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Future unclear for residents forced to vacate Olbiston Apartments in Utica

Roughly 60 people living in a Utica apartment building must now find a new home. The city has declared Olbiston Apartments unsafe for human occupation.

Posted: Jul 15, 2021 5:45 PM
Updated: Jul 15, 2021 5:55 PM

UTICA, N.Y. -- Almost 60 people living in the Olbiston Apartment Complex were given less than a 24 hour notice that they need to vacate the building. 

"I’m just trying to be positive about this situation, but this is not right. This is not right. I should have been given more than adequate notice," said resident Isaac Foster.

City of Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri explained that codes violations make the building unsafe for the residents. 

"We have made a determination through the Fire Department that this building should be shut down. Mandating it will be a court order," said Palmieri.

The City of Utica already has a case pending in Supreme Court trying to get the owner of the building to fix the roof and all codes violations. This latest determination comes after a recent codes inspection found damage extending from the roof all the way down to the first floor.

The building has also been plagued with illegal activity, but residents like Isaac say that’s changed.

"Good people live in this building. Good drug-free people live in this building. People that are struggling financially, but are getting by, making due, even in this pandemic time, with not much support, is living in this building, and you’re telling them they have to be thrown in the street," he said.

The city isn’t technically evicting the residents, however they’re not being allowed back inside the building. Utica Fire Marshall Gerald Foster spoke to residents trying to get back in. 

"Well not for good. Until the owner fixes the violations, and the roof is part of it. Ok, so you can’t go back in," he said.

Several agencies are working to find suitable living accommodations while a permanent solution gets worked out. Residents have been asked to fill out a county application before they’re able to receive emergency housing and food assistance, but not all these residents are willing leave.

"…and you still want to live here? Yeah. That roof could collapse at any time. Are you going to put your family in jeopardy?"

The ones that are complying aren’t happy about the way this is being handled. Olbiston Resident Steve Kehr has lived here for 5 years.

"I want to yell at somebody, but there’s nobody really to yell at," he said. "The only ones we could yell at is the actual people who are involved in the building and not getting anything done."

Others like Julia Dipietro and her dog 'Jack' are more concerned about where they’re going live now.

"I just flipped out. I was like oh my God. This can’t be happening," said Dipietro. "I’ve been here for 11 years, and there’s no other place here in Utica."

A representative who works in social services said there is a shortage of low income housing, and they don’t know where these people will end up. Dipietro is more concerned about her dog. 

"They’re saying that they’re going to stick me in a hotel, but I can’t be in a hotel without my animals. All my animals got to come with me," she said. "I’ll go crazy. I’ll go berserk."

There were 36 apartments in total, and within those apartments were around 20 cats, 6 dogs, and other animals. Finding adequate housing that accepts animals will be a challenge. Central New York SPCA Animal Cruelty Investigator Chief William Pulaski knows that giving up some of these animals may be inevitable.

"We’d either have to try to find a boarding facility that they could go to, or they would have to sign them over," he said.
"We’re also checking with a lot of the shelters in the area right now to see if they could bring animals in to board temporarily."

NEWSChannel 2 has reached out to the owner of the building for comment, but have not received a response.

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