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Cheektowaga residents are being urged to pick up their phones to fight blight at vacant properties held by JPMorgan Chase.

Three-by-four-foot signs displaying the toll-free number for Chase’s Real Estate Owned and Property Preservation Department were to be installed outside 68 and 257 Chapel Ave. and 42 Parktrail Lane following Tuesday’s Town Board meeting. That phone number is 1-877-584-3290.

“Please call, harass them. Give them a hard time,” said Councilman Charlie Markel, chairman of the Town Board’s Building Inspection & Housing Committee.

Markel has been on a five-year mission to hold mortgage companies responsible for the upkeep of vacant properties while foreclosure proceedings drag on. “I’m picking three properties – it could be 33 properties,” he said.

“Most banks now come to the table,” Markel said. As for Chase, “They talk a good game but actually do nothing.”

While the financial institutions holding mortgages on vacant properties pay property taxes, they disavow ownership and responsibility, town officials said. “If you have the power to throw somebody out of the house, you have ownership,” Markel said in an interview with The Buffalo News.

The condition of 257 Chapel Ave., which has been vacant for 10 years, has deteriorated to the point where the town intends to have it torn down. On Tuesday night, a contract totaling $57,800 was awarded to a Niagara Falls business for asbestos abatement and demolition of 257 Chapel and 38 Barbara Place.

But that’s not the case with 42 Parktrail Lane, which could be worth around $200,000, Markel said.

The 1,820-square-foot home was built in 1990, according to real estate records, but has sat vacant since its owner died more than two years ago. Since then, the town has been cutting the lawn, trimming hedges and weed-whacking, plus maintaining its in-ground pool.

“If something’s not done in five to seven years, it’s going to be lost,” Markel said.

Markel said he’d been in contact, via email, with an Albany-based government affairs officer for Chase up until last Thursday. The institution’s position, he said, is “‘I don’t care.’”

“This is going to be the first step to say, ‘Enough,’ ” Markel said. And to those financial institutions whom he may contact in the future, Markel said: “If you don’t become a good neighbor, this is exactly what to expect.”

In other business, the board:

• Accepted the site plan for a 2,090-square-foot addition to the Sisters of Charity Hospital–St. Joseph Campus at 2605 Harlem Road;

• Authorized the purchase of five license plate readers for the police department at a cost of $105,437.50. A state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services grant will pay $97,582.40, with the balance coming from asset forfeiture funds.

• Approved the appointment of Jeremy W. Bauer, a student at Erie Community College; and Caitlin M. Bemish and Caitlynn M. Schmidt, who attend Hilbert College, as unpaid interns with the Police Department, effective from Monday until Dec. 31.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com