Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Crime

January 22, 2013

Reaction to 'impact zone' is mixed

(Continued)

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Walsh, who bought up and rehabilitated several residential properties around the city, says rental property owners struggle to recruit the kinds of tenants who'd make good neighbors. High property taxes and the threat of reassessment discourage housing improvement, he said; and even nice housing commands relatively low rent in this market.

City officials tend to act as though blight is the fault of landlords, but simple things the officials could do to improve neighborhoods — like add street lighting in dark areas — they won't do without badgering, if at all, Walsh added.

He's been asking, intermittently and unsuccessfully the past four years, for a street light at the end of Seidhoff Alley, an abandoned dead-end street off Spalding that a number of residents have ended up using for parking or back-yard access. The dark alley also draws drug users and vandals and blemishes an otherwise "safe, clean" neighborhood, he said.

"I can't increase the quality of tenants without a light," Walsh said. "I'm not going to have any more luck recruiting (good tenants) when the neighborhood becomes known as a place where people's liberty is infringed on (as) they're ticketed for dumb stuff like driving 5 miles over the speed limit."

Other residents see the impact zone declaration as a positive for the area.

Lewis Street homeowner Kevin Vincent thinks it's "very good news," especially the building code enforcement side of the project.

"I've always said our little neighborhood was like an oasis in the desert ... but we have definitely seen a downturn (here) the last five to seven years," he said. "I agree that the trouble seems to come from outside the city," especially when rental properties are held by non-local owners.

If increased code enforcement "sends a message .... that there are repercussions for not keeping things up, I welcome that," Vincent said. "At the very least, they should make their properties as presentable as the people who've been here a long time."

On Facebook, Lisa Rutherford suggested "better late than never," while Denise Rich, who identified herself as an ex-zone and city resident, encouraged a greater police presence in all the "bad" parts of Lockport.

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