Greater Syracuse Land Bank

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank celebrated its fifth birthday this week with a bus trip to show off some of it’s success stories.  

Land bank officials and others visited demolition sights, a community garden and renovated rental housing, like Sam Reppi’s conversion of a dilapidated building on Burnet Avenue into apartments and a storefront business.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The Syracuse Common Council has voted to override the mayor’s veto and defund the Syracuse Land Bank of $1.5 million in the city's recently passed budget. Some councilors called into question the land bank’s performance of maintaining foreclosed properties.

Rich Puchalski with Syracuse United Neighbors offered candy to councilors who would vote to return land bank funding.

“Most of you, don’t experience what we experience day in, day out,” Puchalski said.

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Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank / City of Syracuse

The Syracuse Common Council will soon have to decide if they want to override Mayor Stephanie Miner’s veto to a number of amendments the council added to the budget. Those amendments include cuts to the funding of the city’s land bank.

Miner released a list of 60 properties scheduled for demolition that will have to be put on hold unless the council restores funding to the land bank, which takes over tax-delinquent properties. Many of the properties on the list have had a number of police calls and complaints ranging from drugs, trespassing, arsons and shots fired.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says she is planning on vetoing the budget approved by the Syracuse Common Council this week. One of her big beefs with the budget is the elimination of funding for the Greater Syracuse Land Bank.

The city has subsidized the land bank for the last four years, at the rate of $1.5 million a year. The agency, which is not a city department, buys tax delinquent properties seized by the city and either demolishes them or puts them up for sale. It also is funded through state grants.

Tom Magnarelli

The Syracuse Common Council has passed a budget that includes some controversial changes to what Mayor Stephanie Miner had proposed. Miner said she will veto the changes.

The council has cut overtime from Syracuse’s fire and police departments by $1 million each. But Councilor Steven Thompson said the money cut for police overtime has been shifted to hire new officers.

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Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s proposed budget includes increases to schools and police, but also an $18.5 million deficit. Miner said the city’s fiscal problems are similar to what other upstate municipalities face.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank recently made its 400th sale after it began selling tax-delinquent properties in 2013. The land bank's goals for the new year are to expand outside the city and address health concerns about their properties.

That 400th sale was a home in Syracuse that was listed in the Land Bank’s Home Ownership Choice program, which requires buyers to live on the property or to renovate and sell to an owner-occupant within a year. Land Bank Executive Director Katelyn Wright said most of the properties they sell are fixer-uppers.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Syracuse’s Land Bank is applying for a new round of funding from settlements the New York State Attorney General’s Office made with banks after the 2008 mortgage crisis. The land bank wants to use the new funding on renovations in areas of the city it has previously neglected.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

A number of items came up on the Syracuse Common Council agenda at a recent meeting. The Syracuse Police Department will be training officers and detectives on how to obtain video footage from corner stores and other businesses. The training was approved by the Syracuse Common Council and will begin in December.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The Syracuse Land Bank has been operating for about four months without a contract with the city. The result is the Land Bank has had to slow down acquiring foreclosed properties.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse has adopted new floodplain maps released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. More than 600 properties in Syracuse have been added, bringing the total to more than 1,600 properties that could be required to have flood insurance.

Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner said the city needed to adopt the maps so affected residents can get a discount on flood insurance. That discount is about 15 percent. Kessner also said residents can appeal the decision if their property is now on the flood maps.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The Syracuse Common Council is debating how it should or should not restrict the $1.5 million in the city’s current budget for the Syracuse Land Bank. The number of buildings the Syracuse Lank Bank should be required to demolish is being called into question.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

Watertown is looking at cities like Syracuse and Rochester for a new way to handle abandoned homes. City officials say a land bank can help get properties back on the tax roll. 

Out on the corner of Coffeen and Waltham Streets in Watertown, the windows on a red brick house are broken.

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The Onondaga County Legislature unanimously passed its 2016 budget which focused on saving taxpayers' money while tackling some of the big issues facing the county.

The budget includes a cut to property taxes and cuts to proposed increases in sewer and water rates for Onondaga County residents. County legislature chairman Ryan McMahon said the budget will help spur the economy.

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Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci and Syracuse City Auditor Martin Masterpole spoke to Syracuse Common Council members on Monday about the audit they recently conducted on the Greater Syracuse Land Bank. The common council will soon hold a vote to determine how and when the land bank will receive $1.5 million in funding for their 2015-16 fiscal year. The audit reported the many successes of the land bank, which acquires tax delinquent properties and has resold 188 properties thus far.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

There are about 1,800 vacant buildings in the city of Syracuse, according to the Syracuse Land Bank, which steps in to stabilize a property and resell it to responsible buyers when it gets foreclosed. A recently released audit of the land bank by Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse finds that while the organization has many successes, some potential problems lie ahead.

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Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner was on the city’s west side on Thursday, highlighting efforts of police and other officials to improve troubled neighborhoods. But some residents are upset that some neighborhoods have been struggling for years.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

 

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank, which acquires tax-delinquent properties with the goal of getting them back on the tax roll, is renegotiating its contract with the city. 

 

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Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank / City of Syracuse

There is disagreement between the Syracuse city council and its school district over just how much of an impact the land bank is having on the district's budget.

The Syracuse public school system projects it will collect nearly a $1 million less this year because of properties acquired by the city’s land bank.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The Syracuse school district could be down a million dollars because of an unintended consequence of vacant properties being sold to the land bank.

Property tax collection is a major source of funding for public schools, but there are thousands of properties in Syracuse that the property taxes aren’t being collected on – either because they’re vacant or the owner isn’t paying. For those properties, the city has been covering the portion that would go to schools out of its own pocket.

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The Greater Syracuse Land Bank will continue to use deconstruction as they demolish dilapidated properties across the city of Syracuse in the coming year. The results of a year-long experiment in the deconstruction process have proved fruitful so far.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO file photo

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank is encouraging certain city employees to buy tax delinquent homes that have been sold to the city.

Last year, police officers and fire fighters employed by the city, and teachers who worked for the city school district, were offered a 10 percent discount if they bought one of the land bank properties. Nobody did. So the land bank’s board has okayed raising that discount to 50 percent.

The Land Bank’s executive director Katelyn Wright says they’ll push the program more aggressively this year.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

It’s been a long time coming for Kathleen DiScenna to get the "magic key to the magic house of Oz." It's really just a screwdriver "until we get our grants and re-do the doors and locks," she explained.

The large Neal House, at 678 West Onondaga Street in Syracuse, was built in 1871. But it’s fallen into disrepair, with broken windows, peeling paint and crumbling fireplaces. No Wicked Witch lived here, but the house on the West Side of Syracuse holds a lot of importance to fans of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its author.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse is in line for more money for its land bank. The state announced a second round of awards Wednesday to help communities restore abandoned and dangerous properties.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that another $20 million is going out to land banks across the state, while at a house on Syracuse’s Southside. The home was renovated, and has been sold to a first time home buyer.
 

Katelyn Wright, executive director of the Greater Syracuse Land Bank says the city is in line for $2 million from this round of awards.