Friday, June 14, 2019

State seeks to withhold Mount Vernon money over city-court conditions - The Journal News | LoHud.com

State seeks to withhold Mount Vernon money over city-court conditions - The Journal News | LoHud.com


State seeks to withhold Mount Vernon money over city-court conditions - The Journal News | LoHud.com

Posted: 11 Jun 2019 03:30 PM PDT

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State courts v Mount Vernon Wochit, Wochit

New York court officials are seeking to have at least $1.3 million in state aid withheld from Mount Vernon because the city has failed to keep up with maintenance of its court building.

In a letter to mayor Richard Thomas on May 31, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said the city has ignored numerous requests by the state to fix leaking roofs and facades, the elevators and the air conditioning system.

Marks said court officials would be asking the state Comptroller's Office to withhold money the city was expecting. He said the estimate for a new air conditioning system was $1.33 million but that the city would also be on the hook for work to repair leaking roofs and facades and restore the elevators to regular working order.

"The withholding of state aid is a serious step, and not one which the Court System takes lightly," Marks wrote. "However, in light of the history of inaction on these important problems, we deem that step necessary and appropriate."

He cited a meeting with Thomas and other city officials in October, since which "none of the issues discussed at the meeting have been properly addressed."

Mount Vernon City Court shares the Ronald A. Blackwood Building with the city police department. It takes up the second floor, with an office for staff, three courtrooms, judges' chambers and a branch office of the Westchester District Attorney's Office.

Although judges and court staff are paid by the state, the city is responsible for maintaining the building. That work has generally come under the Department of Public Works, which has done routine repair work in recent years but not to the extent requested by court officials.

Thomas himself called the conditions "horrific" and responded to Marks that he had hoped the city would team up with the New York Power Authority for a $13 million project to upgrade City Hall and the Blackwood building with efficient lighting, new heating and cooling systems and smart building controls.

He said that the plan has remained in limbo because city audits are three years late, a situation that he and Comptroller Deborah Reynolds have blamed each other for for over the past year. 

"Perhaps instead of intercepting city funds, can you please consider joining the discussion with me and NYPA on how to develop a solution to activate their $13 million energy upgrade for both City Hall and the Ronald A. Blackwood Building?" Thomas wrote.

Thomas wrote that in the absence of that, he would authorize the city clerk to administer an emergency bidding process to select a vendor for a new heating and air conditioning system. 

But City Clerk George Brown said the city council had already approved the emergency status on May 28, days before the letters from Marks and the mayor, after learning from court staff about the problems at the court. 

Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the state court system, suggested it wasn't the state's responsibility to help Mount Vernon find funding sources. He suggested the city should "just meet their statutory obligations."

The city budget included the same amount for maintenance of the two buildings, $315,000, in each of Thomas' four years in office.

Marks said that problems with the courthouse dated to at least September 2013, when officials from the state Office of Court Administration observed "sub-standard cleanliness and hygiene conditions" including water damage from roof and facade leaks and possible mold growth.

Additional reports followed. In April 2018, OCA officials agreed not to take any immediate action after meeting with the the city's new DPW commissioner, Joseph Nigro. 

But the problems continued, including the failure of the air conditioning system in September. OCA tried to get the city to act but nothing was done, Marks wrote, and the state was forced to rent portable air conditioning units "simply to bring marginal relief to courtroom users during this crisis."

Also during the winter, the building's front doors were stuck in the open position just feet from where state court officers stand at the metal detector. And in January, the door to the court's only jury room broke, requiring court officers to lead jurors from the courtroom through a back hallway to their room. That door has yet to be replaced.

Reporters were shown some of the damage on Tuesday. There were water-stained ceiling tiles in several locations; steps in the public stairwell were covered with duct tape and the portable air conditioning units were in use in each courtroom, where the temperature ranged from 78 degrees to 82 degrees.

A court official said the temperature in the DA's office, where there is no ventilation because it sits in the middle of the building, was even higher.

Twitter: @jonbandler

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Family says they moved from one moldy unit into another with more mold - FOX 31 Denver

Posted: 03 Jun 2019 12:00 AM PDT

AURORA, Colo.—Aaron Chapman feels like he's out of options. He sits in his living room on a stormy Monday, with all the doors and windows open, as he tries to air out an apartment he believes is making him sick.

Chapman says he moved to Aurora with his wife and kids to help take care of his mother. She was diagnosed with cancer and wanted to remodel her home and started renting out an apartment at The Courtyards at Buckley. After Chapman started living in the apartment for a month, he said he noticed having trouble breathing.

"I was throwing up black fluids and it just got worse," Chapman said.

After looking around the apartment, Chapman said they found significant mold on the back wall of one of the closets in the apartment.

"Finally after enough complaining I got one maintenance man to remove a panel of drywall from the closet and immediately he was like get your family out of here now," Chapman said.

Chapman and his family were moved into a new unit, but ended up running into similar problems.

"Past three weeks we've had three floods from the neighbor's toilet upstairs," Chapman said. Chapman took video on his cell phone of the black mold, and running water as he ran into these issues. He went to the hospital and was diagnosed with chronic asthma, and is hooked up to an oxygen tank. Not knowing where else to turn, he reached out to the Problem Solvers.

"I called you guys for help because now my little girl is having nose bleeds and my kids are coughing and we're all having headaches and health issues and we've got to get out of here."

The Problem Solvers made several attempts to get a statement from management at the leasing office for The Courtyards at Buckley, but were told to reach out to corporate headquarters. As of Monday night, they have not responded for a request for comment.

The city of Aurora's Neighborhood Services Department oversees living standards in apartments across the city, and can do inspections for things like mold and water damage.

If you're having issues at this particular apartment complex, contact our FOX31 Problem Solver Alex Rose at AlexRose@KDVR.com.

You can report issues through Access Aurora. 

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