Committee Plans To ‘Dispose’ of Zombie Property

OSWEGO, NY – At Tuesday’s Physical Services Committee meeting, Kevin Caraccioli, city attorney, requested consideration from the Common Council to return specific real properties to the prior owners who lost title due to tax foreclosure.

The properties up for consideration are 139 W. Bridge St.,owned by Tom Underwood, and 118 E. Fourth St., owned by Tom Flett Jr.

In both cases, the attorney said, back taxes owed to the city and county will be paid in full; Usherwood owes about $17,984 and Flett owes $19,620.27.

Both properties will be conveyed to third parties who have a specific interest in maintaining the properties.

In the case of 139 W. Bridge St., Louis Usherwood will become the titled owner and has agreed to spend additional money to undertake the rehabilitation of the exterior of the property.

As for 118 E. Fourth St., Pathfinder Bank holds “a significant mortgage on the property” and will obtain ownership from Flett by deed in lieu of foreclosure, the attorney said.

Caraccioli  said Tuesday he currently didn’t know the fair market value of either property.

Both of the properties “are occupied” and the city “is in effect the landlord,” he added.

Caraccioli recommended the committee send the request to the full council for consideration. The back taxes would be paid in full and the new owners would ensure the properties are well-maintained and continue to produce tax revenue for the city, he said.

Approval by the council should require proof of payment of all back taxes currently due as of Jan. 31, 2017, and written agreement that the properties will be maintained in compliance with NYS Property Maintenance Code, he added.

Speaking specifically about the East Fourth Street property, that is in his ward, Councilor Shawn Walker said he’d be in favor of considering the request – if the property is brought up to code and cleaned up “because the neighbors are complaining to me all the time.”

Third Ward Councilor Nate Emmons said he wouldn’t be in favor of returning the West Bridge Street property to the previous owner “without concrete evidence that he would actually pay for all the improvements” the building needs.

The committee split the request into two.

They gave a favorable recommendation regarding East Fourth Street.

But, they declined to send the request for 139 W. Bridge St. to the full council for further consideration.

Later, during the Administrative Services Committee, Caraccioli  ask councilors to approve funding to cover the cost of purchasing 268 W. Fifth St.; the city was the top bidder at the auction for the property on Jan. 13.

The winning bid was $13,001.

“By our accounts, it is a public nuisance property,” he pointed out. It has a history of criminal complaints and nuisance complaints in addition to numerous code violations, he added.

The city hopes “to dispose of it,” the attorney said.

He asked the committee to authorize up to $14,000 to cover any unforeseen costs.

Once the city owns the property, it will be up to the Common Council to decide what to do with it, Caraccioli said. “It is beyond repair. I think the neighborhood would like to see it razed. For the price … I think that’s a reasonable disposition of the property.”

Some of the neighbors might even be interested in purchasing the lot, he added.

Council Vice President John Gosek agreed it is a nuisance property.

“I get numerous calls on a weekly basis” about problems there,” he said.

Tearing down the building will revitalize the neighborhood, he said.