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Skyline Apartments could face larger fines, criminal charges, court action

Payne Horning

Syracuse city officials are wrestling with how they can hold the management of Skyline Apartments accountable, after years of significant problems. The city has been warning Green National, the management of Skyline, about the lack of security, problem tenants and drugs at the complex.

Police were making almost daily visits. The Fire Department has calls there every other day. Code Enforcement found feces, urine and needles in the common areas. This is what department heads told city councilors has been going on for years at Skyline, progressively getting worse and leading to the murder and burglary of a 93-year-old woman and the city declaring common areas unfit for occupancy last month.

The city’s top lawyer, Kristen Smith, has taken Skyline to court over inoperable elevators and failing to repair a hot water boiler. But it hasn’t been enough. The city collected a $5,000 penalty for the elevators. They’re now a problem again. And no penalty was issued for the boiler. It was fixed while the case was pending, but still took months.

“When you have these chronic, flagrant violations of our codes, there needs to be some penalty so that we can drive new incentives to be compliant with our codes,” Smith said.

Skyline has paid its fines, but they’re only hundreds of dollars for a multi-million dollar operation. Councilor Joe Carni asked if fines can be increased for these larger kinds of properties.

“Because that’s been, from my own personal experience, the only way we actually get the attention and things addressed,” Carni said.

Smith said maybe they can be.

Green National owns multiple, large properties in the city with similar problems, and another strategy is to take all those issues to court at the same time. Councilor Pat Hogan asked if the owners could be criminally liable.

“This is an appalling issue and it doesn’t seem like they are going to reform,” Hogan said.

Smith said it may rise to that level.

Councilor-at-Large Ronnie White asked why it took until the death of an elderly white woman, to reign in the behavior of these landlords. Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens said the city was focused on not wanting to displace the tenants of a building with more than 350 units. She admits the fines have done nothing and code enforcement needs to be more proactive with these larger buildings.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.