The Niagara Falls Zombie Fight Project continues to establish the City of Niagara Falls as a leader in enforcing the New York State Zombie Property and Foreclosure Law. Through comprehensive enforcement of the new state law, demolitions of two unsafe and unsalvageable structures on Sixth Street were completed on January 10, 2017, at no cost to the city.
“Without action from our Zombie Fight Project, these dilapidated houses would have continued to harm this neighborhood street until their eventual government funded demolition. Zombie Fight Project intervention saved the city approximately $75,000 in demolition costs while eliminating blight,” said Seth Piccirillo, Director of Niagara Falls Community Development.
Following the September 2017 New York State Supreme Court filing of one of the first lawsuits under the New York State Zombie Property and Foreclosure Law, the Niagara Falls Zombie Fight Project recently issued code violation letters to one of their biggest offenders, Ocwen Financial, and their servicer, Altisource. These institutions are responsible for a total 17 properties in the city, of which 14 had code violations, including 530 and 530 ½ Sixth Street. The violations ranged from broken windows, to structurally unsound houses in need of emergency demolition. The new demolition costs will now be considered as part of the foreclosure. Typically, the city demolishes unsafe structures after tax foreclosure or attempts to assess demolition costs without the guarantee of repayment. Enforcement of the New York State Zombie Property and Foreclosure Law creates greater accountability and prevents unnecessary spending for the City of Niagara Falls.
Christine Marino, Zombie Fight Project Coordinator stated, “After persistently enforcing the timeline outlined in the law, we have been experiencing much more cooperation from banks.” 12 of the 14 properties have had all code violations corrected, and these two structures that occupy the same lot were demolished at no cost to the city. The next step is continuing to partner with the banks to find innovative ways for disposition of the properties.” Marino stated.
Since April 2017, the Niagara Falls Zombie Fight Project has played an instrumental role in correcting the course of over 25 properties stalled in foreclosure proceedings, in an effort to fight blight in the City of Niagara Falls. The Niagara Falls Community Development Department is in the process of negotiating a settlement with Citizens Bank, the first financial institution highlighted by the Niagara Falls Zombie Fight Project.