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Speakers, councilors discuss Rome blight

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 1/28/23

Having the codes department address blight properties considered “eyesores” in the city was a topic of discussion by local residents during Wednesday’s Common Council meeting.

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Speakers, councilors discuss Rome blight


ROME — Having the codes department address blight properties considered “eyesores” in the city was a topic of discussion by local residents during Wednesday’s Common Council meeting held in Council Chambers of City Hall.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, local business owner David Halpin, of Elm Street, addressed the used car business at Gepeto’s Fine Gifts and Woodworking, 1111 Erie Blvd. W., which is owned by Michael Sturbin, according to city records. Sturbin holds a state Department of Motor Vehicles license which allows him to have vehicles on his property to sell, city officials said, who added that he may not be in any violation of the city code.

“Gepeto’s has been an eyesore for 15 years or more,” Halpin said. “Nothing seems to change” as far as vehicles rotating in and out of the property. “There’s no plates on the cars.”

He said, “I know if my front yard looked like that, codes would be at my house or my place of business to give me a notification to clean it up. Is the codes department doing anything about this, or is he (the owner) exempt because he has a New York State inspection certification? This presents a bad image for Rome.”

Sturbin could not be reached for comment.

Halpin also complained about the city’s garbage collection from Controlled Waste Systems, Inc., of Utica. Halpin said the company’s crews leave garbage cans out in the road rather than back on lawns during trash collection, making the cans difficult to maneuver around and a safety hazard.

Ashland Avenue resident Rocco Capponi pointed out a property on North Jay Street, which he said has been “structurally slanted and is unsafe.” He said that while the codes department has visited the residence it has taken too long for the city to set up a court date (nuisance abatement hearing) in order to have the property cleaned up.

Later, during the councilor reports portion of the meeting, city Codes Department Deputy Director Gregory Shaver discussed blight and Gepeto’s, saying in that instance it comes down to the property owner having a DMV license that allows him to have vehicles there.

“Pre-COVID, we worked with him to get rid of some vehicles and keep the vehicles there low,” said Shaver. “This year we’re going to try and get back on track” with inspections “and hopefully COVID will stay behind us. We’ll get better at enforcement with the blight and we can definitely go to that address and see what they have there for vehicles now.”

Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers said she and Chief Codes Enforcement Officer Mark Domenico are now working on blight legislation, “with a section that talks about junk vehicles and the storage of vehicles...We want to get that legislation out soon, and we’re in the process of making some modifications...We went by a house yesterday that had three cars in the front yard and not one had a plate on it. I know that property has been cited.”

Shaver added that anyone is welcome to call or drop by the codes office if they have a question or complaint about a property.

Meanwhile, business owner Dennis Perfetti noted the need for the city to address public safety, and install additional street lights in darkened areas of some neighborhoods to help combat crime.

“The people who broke out the window of my business” Liquor Express, 504 W. Thomas St., “turned out to be two 13-year-olds, where the hell were their parents?,” said Perfetti. “When was the last time you” city officials “got into a car or walked the neighborhoods of this city?”

He said, “...This city is a tragedy. There are places in this city that if they were not owned by who they’re owned by, they’d be in court every day...It’s sickening that neighborhoods we were once proud of, are now boarded up, trash is all over the place and weeds are overgrown during the summer, but nothing happens. I’m sure it’s not the Codes Department, but I’m sure it comes from the third floor” of City Hall.

Perfetti also seconded Halpin’s complaints about trash cans and noted that while CWSI’s contract may have been the low bid, “it doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper is better.”

Rogers asked Public Works Commissioner Butch Conover what the process was for requesting additional lighting for streets.

“I don’t see a procedure” for councilors to inform the DPW, Conover said. “You just have to bring it to our attention. The first thing is to call my office to get the ball rolling.”

Also during councilor reports, Rogers said she spoke to several residents and Conover about submitted legislation that would create a parking area for Georgian Arms Apartments, and had also received calls from Rome Mall Apartments concerning parking with the Liberty-James Parking Garage demolition slated for this year. However, Rogers said the city has decided to continue with a permit process instead that allows the city to rent parking spaces for residents of those apartment complexes.

The parking situation, “is unreasonable. We have elderly people who have to walk several blocks from where they parked in the middle of the winter because there’s no place to park,” Rogers said. “That’s why we’re going to go with the permit process unless it doesn’t work, then we’ll go with the legislation.”


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