New homeless shelter as nice as health club – Democrat & Chronicle

New homeless shelter as nice as health club

By: Erica Bryant

On the walls of the kitchen of the old House of Mercy, there hung three or four paintings of Jesus eating with his disciples. And a sign that read, “A good friend will bail you out of jail. A true friend will be sitting next to you saying ‘damn that was fun!’”

CW Earsley is in charge of the kitchen and he hung the sign. Sister Grace Miller, the sister of Mercy who founded this homeless shelter, wasn’t one to object. Since opening the first House of Mercy in 1985, she has been to jail several times for protesting on behalf of the poor.

On Sunday, Sister Grace was trying to dispel rumors concerning the homeless shelter’s imminent move to a sparkling, newly renovated building on Ormond Street.

The spirit of the House, she said over and over, would stay the same. Homeless people may stay as long as they need. The House will never turn anyone away.

Meanwhile, volunteer chefs prepared the last lunch — turkey, pork loin, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy — to be served out of the Hudson Avenue facility. Many of them, like Douglass Johnson, know what it feels like to be homeless and in need of a hot meal. “I give my time to the House because they gave their time to me,” he said, chopping red peppers. “When nobody else would.”

Earsley usually runs the kitchen on Sundays, but he was busy preparing for the move so Smokey Williams was the boss. After Williams’ home in Louisiana got washed away in Hurricane Katrina, he came to Rochester. When FEMA aid ran out, he ended up at the House of Mercy and asked to help out in the kitchen. “I like to eat and I’ll work for my food,” he said. Williams is back on his feet now, but he kept volunteering and now runs the kitchen most of the time.

On Sunday, he passed out tasks to people like Mike “Stretch” Austin, who had also lived at the House for a spell. “They took good care of me,” he said. He’s excited because the new House of Mercy has an automatic dishwasher. He had to hand wash all dishes at the House on Hudson Avenue, in a sink with a pan underneath it to catch the water that dripped from a pipe which had been duct taped, and duct taped again.

Much at the Hudson Avenue facility was held together with duct tape. Though the shelter regularly slept 100 people, there were no beds, only donated couches and floor mats. Residents, some of whom had lived at the House of Mercy for more than a decade, ate their meals from Styrofoam containers balanced on their knees. “We have been getting by rough and tumble for 30 years,” said Earsley.

He started cooking for the House of Mercy just before Thanksgiving in 1988. At that time the House of Mercy was  in a house on Central Avenue. There was a four-burner house stove and about 65 people to feed. Earsley, a former army cook, knew how to prepare food for 1,000 people at a time, but he had to get creative given the equipment. He cut the turkeys down the middle with a meat cleaver and flattened them out so he could fit three in the oven at a time. The meal got done and the hungry got fed. “It was a three-day adventure,” he said.

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Tree problem – Democrat & Chronicle

Tree Problem

by: Edith Lank

Dear Edith: I am contacting you with regard an issue I currently have with a dangerous tree in my neighbor’s yard. I have gone through my insurance company to get advice and sent her a certified notice, which she refused to sign for. We then sent priority mail, which we have proof from USPS was delivered.

We have tried to talk to her but get no response and have even offered to pay to take the tree down and we just get silence. The village of Fairport recognizes it will hit our house, maybe us too if we’re in the right place but refuse to assist.  They won’t even talk to her as it is a civil matter.

I have managed to find out she has a mortgage with Chase but they won’t give me her insurance company’s name so we can’t get them involved.

Currently her house is in disrepair. I think it’s in her advantage for the tree to fall. Unfortunately for us the larger part is heading our way.

I am desperate to get this resolved without the tree falling.  Do you have any advice? Thanks in advance.

— A.S.

I’m afraid it’s thanks for nothing.  You’ve reported the problem to your homeowners insurance company and tried to contact your neighbors’, discussed this with the village, and communicated with the neighbor as much as you could.  The only thing left is to consult your own attorney.

If it’s any consolation, you can take heart from the fact that the tree evidently survived that recent record-breaking windstorm.

DiNapoli: Audit Exposes Significant Management Issues With Tonawanda Housing Authority –

DiNapoli: Audit Exposes Significant Management Issues With Tonawanda Housing Authority

An audit of the Tonawanda Housing Authority (THA) has revealed inappropriate computer usage, inequitable tenant and applicant treatment, and high vacancy rates in public housing, according to New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“The actions of certain Tonawanda housing authority employees are shameful,” said DiNapoli. “Management showed contempt for the neediest applicants and seemingly gave preferential treatment to others. For years, the authority has not operated in a fair and equitable, efficient or transparent manner and has not been fulfilling its duty to provide low-cost housing to this community.”

The authority, located in the city of Tonawanda in Erie County, manages a 257-unit apartment complex that consists of four main apartment buildings. DiNapoli noted both the longtime executive secretary and bookkeeper retired last year after approximately 25 years of service at the THA. The audit focused on the period prior to these retirements.

While examining tenant applications and existing tenant files during their fieldwork, DiNapoli’s auditors found hostile notes describing personal judgments of the respective applicants using vulgar language apparently made by THA staff. Also, during audit fieldwork, authority staff made derogatory statements regarding a tenant’s personal hygiene and asserted their preferences toward applicants who paid or would pay fair-market value rent.

Meanwhile, the THA maintained a consistently high vacancy rate (33 percent vacancy rate for senior housing and 9 percent for non-senior housing as of March 31, 2016). The March 2016 vacancy report provided to auditors indicated that the average vacancy period was two years, with three units remaining vacant for over eight years. As a result of these openings, the authority deprived eligible applicants of affordable housing and annually lost potential revenue that ranged from approximately $72,000 to $117,000.

The authority also fell short in its responsibility to provide adequate and safe low-rent housing for qualified individuals. DiNapoli’s auditors identified both tenants and tenant applicants that were not treated in a consistently fair and equitable manner, resulting in questionable application rejections and potential preferential treatment to others.

When questioned about the vacancies by the THA board of directors, the former executive secretary and bookkeeper often did not respond to requests for additional information, and at times the executive secretary provided inaccurate and unsubstantiated information.

In addition, auditors found the waitlists maintained by THA showed a variety of questionable practices. This included the bookkeeper failing to update six of the nine authority waitlists for a six-month period; several applicant appointments that were not called in waitlist order; and two applications that were omitted from the waitlist.

THA also failed to consistently conduct required background checks, credit checks and income verifications for all applications.

As a result of the audit, DiNapoli recommends the THA take immediate steps to ensure the board receives appropriate information, in a complete and accurate manner, so it can effectively monitor authority operations.

Additionally, the Comptroller recommended that officials adopt and implement written policies and procedures that address key components of the THA’s housing occupancy operations, including:

  • Uniform treatment of prospective tenant applications, background and credit checks, waitlist management, rent rate calculations, annual tenant application updates and income verifications;
  • Reapplication and hearing procedures for tenants with rejected or cancelled applications;
  • Maximizing apartment readiness and apartment showing protocols; and
  • Board monitoring and oversight of the housing occupancy operations and staff.

In a corresponding review of the THA’s information technology (IT) assets, auditors found major deficiencies in the authority’s IT security and instances of unacceptable computer usage.

For example, authority employees used computers to access multiple websites of a personal, nonbusiness or otherwise high-risk nature, including pornographic, social networking, auction and shopping.

Furthermore, auditors found indications of previous malware infections, and continued suspicious activity on the authority’s computers. These deficiencies could have compromised the personal, private and sensitive information of tenants maintained by the authority.

DiNapoli made a number of recommendations to the authority regarding its IT operations, including:

  • Ensure authority computers are not infected with malware and verify that any unauthorized software programs are removed;
  • Adopt a breach notification policy and implement a process for analyzing infected computers and determining the extent of incidents that occur;
  • Confirm all authority computers are running up-to-date antivirus software and are frequently scanned for viruses and other malware;
  • Adopt and enforce a computer and internet use policy that defines appropriate and prohibited activities when using authority computers and other IT assets; and
  • Provide IT security awareness training to all authority employees at least annually.

The THA board chairman and the current THA executive secretary agreed with the audit findings. A copy of the full audit report can be found at: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/publicauth/2017/tonawanda-housing.htm

For access to state and local government spending, public authority financial data and information on 130,000 state contracts, visit Open Book New York. The easy-to-use website was created to promote transparency in government and provide taxpayers with better access to financial data.

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PathStone, NeighborWorks selected for grants totaling near $1M – www.rbj.net

PathStone, NeighborWorks selected for grants totaling near $1M

by: Velvet Spicer

Two local nonprofits will receive nearly $1 million in federal funding for affordable housing initiatives across the Greater Rochester Region.

PathStone Corp. will receive a grant in the amount of $587,500, while NeighborWorks Rochester will receive $376,000.

PathStone is a nonprofit community development and human service organization that has provided services to low-income families and economically depressed communities throughout the region for nearly 50 years. NeighborWorks America is a public nonprofit organization that for nearly 40 years has supported local solutions to community development and affordable housing in urban, suburban and rural communities in all 50 states by way of financial and grant support, training, technical assistance, organizational assessments, technology tools and other services.

“When families have access to affordable and safe housing, they can use more of their hard-earned paychecks to afford things like groceries, medicine and school supplies, improving their quality of life while benefiting our local and national economy,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Perinton, in a statement. “Investments in organizations like PathStone and NeighborWorks help break the cycle of poverty and economic inequality that too often limits families across our country and Monroe County.”

The grants will support efforts to develop and preserve affordable housing, revitalize and sustain neighborhoods and create jobs in New York, Slaughter said. She also noted that President Trump has proposed cutting the Department of Housing and Urban Development by $6 billion, including the elimination of the NeighborWorks America program, which funded the local grants.

PathStone, NeighborWorks selected for grants totaling near $1M

Landlord tenant case prompts conflicting decisions – The Daily Record

Landlord tenant case prompts conflicting decisions

Attorney claims judge taking ‘unprecedented’ action

By: Bennett Loudon

After one of her rulings was overturned by Monroe County Court Judge Christopher S. Ciaccio, Rochester City Court Judge Ellen M. Yacknin issued a new decision that essentially overturned Ciaccio and reinstated her original finding.

“She’s absolutely defying the order from Judge Ciaccio,” said Andrew J. Dick, in-house counsel at Mark IV Enterprises, which operates Cornhill Landing apartments.

In January 2016, Cornhill went to court to evict a tenant and get a $4,735 judgment to collect unpaid rent, fees and attorney’s fees from the tenant who has never responded to the petition and never appeared in court on the case.

In February 2016, Yacknin granted the eviction warrant, but denied the money judgment because the tenant was never served personally with the notice.

‘All over the place’

Cornhill appealed Yacknin’s decision and, in February 2017, Ciaccio reversed Yacknin and sent the case back to her “for entry of a monetary judgment in favor of the petitioner with attorney’s fees, and for any further proceedings consistent with the decision of this court.”

Attorneys who frequently represent landlords in similar cases have applauded Ciaccio’s decision as “extremely significant.”

Historically, when a tenant can’t be located, leaving a summons with someone else, or “nail and mail” service, has not been allowed. But with Ciaccio’s decision, substituted service became acceptable in Monroe County.

“The City Court judges do not like the decision. They’ve made that known to me and to other attorneys, but it says what it says,” Dick said.

The old rule is based on the decision in the 1929 Fourth Department case In Re McDonald, which relied on statutes in the Civil Practice Act (CPA) that no longer exist. In 1963 the state Legislature enacted the Civil Practice Law and Rules to replace the (CPA).

This question has been argued in many local courts across the state, with differing results.

“Courts are all over the place on it,” Dick said.

Despite Ciaccio’s ruling, when the case was sent back down, Yacknin set out to determine whether Cornhill “has satisfied the legal prerequisites for the entry of a default money judgment.”

Yacknin wrote that Ciaccio’s decision only found that a default money judgment was not prohibited because of the way the notice was served on the tenant.

Ciaccio did not “consider whether petitioner satisfied the mandatory prerequisites for the entry of a default money judgment in this action,” Yacknin wrote in a footnote to her decision dated May 15.

“She’s in violation of the order and it’s unprecedented for a trial court judge to do something like this,” Dick said.

“Any issue he did or did not address is really none of her business. The order from the court is to enter judgment, period. She can question him, but she cannot defy him and she is defying him.”

Due diligence

Yacknin ruled that Cornhill’s efforts to personally serve the tenant were inadequate. She wrote that “nail and mail” service must be preceded by “a minimum of three personal service attempts.”

Two of those attempts must be “on dates and times when it can reasonably be expected that the person to be served will not be at work or in transit,” Yacknin wrote.

Cornhill’s “prior personal service attempts failed to satisfy this prerequisite for due diligence,” she wrote.

According to the process server’s affidavit, service was attempted at the tenant’s home at: 10:25 a.m., Jan. 19, 2016; 4:20 p.m., Jan. 20, 2016; and at 6:36 p.m., Jan. 20, 2016.

“All three attempts at personal service were at times that a person could normally be expected to be at work or in transit from work. As such, these attempts were deficient as a matter of law to satisfy the due diligence requirements,” Yacknin wrote.

Cornhill’s personal service attempts also failed to comply with a second essential condition required by New York appellate courts. A process server must make “genuine inquiries” to find out where the person to be served works, so they can try to serve them at their workplace, Yacknin wrote.

The server also must try to talk to neighbors to find out where the party might be found.

The process server’s affidavit “is devoid of any indication that he made any inquiries of neighbors to attempt to learn where respondent worked or where she might be found. The affidavit does not indicate that he asked petitioner where respondent worked,” Yacknin wrote.

“For this reason as well, petitioner failed to exercise the due diligence necessary to entitle it to a default money judgment against respondent following conspicuous service of process,” she wrote in denying the request for a default money judgment.

Dick said he is looking into how to address Yacknin’s latest decision.

“But it’s not going to go unanswered,” he said.

Landlord tenant case prompts conflicting decisions

New York enclave with Nazi roots agrees to change policies – The Daily Record

New York enclave with Nazi roots agrees to change policies

by: Frank Eltman

YAPHANK, N.Y. (AP) — An enclave of former summer bungalows, where Nazi sympathizers once proudly marched near streets named for Adolf Hitler and other Third Reich figures, is being forced to end policies that limited ownership to people of German descent.

The German American Settlement League, which once welcomed tens of thousands in the 1930s to pro-Nazi marches at Camp Siegfried on eastern Long Island, has settled an anti-discrimination case brought by New York state. The settlement calls for a change in the league’s leadership and adherence to all state and federal housing laws.

Many residents in the tiny community of about 40 homes that is a small part of the rural hamlet of Yaphank declined to speak on the record, but those who did disputed their community is tainted by discrimination.

“There’s a mixed bag; it’s not like it was,” said Fred Stern, a member of the league’s board and a 40-year resident, who conceded the community was once primarily occupied by those of German descent. “It’s not like whatever they’re saying. If you went to every house and asked people’s nationality, it wouldn’t be any different than any other neighborhood.”

Kaitlyn Webber told a television interviewer that her “family’s always been very open. We’ve never had any issues with anyone discriminating against anyone up here.”

The homes, which stretch down a narrow street called Private Road and surround a large grassy ballfield along Schiller Court, are a combination of small bungalows and larger suburban-type ranches. Lawns are carefully landscaped and mailboxes — many with German surnames — sit street-side in the curbless enclave.

News accounts recall a groundswell of Nazism in the enclave in the years before the start of World War II. Camp Siegfried, where the homes stand today, was sponsored by the German-American Bund to promote Hitler, although many at the time also voraciously expressed loyalty to the United States.

Trains from New York City’s Penn Station were often jammed with people who traveled 60 miles (96 kilometers) east to Yaphank. A New York Times story from August 1938 reported 40,000 people had attended the annual German Day festivities at Camp Siegfried.

Swastikas were commonplace, including on some of the homes in the enclave at the time, said Geri Solomon, archivist at Hofstra University. “Some of the photos I have seen are kind of amazing,” Solomon said.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said a 2016 settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by two former residents, who claimed The German American Settlement League policies hindered their attempts to sell their homes, called for an end to discriminatory practices. That settlement paid the former residents, who eventually did sell and moved out of state, $175,000.

Despite that agreement, Schneiderman found the league “continued to make new membership and property re-sale within the GASL community unreasonably difficult.”

The league owns the land on which the homes are situated and leases the property to homeowners, Schneiderman said. State investigators found that the league prohibited public advertisement of properties for sale. Members seeking to sell their homes could only announce a listing in person at member meetings or through internal flyers and meeting minutes circulated to the existing membership.

Stern, the league’s board member, conceded that much of the real estate turnover through the years had taken place by word of mouth. There was no need to advertise a sale, he said, because “everybody knew when a house would become available.” He blamed the complaints by the couple who brought the federal lawsuit on sour grapes, contending they had asked too much money for their home and that was the reason it didn’t initially sell.

Stern said homes in the community range in price from about $95,000 for a small bungalow to $300,000 or more.

An attorney for the couple involved in the 2016 settlement declined to comment on the attorney general’s announcement.

Schneiderman’s settlement with the league calls for the immediate replacement of the organization’s leadership, and requires it to regularly report compliance.

An attorney representing the league did not return emails seeking comment.

New York enclave with Nazi roots agrees to change policies

Did you know? Facts about Rochester’s housing market – Democrat & Chronicle

Did you know? Facts about Rochester’s housing market

by: Sean Lahman

An analysis of statewide data by USA TODAY Network journalists across New York found that upstate’s housing market is still trying to recover value lost during the Great Recession. But even when the market hit bottom upstate, buyers and sellers were still finding each other, and there are plenty of stories in the numbers and in the market.

The data includes some fascinating statistics about the housing market in Monroe County.

Rising values

► Did you know that home values are rising fastest in Clarkson?

Five towns where home values are rising

(median sales price 2016 vs 2015, GRAR)
+13.1% Clarkson
9.9% Ogden/Spencerport
7.8% Mendon/Honeoye Falls
7.4% Henrietta
5.7% Penfield

Most expensive home sales

► Did you know that the most expensive home sold in Monroe County in 2016 was in Brighton?

(2016 transactions in Monroe County, staff research)
$2,685,000 195 Sandringham Road (Brighton)
$1,750,000 630 Rock Beach Road (Irondequoit)
$1,400,000 3 Taylors Rise (Brighton)
$1,250,000 2185 Manitou Road (Ogden)
$1,185,000 49 Knollwood Drive (Pittsford)

Sales prices by town

 Did you know that the highest median sales price for homes in Monroe County was Pittsford?

Median sales price for local towns (Q1 2017, Greater Rochester Area Realtors, aka GRAR)

$285,000 Pittsford
250,000 Mendon/Honeoye Falls
209,900 Rush
206,500 Riga/Churchville
173,250 Webster

Hottest markets

► Did you know that the highest sales volume was in the city of Rochester?

(based on 2016 sales volume, GRAR)
1,538 City of Rochester
1,363 Greece
917 Irondequoit
733 Perinton/Fairport
549 Penfield

Hottest city neighborhoods

► Did you know that the hottest city neighborhood for home sales is Culver-Winton? ​

(Median listing prices, Q1 2017, Zillow Research)
$99,900 Culver-Winton
59,900 19th Ward
58,000 Maplewood

Most expensive towns for renters

Did you know that Webster is the most expensive town for renters?

(median monthly rent for single family home, Zillow)
$1,718 Webster
1,456 Henrietta
1,359 Greece
1,309 Irondequoit

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VA Secretary Announces Intention to Expand Mental Health Care to Former Service members With Other-than-honorable Discharges and in Crisis

VA Secretary Announces Intention to Expand Mental Health Care
to Former Service members With Other-than-honorable Discharges
and in Crisis

WASHINGTON – Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin while testifying in a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on March 7, 2017, announced his intention to expand provisions for urgent mental health care needs to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges. This move marks the first time a VA Secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on expanding access to assist former OTH service members who are in mental health
distress and may be at risk for suicide or other adverse behaviors.

“The president and I have made it clear that suicide prevention is one of our top priorities,” Shulkin said. “We know the rate of death by suicide among Veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than Veterans who use VA care. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. We must and we will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one Veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.”

It is estimated that there are a little more than 500,000 former service members with OTH discharges. As part of the proposal, former OTH service members would be able to seek treatment at a VA emergency department, Vet Center or contact the Veterans Crisis Line.

“Our goal is simple: to save lives,” Shulkin continued. “Veterans who are in crisis should receive help immediately. Far too many Veterans have fallen victim to suicide, roughly 20 every day. Far too many families are left behind asking themselves what more could have been done. The time for action is now.”

Before finalizing the plan in early summer, Shulkin will meet with Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and Department of Defense officials to determine the best way forward to get these former service members the care they need.

“I look forward to working with leaders like Congressman Mike Coffman from Colorado, who has been a champion for OTH service members,” Shulkin added. “I am grateful for his commitment to our nation’s Veterans and for helping me better understand the urgency of getting this right.”

Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

Cadillac Hotel could go in new direction – Democrat & Chronicle

Cadillac Hotel could go in new direction

by: David Riley

A downtown hotel that often has served as a temporary home for homeless people may become an apartment building.

Mayor Lovely Warren is asking City Council to endorse an application for $500,000 in state funding to help turn the Cadillac Hotel into 56 market-rate apartments.

The roughly 90-year-old, eight-story building is at the corner of Chestnut and Elm streets downtown, near the city’s Midtown redevelopment project.

In a letter to council this week, Warren wrote that the developer wants to turn floors two through eight into apartments, with six studios and two one-bedroom units on each floor. The first floor would include 2,837 square feet of retail space and a lobby.

The project would cost $7.9 million, according to the mayor’s letter.

“The opportunity to redevelop the Cadillac Hotel building would serve to further revitalize Chestnut Street and contribute to increasing vitality in the East End,” Warren wrote.

It was not immediately clear who the developer is. Warren said Tuesday that the city could not release a name, but wanted to show support for the project in its early stages.

The company is listed in Warren’s letter as Chestnut Elm LLC. City spokeswoman Jessica Alaimo said Ron Zour is acting as property manager and development partner for the project.

Zour could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. An employee at the hotel declined to comment.

The Cadillac is owned by Ramji Inc., according to county records.

Warren has asked City Council to endorse a Rochester Economic Development Corp. application for funding from the New York Main Streets program to support the project. The corporation is a nonprofit closely tied to city government — its president is Baye Muhammad, commissioner of business and neighborhood development.

The developer has a purchase contract for the hotel, and has had discussions with the nearby Eastman School of Music about making apartments attractive to its students, Warren wrote.

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