City, Landlords Return To Court
By LIBBY CUDMORE
ONEONTA – At 195 Main St., five of the 40 apartments don’t have kitchen appliances. Many are without operating smoke detectors. Window panes are cracked and fixed with tape. And suspended ceiling tiles cover the sprinkler system, rendering it inoperable in a fire.
“There are still considerable violations,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “We have an obligation to make sure everybody in the city lives in a building deemed safe.”
County Judge John Lambert, presiding as state Supreme Court judge, requested a meeting with the city and building owner Melania Pervu at 10 a.m Thursday, Jan. 24, pending the latest inspections of the former Oneonta Hotel, conducted last week.
“We will present the fact that our inspection shows outstanding violations,” said Herzig. “We took a number of photographs to demonstrate our concern.”
“We intend to tell the court that the city will not issue a Certificate of Occupancy,” said City Attorney David Merzig. “It has not had a certificate of occupancy since (the Pervus, Melania and husband Nicolae) purchased it.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 15, with Mrs. Pervu present, city Code Inspectors Stephen Yerly and John Hester toured the building and noted more than 90 violations, ranging from non-compliant flooring to holes in the wall, filthy bathtubs, missing smoke detectors and sagging, water-damaged ceiling tiles.
The inspectors also noted that “…portions of the building are currently under various states of demolition and/or construction.”
Among the most grievous violations, Herzig said, were the non-compliant suspended ceiling tiles, which blocked the building’s sprinkler system.
The report did note that a licensed plumber did make plumbing corrections throughout the building, but noted, “Though the piping was installed correctly, many of the vanities and cabinet units in the apartments still require replacement due to deteriorated condition and water damage.”
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No Certificate of Compliance means the Pervus cannot legally rent to tenants. However, some remain in the building, and the Pervus have continued to advertise apartments for rent.
The Pervus purchased the building in 2015 for $1.5 million.
In September, 19 months after the Board of Public Safety initially declared the building “unsafe” and ordered tenants to vacate, Lambert upheld the city’s Order to Vacate, but stayed the decision to give the owners until Jan. 11 to fix all outstanding violations.
There are multiple resources available to property managers to make sure their buildings are compliant with building regulations. This was entirely preventable on their part as it is simple enough to find the right compliance monitoring tools that can alert and give them reports on the issues.
In December, City Hall took the Pervus to court, saying she was in contempt of the judge’s September order to file an application for all building permits by Oct. 15. Though the city argued the application was improperly filed, Lambert did not find her in contempt and upheld the Jan. 11 deadline.
In this week’s meeting, Merzig said, the judge can decide if Pervu can seek a hearing to refute the city’s findings, or direct the city how to proceed, including the possibility that Judge Lambert will uphold the city’s Order to Vacate.
“We don’t have the power to make people leave some place the owner is allowing them to stay without a Supreme Court order,” said Merzig.
“We’re hoping (Lambert) will enforce the city’s Order to Vacate,” said Herzig.