BATAVIA — Ronald Yantz said when he bought a house at 15 Otis St. in 2020, it was a nice, quiet street.
That changed within a few months, he told the City Council Monday night, when people bought the house across the street from where Yantz and a woman live.
“From there, it’s gone downhill as far as my quality of life, our neighbors’ quality of life ... feeling of safety,” he said. “In the beginning there was constantly big parties, groups of kids, nothing but trouble.” Another problem, he said, was garbage blowing into his yard because the people across the street would throw it out the door. Animals would get into the garbage bags.
City officials say they’re doing things to try to help.
The people across the street at 20 Otis St. have no regard for their neighbors at all, Yantz said.
“In August was the topper. On a Monday night at 11:30 in the evening, I was just falling asleep and I heard a huge explosion right near the house. You could hear the shrapnel hitting my house. They lit off, it was no M-80 (a class of fireworks), it was half a stick of dynamite, at least, on the street,” he said. “It was only 25 to 30 feet away from the gas main that goes into my house. That would have been the biggest tragedy to ever happen in Batavia if that would have been damaged and went up.”
Yantz said he and the woman ran downstairs and out the door to confront the kids, who told them to shut up. They called the police, as had neighbors.
“When the cops got there, these people in 20 sat there and verbally abused us while we’re talking to the cops, and threatening us,” he said. “They were saying, ‘Wait until you go to work and see what happens to your house,’ things like that.”
The police told them they couldn’t do anything about it until the residents of 20 Otis actually do something, Yantz said.
“I was like, ‘They’re verbally abusing us and making threats and you can’t do nothing?’” he said. “It was ridiculous. It was a nice, quiet street ... and now it’s like some of the other streets that have gone downhill in the city of Batavia. It’s just a shame and I kind of regret buying the house now.”
The residents across the street come in and out all night long and play loud music, Yantz said. They keep the radio on when they’re sitting in the driveway.
Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said the 20 Otis St. residence is not a rental property. The people who own it got financial assistance and were granted some of the money to buy the house. He said Police Chief Shawn Heubusch has put officers down there. When police are there, the residents behave and when they leave, the residents act up again. The city is working with Assistant City Manager Jill Wiedrick.
“She’s going to get Code Enforcement down there. We’re going to try to bring all the agencies that we can,” he said. “We’ve already talked to the mortgage agency, they were shocked, but unable to do anything.”
Jankowski said the residents got past the mortgage company’s screening. Company staff were confused on how the residents got through the screening process and got the house. An issue of unsupervised children at 20 Otis is being addressed. He said a family lives at 20 Otis, with at least 11 people in the house.
“There’s a lot of things happening, but it takes awhile ...” he said.
City Manager Rachael Tabelski said there is a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) mortgage for the house.
“We have reached out to USDA and they claim there’s nothing they can do,” she said.
Jankowski said he and a deputy police chief spoke over the weekend.
“I told them that we needed to stay vigilant on these properties. There’s one or two or three throughout the city that needs to be looked at and I’m sure they’re going to do their best to take care of it and on this particular case, they’ve been introduced to the assistant manager now and she’s handling the code part of it at this point, so she’s going to look into that and try to get that taken care of,” he said.
Sixth Ward Councilmember Rose Mary Christian said people have been coming to Sixth Ward meetings for about six months. The couple at 15 Otis St. have called her occasionally about what’s happening, she said.
“The fact (is) that the city should do something about it. We have more power than these poor people on that street to destroy that beautiful, beautiful street.” Christian said.
Councilmember Kathy Briggs asked whether there is an occupancy limit.
“We’ve looked into occupancy and also, when the police can charge, they will charge,” Tabelski said. “There’s a lot of things that don’t rise to a crime.”
The City Council president said the victim filing a complaint and getting harassed after filing the complaint are serious things. The filing of a complaint and Social Services, which has been involved are the most direct ways to deal with the situation.
Heubusch came to the podium to say a few things. He said the police answered the call from the couple at 15 Otis St.
“It is an open investigation, so I can’t really get into the details of it, but suffice to say there are charges pending,” he said. “We will be dealing with that. We do have a presence down on the street as time permits and our call volume permits. We’re doing our best to try to split all of our resources and make sure you guys are taken care of.”
Councilmember John Canale asked, “Chief, are any of these people that live in this house, are they people that we have had past experiences with?”
Heubusch said some of them are known to the police.
Councilmember Patti Pacino said she was curious about something.
“Are you honestly telling me that if two policemen stand there and hear somebody threaten my life, my property, everything about me, they really can’t arrest the person?” she asked.
Heubusch said he couldn’t speak to what occurred that night because he wasn’t there.
“I will tell you that the legal definition of harassment is much different than the casual definition of harassment,” he said. “Given the circumstances, and, again, I wasn’t there, so I don’t want to indicate either way. I would have to review it and see what actually took place, which I’m sure the deputy chief did. I’m sure Assistant Chief (Christopher) Camp took a look at the situation.”
Heubusch said the department will move forward with ...”
Pacino said she found that hard to stomach. Heubusch reiterated that he didn’t know what the situation was.
Councilperson-At-Large Bob Bialkowski said to his knowledge, lighting off a quarter-stick of dynamite is still illegal in the state. Heubusch said this applies to any kind of firework.
“One of the things I can only encourage people, if it’s 2 in the morning, call. Call the police,” Bialkowski said. “They’re going to be over there in a few minutes.”
Jankowski said the 20 Otis St. residents touched a round off right behind the house while the police were out front.
“They looked, but there was nobody there,” he said. “Then, it’s like, ‘We didn’t do it.’ That’s the kind of cat-and-mouse game they play. Eventually, it’s been my experience ... something is going to come to light. You’ve got pending (charges) over there.”
Every little thing that happens at 20 Otis St. should be called in so it can be documented.
“Those things accumulate and, over time, we can show a pattern of constant harassment and that might fit some of the definition over a period of time,” Jankowski said. “If they don’t have the means to actually, physically harm you at that moment and there’s an officer standing there and they’re 20 feet away, across the street, that’s not really harassment at that point. If they’re in your face and they’re making contact with you, then yeah, you’ve got something there.”