Growing abandoned property problem in Syracuse

Ben Jamison stands in front of the house on East Bissell Street Tuesday morning / photo: Jim Kenyon

The City of Syracuse is taking immediate action after CNY Central brought attention to a hazardous abandoned house at 179 East Bissell Street. Syracuse Neighborhood and Business Development Commissioner Paul Driscoll says the city will hire a company to tear down a porch in the back of the building that is in danger of collapse. In addition, Driscoll says the Fire Department will tape off the structure, while the city hires a company to do an asbestos survey. Driscoll says his office will then accept bids to demolish the structure.

The steps are in response to a story by Jim Kenyon on a complaint by Ben Jamison who lives next door to the abandoned house. Jamison said he's "fed up" with waiting for the city to tear down the abandoned house, which is actually owned by the City of Syracuse.

Jamison says the house at 179 East Bissell Street has been empty and rotting for the past six years. He says debris is coming off the two story for apartment building and falling into his yard. Jamison says the house has attracted rodents and is frequented by drug dealers and users. Because he and his wife operate a day care center in their home, Jamison says the building has become a fire, health and safety hazard for children.

"Tear it down" is Jamison's message to City Hall.

Commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development Paul Driscoll says he sympathizes with Jamison's plight. Driscoll says the city seized the property several years ago and offered to sell it for a dollar to anyone willing to rehabilitate the property. Driscoll says they had a potential buyer last year but the deal fell through.

He says the property is on a list to be demolished, but Syracuse has "limited resources" to destroy abandoned properties. Driscoll points out that the city's demolition budget of $500,000 is half of what was budgeted the year before. He says the property on East Bissell Street is "on the list" to be torn down, but there are probably 20 properties ahead of it.

Complicating matters, according to Driscoll, was the recent spring flooding which required the emergency demolition of nine structures. Driscoll said he can assure Jamison that the property will eventually be demolished but could not say when.

After Kenyon showed him video of the building, Driscoll sent an inspector to the site and decided to take immediate action.