July 15, 2019
On July 8th, the Town of Chazy Code Enforcement Officer announced that he was closing Gray Gables, a local apartment building, because it is not fit for people to live in. Since 2015 the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Inc. (LASNNY) has filed complaints on the state and local level, arranged for inspections, filed reports, and advocated with officials and represented various tenants.
At a July 8, 2019 Town Council meeting, Code Enforcement Officer Michael Tetreault announced to the council that he has notified the owners of the building located at 9627 Route 9, Chazy NY, (locally known as “Gray Gables,”) that the structure is “UNFIT FOR HUMAN OCCUPANCY” under the New York State Property Maintenance Code as well as local laws, and must be vacated no later than July 22, 2019. Gray Gables will remain vacant until an engineering report is completed “detailing all deficiencies at the property and required repairs to bring the structures into compliance with the NY State Building Code.” The notice was sent to the property owners, Frederick and Cecile Reus, and copies given to the Town Council. Officials and advocates are coordinating efforts with the Clinton County Department of Social Services to refer anyone who is seeking and is eligible for housing assistance.
This announcement is the culmination of community efforts raising concerns about this building for years including but not limited to LASNNY, Chazy Code Enforcement, and the Clinton County Health Department. LASNNY is committed to addressing the affordable housing crisis in New York, specifically advocating for safe, affordable, accessible housing for all. Tara Glynn, Staff Attorney in LASNNY’s Plattsburgh office, said, “The perseverance our clients have shown living through these conditions, struggling to find alternative housing, and fighting so that others do not experience what they have endured is inspiring and admirable. LASNNY looks forward to working with the local Code Enforcement Officer, town government, County Health Department, and State Division of Buildings and Code on behalf of our clients to ensure that residents and the community are protected from unsafe and uninhabitable conditions.”
LASNNY routinely advocates for clients and work with agencies and landlords to address issues of habitability and safety in housing throughout the North Country. In pursuit of this goal, LASNNY has represented thirteen residents at the property known as Gray Gables in Chazy, New York. For more than four years, we have advocated for tenants’ rights in the face of significant health and safety risks this building posed to our clients and to the community at large.
As Mr. Tetreault wrote following an April 2019 inspection of one apartment, “the living conditions are well below minimum standards” in that apartment and in “the balance of the building.” The outside of the building consisted at that time of “a lot of junk, trash, and debris.” The “roof structure will not hold screws to maintain the metal roofing in place,” so that “snow melt “seeps between the sheeting causing the constant leaking into the interior of the building.” The apartments had “issues with heaters,” and since the “only source of heat is…not capable of maintaining 68 degrees,” the tenants were using “added heaters not properly vented or electric space heaters.” The owner “does not maintain smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors as they become missing or inoperable.” In the winter, “because no heat is available in the common areas…drain pipes routinely freeze causing plumbing back-up.” He also described “issues with doors…especially door locks not working properly” and a variety of electrical issues: “fixtures don’t work properly, electrical shorts, water in light fixtures, poorly mounted electrical fixtures etc.” Mr. Tetreault noted that “several agencies are aware of the issues concerning ‘Gray Gables’” and asked that the Town take a “proactive stance with this property.” He closed by stating that “In its current condition I believe it to be UNSAFE and UNINHABITABLE.”
On April 5, 2019 Ryan Davies, P.E., Director of Environmental Health and Safety for the Clinton County Health Department, and Tim Simonette, Senior Public Health Sanitarian for the Clinton County Health Department, sent a letter to the building’s owner, with copies to (among others) the Town of Chazy Supervisor and the Town of Chazy Building Codes Officer. In this letter, Mr. Davies and Mr. Simonette wrote that they inspected the property on March 22, 2019, and observed “large amounts of construction materials, scrap metal, tires, and miscellaneous debris” on the property. They further explained that “All of these items can promote and give harborage to vermin, such as insects and rodents,” and required removal of “unnecessary items, rubbish, construction debris” from the premises by May 31, 2019.
On April 16, 2019, Mr. Tetreault wrote a letter to the town which stated that “several issues” had come to his attention with this property during his six years as Code Enforcement Officer and also noted that prior code enforcement officers had documented the same issues. He described the scope of the violations as “severe” and stated that “from the exterior of the buildings to the interior of the apartments, the violations persist.” For these reasons in his letter Mr. Tetreault asked the town board for its “review and recommendations that this be deemed an UNSAFE STRUCTURE and UNSUITABLE for HABITATION.” He also noted that other agencies, including LASNNY, the Clinton County Health Department, and the New York State Department of State Division of Building and Codes were aware of the situation at the property.
Given that conditions at Gray Gables have long been substantiated by Code Enforcement and many other governmental agencies, LASNNY is extremely pleased with this response to finally address the dangers this property presents to the residents and general community alike.
The Chazy Town Board will be discussing a resolution concerning Gray Gables at a Town Board Meeting on July 16th at 4pm at the Chazy Town Hall located at 9631 Route 9 Chazy NY.