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Massena residents tell village board of deteriorating neighborhood

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MASSENA - In the 30 years Kim Wilson has lived on Liberty Avenue, he has seen the neighborhood surrounding him, including nearby Sycamore Street, deteriorate.

“I could go on and tell all kinds of war stories about that street,” Mr. Wilson told the village’s Board of Trustees this week.

A handful of residents showed up at the meeting to express concern over blighted apartment buildings on Sycamore, and the conditions children in those buildings are living in. Their concerns sparked a candid discussion on issues and conditions not frequently broached at Massena’s public meetings.

Connie Castleman said she grew up in the area and now fears driving down Sycamore because of some of the conditions she sees. She did not mention specific addresses of the apartment buildings.

“Don’t go slow and look because if you do, you’re going to be told off big time by those sitting on their porches,” Ms. Castleman said.

Ms. Castleman said she understood some of the individuals living in the neighborhood are on welfare. She said she believed some of the children living in the buildings were growing up in bad conditions and should be removed by the county of Department of Social Services.

“These children don’t have a voice. This parenting is trickling down from generation to generation,” Ms. Castleman said.

“I want to know why these places have been let go this far,” Ms. Castleman said. “For some reason, it just continues to get worse and worse and worse and worse.”

Mr. Wilson and Ms. Castleman worried the conditions would only worsen and urged the village and the county Department of Social Services to act.

“We’ve had people say, there’s no words to describe it,” Mr. Wilson said.

“This is our town,” Ms. Castleman said. “This is our community falling apart.”

Mayor James F. Hidy said he grew up close by in the Grove section of Massena and understood the residents’ concerns. The village is placing pressure on certain apartment building owners to make sure the structures are safe to live in.

“It’s one of the concentrated efforts that we’re trying to clean up,” Mr. Hidy said. “We’ve got a plague. We’ve got a cancer in our community.”

“We all share a passion for getting this village to where it has to be,” Mr. Hidy said.

Village codes can only go so far, according to former Code Enforcement Office Dale Beaulieu, in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. He spoke of an apartment he once checked for code deficiencies. Human or animal feces were scattered on the floor, and a small diapered child was running around the apartment when he visited, he said.

“We tried diligently to clean that up,” Mr. Beaulieu said. “Within two or three months it was a disaster again.”

Police Chief Timmy J. Currier said Thursday his officers determine on a case-by-case basis whether to refer children in domestic disputes and other police calls to the Department of Social Services and Child Protective Services. The child’s age, the number of times police respond to a certain address, and the number of times the incident is reported all factor into the officer’s decision to report.

“With respect to social services and CPS referrals, police officers are mandated reporters, so in situations where there is obvious danger to the well being of the child, we would report it,” Mr. Currier said in an email.

The department’s officers may soon begin using more conflict resolution training when responding to troubled properties and domestic incidents, Mr. Currier said.

County Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett said he planned to contact the Department of Social Services to see if their staff could assist in any neighborhood problems.

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