NIAGARA FALLS – City lawmakers on Monday night enacted a law aimed at cracking down on businesses and business districts where crimes involving guns, drugs and prostitution occur.
The “property and building nuisance reform” law passed the City Council by a 4-1 vote.
Sponsored by the Council’s three-member majority, the law would allow the city to deem a property a “public nuisance” if a certain number of violations are found to have occurred at the property within a certain time frame.
Councilman Samuel F. Fruscione, who helped develop the legislation, said the aim of the new law is to “restore some quality of life” to parts of the city. He pointed to corner stores and “after hours” clubs as the types of places where such nuisance crimes often occur.
Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti, who voted against the legislation, said she believes the issues could be handled if the city just enforced laws that are already on the books.
She also said she believes the law could be seen as “targeting a certain group of people” or having “racist tendencies.”
Fruscione, who said the idea for the law came from a similar one enacted in Binghamton, said he thinks Grandinetti’s vote was “a personal vote against the council majority.”
He also said property owners of any ethnic or racial background are capable of being bad business owners.
The law establishes a point system under which a property would be assigned either 2, 4, 6 or 10 points, based on the severity of the violation found. Applicable violations include alcohol and drug violations, howling dogs, prostitution, property maintenance issues and welfare fraud.
The city would be able to take the property owner to court if a property accumulates 12 points in six months or 18 points in 12 months. The city could ask a judge to order the business closed. Property owners could also be fined or sentenced to up to 15 days in jail.
In other city matters, the Council:
• Approved $150,000 in additional overtime in the police department.
Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto said the department’s overtime budget had been slashed by two-thirds, to about $300,000, because of the city’s budget crunch.
There are currently 14 vacancies among the ranks, as well as two lieutenants on injured-on-duty status, DalPorto said.
The city is in the process of hiring a new class of officers who will take roughly a year to complete the academy, he said.
• Approved the hiring of 10 temporary workers in the Department of Public Works to cut high grass on privately owned lots whose owners have been notified of the conditions by the city.
The workers will earn $10 per hour and be eligible to work 40-hour weeks through September. The property owners afterwards are billed by the city for the work.
• Approved a $777,000 contract with L.J. Quigliano Inc. of Sanborn for the repaving and resurfacing of Royal Avenue.
• Accepted a $188,000 grant from the New York Power Authority to install an LED lighting system at the Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial in Hyde Park.