Nuisance Abatement

SUN is pleased to see the city use the Nuisance Abatement law to order the closure of Zak’s Market on W. Newell St. SUN helped create the law in 1991, as well as make several amendments to the law, including a provision allowing residents to file written impact statements and give oral testimony at Nuisance Abatement hearings.

The idea that landlords are responsible for their property and share responsibility for the conduct of their tenants has been a feature of common law since the 16th century. Many books and articles have been written about nuisance abatement, but a member of SUN put it best when she said: “Your right to throw a punch ends at the tip of my nose. Anything after that and I’ll see you in court!” If an owner allows his property to interfere with other people’s rights to the quiet enjoyment of their property, your property is a public nuisance.

Properties owned by absentee landlords and corner stores business owners are terrorizing Syracuse neighborhoods. Rowdy tenants and loiterers around stores blast music, drink alcohol and use drugs, vandalize property, urinate on adjoining property and lawns and start fights. The worst places also have blatant drug dealing and gun violence.

In Syracuse, public nuisance properties are hauled before an administrative hearing and asked what they plan to do to end the problems. If they do not show or do not have a realistic plan, the police chief has the option to issue a closure order for a period of time, up to one year.

The most recent case, Zak’s Market has dragged on for several years. The most recent hearing was the store’s third. Police have made 9 arrests in the past year at the store–well over the threshold of 3 arrests in a 2 year period. The store even has been accused of exchanging money immediately after drug deals, a manuever done to rid drug dealers of any marked money passed to them in undercover sting operations.

However, there are still neighbors that will complain bitterly about the closure of the store. The owners have created many supporters in the neighborhood by extending credit to poor families, misusing food stamps by allowing them to be used for tobacco and alcohol or by buying them for 50 cents on the dollar, cash. However, Zak’s Market deserves its penalty. Many businesses on the Southside operate without losing control of their property, refuse to cooperate with drug dealers and still do a decent business.

The store can appeal this decision to State Supreme Court, so this issue may still not be over.


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