HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) - Heart of the community or armpit of the county? For some shoppers, downtown Herkimer has gone from a magnet for activity...to a place they're afraid to go.
"Last week I was out front talking to a friend and a woman saw me, pulled over, got out of her car and said 'I've been waiting for two weeks to come here. I haven't felt safe. I saw you out front so that's why I decided to stop today,'" said jeweler Fred Weisser, whose family has owned Weisser's Jewelers on North Main Street for more than 30 years.
While downtowns historically are the social and commerce hub of a community, downtown Herkimer is plagued with several vacant, run-down buildings, some of which are filled with pigeons and waste.
Graffiti and busted-out windows mark many of the empty buildings, making them less-than-appealing to prospective buyers.
A big part of the problem: absentee, out-of-town landlords who buy the properties and don't follow through on promises to rehab them.
"They're more interested in collecting rent from the second or third floors. They get their money from wherever they get their money from, DSS, college students, whatever, and that's all they really pay attention to, as far as landlords go," said Village Trustee Anthony Brindisi.
"Property owners need to be punished. I mean if you're going to let your property go this way, you should be fined, you should have it taken away. I mean this building down here, it's just, it's a health risk. If that was my building, I'd be in jail. I know I would be because I'm here to punish," says a frustrated Weisser of the nearby Monroe building on North Main.
Downtown revitalization group, "Herkimer Now" and the United Way are working on part of the problem, with a plan to cover graffiti on the former Glory Days building on September 14.
"We've talked about some ideas, we're generating ideas, and I believe that it's not going to happen overnight but I believe in due time, you're going to see a better downtown. We're at the lowest point we want to be at and I think we're going to rebuild. I have confidence in our village, I have confidence in our people and I really believe that it's going to get better," said Trustee Brindisi.
Weisser plans to voice his concerns and frustrations at the next village board meeting, which has been moved to Tuesday due to the Labor Day holiday.