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Massena mayor plans strategy for neighborhood problems

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MASSENA - The village must develop a strategy for dealing with crime, blighted properties and quality-of-life issues in Massena’s Grove Neighborhood, according to Mayor James F. Hidy.

Mr. Hidy has called a meeting for 10 a.m. today with the village’s department heads to explore methods for improving the area bound by Chase, Beach and Center Streets and Liberty Avenue.

The village Board of Trustees frequently discusses blighted properties throughout the village, but Mr. Hidy said special attention must be paid to the Grove.

“It’s the worst hit right now and needs our full attention,” Mr. Hidy said. “We’re going to pick the worst-hit areas and start dealing with them.”

Mr. Hidy was raised in that neighborhood and has watched it deteriorate over the years. Last week, a group of concerned citizens who either grew up in that neighborhood or still live there approached the village board. They expressed concern over blighted apartment buildings, crime in and around Sycamore Street and the conditions in which children live in those buildings.

Mr. Hidy said it’s time for a collaborative effort between the police, code department, and St. Lawrence County Departments of Health and Social Services to address the problems in that neighborhood. He said Wednesday’s meeting would hopefully produce a clearer strategy for such an effort.

“We’re making sure that ... absentee landlords get the message that you’re not going to turn a blind eye to properties in this community,” Mr. Hidy said. “We have to concentrate on the areas that are the worst right now before they get even worse.”

The county’s health and social services department will hopefully play a role in the effort as well, Mr. Hidy said.

“I want them aware of what we’re doing, what our goals are,” he said.

While the village’s code office will work on holding absentee landlords more accountable, the county social services department has a “shared responsibility” in monitoring the living conditions of those receiving public assistance, Mr. Hidy said. Those departments should make sure those rental properties are clean and livable, and must protect the welfare of children living there.

Tenants living in those properties must also be responsible, Mr. Hidy said.

“Certainly, the tenant is just as responsible for cleanliness as anyone,” Mr. Hidy said.

The village’s housing rehabilitation program will also be examined in the effort, Mr. Hidy said.

“Monies are given to landlords to upgrade their properties,” Mr. Hidy said. “We want to make sure these monies are well spent.”

Mr. Hidy would like to tour the neighborhood with his invited group after Wednesday’s meeting.

“I want the county and everyone involved to go and see exactly what needs to be done,” Mr. Hidy said. “The people who have lived in that neighborhood for years and years are entitled to a quality of life also.”

The goal, Mr. Hidy said, is to return the neighborhood to what it once was.

“If it takes ruffling some feathers, so be it,” he said.

Police Chief Timmy J. Currier declined comment on Tuesday.

Code Enforcement Officer Gregory Fregoe said he was ready to do what the could to address the problems.

“However we’re directed by the mayor, we’ll try to do what we can,” Mr. Fregoe said.

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