to fix any problems. Last week, Martin announced the grant also paid for a part-time special prosecutor to help deal with those who are unwilling or unable to cooperate.
"If you don’t have teeth, you are not going to have an effective program, and the special prosecutor gives us teeth," Martin said.
In some cases, the end result could be demolishing structures that are beyond fixing, but Martin hopes that they will ultimately be able to find new owners and uses for most buildings -- something Clancy would be more than happy to see on his block.
"I think it is great,” Clancy said. “I hope they get to it soon."
Anyone with information about a vacant property in the city is asked to contact Saratoga Springs Deputy Public Safety Commissioner John Daley at (518) 587-3550, ext. 2631 or at email@example.com.