by| Mar 11, 2021 6:14 pm
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Posted to: Housing, West River
Rafael Ramos saw the pile of cardboard boxes and trash bags first. After talking to a tenant, he learned the owner doesn’t live in the purple house on George Street — and lacks the license required to rent it out.
Ramos, a deputy director for the city’s Livable City Initiative (LCI) department, came across the violation Thursday in the course of a sweep of the West River neighborhood along with inspectors from other city departments.
Ramos’s goal in addressing the discovery on George Street — like the goal of the sweep itself — was not to make anyone homeless. It was to prevent a safety problem before it happens.
“Trash is always an indication of other things,” said Ramos.
The city sends out department heads on these sweeps periodically to walk New Haven’s neighborhoods, identify safety problems and let neighbors know whom to contact to solve them. Previous sweeps have covered Cedar Hill, the Hill, the Annex, Fair Haven and Newhallville.
West River was the focus on Thursday morning. The dozen or so representatives from city departments split into groups, armed with detailed maps of their assigned blocks. Ramos’ group started at the corner of Derby and Winthrop avenues.
Ramos was the first to notice the purple house on George Street. He peeled off to take a closer look at what the pile of trash outside might indicate, followed by Mayor Justin Elicker and new city code inspector Nick Caprio.
Sure enough, the railing to the steps was broken. The handrail would not hold any weight. The porch was splintering. These were obvious health and safety hazards, Ramos said.
Renter Jeffrey O’Bryan (pictured) answered the door to Elicker’s knock. Elicker introduced the group and encouraged O’Bryan to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
Ramos asked for more details about the home. Who owns the property? Are there working smoke detectors? Are there any rodents or roaches? Do any children live there?
O’Bryan reported that the smoke detectors worked and that there were no insect or rodent problems. The owner’s number changes all the time, he said, but the owner would be by to collect rent around 7 p.m. The family on the second floor has children.
As the group thanked O’Bryan and walked away, Caprio looked up the property in city records. The property is listed as owner-occupied. The owner had not applied for a residential rental business license. The city can fine property owners for failing to get properly licensed.
“The owner clearly doesn’t live here,” Elicker commented.
LCI created a tiered rental licensing system in 2019. The number of code violations per house gets memorialized in the type of license, so properties with histories of violations get checked up on more frequently.
Ramos’ group included others with vivid stories about every house the group passed. West River Alder Tyisha Walker-Myers, who serves as president of the Board of Alders, knew the details of development proposals for each property. She had already spoken with her landlord about bulk trash on one of his other properties.
And when two young women came up, distressed by a clash of personalities at the rooming house where they live, Walker-Myers gave them her cell phone number. She offered to help them talk through the issue with their case manager.
Otherwise, the walk was sunny and quiet. The group walked in huddles of three or four, joking and exchanging information on the houses. Caprio took notes on the homes with code violations so he could send out letters later.
Ramos passed a cross street with Parmelee Avenue and sighed that it was a nice, clean block with few troubles. A modern house built by the Yale School of Architecture anchored the corner.
Just beyond was another home with safety problems. The fence was collapsing into the sidewalk.
An abandoned car in the backyard was a potential home for mice. The pile of branches and old toys looked like it might have already become a den for some animal.
Another home had a collapsing chimney, a pile of trash and a collapsing set of stairs. Ramos worried that bricks might be falling through the chimney at this point.
LCI neighborhood specialist Tracy Claxton (pictured above) called out to Ramos about the owner of the home, whom she knows by name. Illness had affected his ability to take care of his property. As a senior, the man might be eligible for help fixing his chimney and steps, Ramos said. Claxton had tried that already, but LCI could try again.
“Maybe he will change his mind. A lot of people don’t want help,” she said.
The final stop that drew Ramos’ eye was another house with trash out front.
Corey Rogers, an injured football player at the Engineering and Science University Magnet School, stuck his head over the porch.
Rogers told Ramos that there was a working smoke detector. He didn’t know what a carbon monoxide alarm looked like, though.
Ramos held up his hands to show a rectangle about eight inches wide. Rogers did think the house had one of those. The renter of the apartment next to Rogers confirmed this information.
“That means we’ve been in there in the last two years for something, probably for the license,” Ramos said.
As Ramos and Caprio walked away, Caprio checked the rental business license. It had just expired at the end of January. That was another chance to talk with the owner and make sure everyone was living in safe conditions.
Tags: neighborhood sweeps, Rafael Ramos, Tracy Claxton, Justin Elicker, Tyisha Walker-Myers
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This is a joke, right? I mean the whole city is a dump. There is trash everywhere. I have emailed LCI with ELICKER on copy more than a dozen times regarding a property in Edgewood. The LCI rep for the area lives across the street from the property. The city hasnt taken any action. No fines. No penalties.
These sweeps are political public relation events. Elicker hasn’t done anything to clean up the city..literally or figuratively.
And, by the way, the city’s licensing program is OPTIONAL. I asked the outgoing LCI Director if the licensing was required and was told it is not required, but is “strongly recommended”
[Ed.: Rafael Ramos contacted us to note that landlord licensing is not optional. It covers all absentee owners (those who don’t live on premises) of buildings with two or more units. If you live on the property you own, then you are exempt.]
would be nice if LCI spent half as much time inspecting city properties to include but not be limited to housing authority buildings and properties schools, etc. There is a mission to collect fees and raise revenue in this city. Why are they inspecting YALE buildings and no one dare say private property because every home they have gone after is private property also. They let church street south and every other city run cite deteriorates to the point of demolishing them without fees fines actions etc. . The city run housing for elderly in this city is always been dam near horrific. Bella vista is a nightmare but again lets get the small fry tax payer and rake them over the coals. Oh wait the woman who is thinking about running for office was on watch while this was happening . She was in the deputy chiefs position for the city of new haven then she was assistant director for housing w HUD and now the director.. Has anyone ever seen how disgusting theses buildings have been for decades before the media took any interest? MOLD ,broken railings, broken nasty elevators, garbage infestations,broken smoke detectors missing detectors,
Impressive—- Mayor Elicker knows what a handrail is. I guess it must have broken by itself. The smoke alarms remove themselves. Trash overflows itself in garbage pails. The car abandoned itself in the yard.
I call BS—- Crass politicking by the mayor fools no one except the wretched masses who live off the taxpayers.
The City takes between $350 to $400 from every house in West River; every month. In West River alone City Hall takes something like $4,500,000 in propity taxes. (no 17 year tax abatment to be found). If City Hall wishes to incentivize upkeep perhaps offering property tax abatement for improvements might be explored. Takaing money out of WestRiver each month drives rents up, it also disincentivize upkeep and maintenance. 30% of rent goes to property taxes.
Once again Dennis trashes New Haven and spreads misinformation.
Note to Elicker: focus on fixing LCI, not the handrail. Not fooling anyone with the PR sweeps.
I have an elderly relative who owned a 2 family house in the area. LCI presented them a checklist of items that needed fixing or they would be fined.
1. Stone wall next to driveway crumbling…(tenants kept hitting it with their car.)
2. Mice, bedbugs and roaches infestation that once the landlord was informed were there took 3-4 calls to a pest control company to get rid of…
(Tenants brought in furniture that they found on the street, and tenants didn’t notify landlord about the infestation, tenants piles of garbage and filthy stove and fridge were so disgusting after they moved out that they had to be replaced because of the pest damages, and a dumpster rented to remove their trash, and a cleaning person hired to clean and sanitize everything, and in the other unit several tenants moved out due to the pest issues created by the first tenant.)
3. Yard not weeded properly…
(Landlord was suffering a medical crisis and temporarily wasn’t able to get over to the property as regularly as they normally would while they received treatment.)
4. Leaking plumbing which wound up costing thousands of dollars in water bills and repairs…
(Which the tenants never informed the landlord was leaking.)
The landlord was charging less than market rate rents, due to wanting to help out the low income tenants, was extremely patient and understanding of any issues the tenants had, and responded immediately to any issues brought to their attention.
Landlord paid thousands of dollars out of their own pocket to fix the property issues, then sold their property to a landlord who owned multiple multi family properties around the city, who was going to charge market rates and change the building to a legal 3 family so they could make more money.
Sometimes it’s not the landlord that is bad, it is the tenants that cause all the issues, and then the landlord is held legally and financially responsible for the bad behavior of the tenant.
Tremendous amount of gun play in the city. Just read the article about people resigning like crazy. The thing that this administration finds news worthy right now is handrails and having the mayor knock on doors to ask about landlords. You have got to be kidding me right now.
Bullets are flying in every neighborhood and summer is soon here. How about safe streets!
I just filed a FOIA request to see how many landlords have been fined for not registering for the “required” Residential Rental Licensing Program. So far, the Elicker administration has ignored my prior FOIA requests regarding LCI.
Good day Attorney LaMarr, Ms. Samuel, Ms. Santiago, and Mr. D’Amore
In an effort to understand the operations of the City’s Livable City Initiative I am respectfully requesting the following information:
1. A list or summary of all fines issued by the city, between Jan 1 2020 and Dec 31, 2020, to landlords for not registering for the Residential Rental Licensing Program. I am trying to determine the number and amount of fines issued during 2020 because landlords that should have registered for the Residential Rental Licensing Program did not register.
Bevhills: I disagree, but as a fellow New Havener I still love you. I do like the “trash” pun.
ISeeRacism: Agreed. We need a city where everyone can survive.
First thought, who is paying for this? We can’t pay for adequate schools and we can’t pay for adequate transportation and we can’t pay for 1000 other things. Who is going to pay for this right to counsel? Now I sure hope the tax isn’t your answer. Because there is a point at which you just have to stop the bleeding. And now back in the day before modern medicine they bring out the leeches and the and the barber and surgeon would bleed the patient a little. The real issue was you couldn’t bleed the patient too much.
Second thought, you were all worried about mega landlords controlling hundreds of housing units in a given area? The right to counsel will most assuredly do that. Regular landlords with 123 and four unit places can’t afford counsel. They meet the tenants on equal footing. If you drive up the cars to being an individual landlord too much, you will just see consolidation by the mega landlords. Mandy et al are buying up New Haven as it is.
Again, this is nothing more than a photo op. If the Mayor truly cared about health and safety and living conditions the City would be working to address the dangerous building conditions at the properties in the Motel District in Upper Westville.
I wasn’t stating an argument or anything that merits disagreement or your love. It was just an observation that isn’t up for debate.
You describe New Haven as ” I mean the whole city is a dump.” That is trashing New Haven.
You make allegations that are wrong and have to be corrected by the NHI. That is spreading misinformation.
BevHills730: The entire city is filthy, i.e. a dump. New Haven is trashing New Haven. I’m just calling it out. New Haven respect New Haven.
You make allegations about me (someone you don’t know and have never met and decline to sit down to have coffee with) that are wrong and so ridiculous that people never agree with you.
The point about the licensing requirement is up for debate. We’ll get our answer if the city ever responds to my FOIA request. But for the record, there are many landlords who don’t participate and should.
New Haven is a great place. It has amazing groups that work hard to make our city an amazing place. The friends of parks organizations do amazing work to keep up our parks that you have called dirty. We have an amazing tree cover that is facilitated by groups like Urban Resources Initiative. We have seen run down spaces be turned into fantastic neighborhood centers like Cherry Ann Street Park. We have amazing historical structures. And most importantly to me we have an amazing civic culture that is pushing to hold real power accountable in ways that are rare for cities in America. New Haven is an extraordinary city, and you shouldn’t call it a dump. You shouldn’t trash it. I don’t want to have coffee with anyone to debate such silly things.
But you shouldn’t complain when people accurately describe comments that you have made in a public forum.
Here we go again! Instead of doing something helpful they waste another day walking around harassing people. The only thing these people come up with is photo-ops and fines.
And if you ever had to get rid of bulk trash you know the city dump closes at noon on a Saturday and the only guy in the office is working on a computer from the 90s, which kills the handful of hours they’re actually open.
This city hates landlords, taxes them up their eyeballs because they can’t get what they need from Yale, but never goes after the corporate slumlords that bought up all those properties during Covid. Heaven forbid you try to get something fixed or get your deposit back from those vampires. That’s why if I ever scrape enough money in this miserable town to buy a house I’m moving.