Fed-up Hartford residents protested this week the woeful impact of blighted properties on neighborhoods — particularly a fire-gutted four-story building at the corner of Zion and Hamilton streets. Mayor Eddie Perez's office was quick to issue a press release saying that the absentee owner had recently been served with an anti-blight notice ordering him to correct code violations within 30 days or face $100-a-day fines.
That's all well and good, but the building has been vacant since 2002 despite pleas from neighborhood residents for action.
Working with absentee owners is no picnic, we'll grant you. The mayor's office can claim some success in reducing the number of blighted buildings since 2002. Over the past year, the city has issued 970 notices and 150 citations and imposed more than $43,000 in fines on property owners for building code violations.
But the city must work harder to raze or renovate the many blighted buildings that still exist — the detritus that lowers the value of surrounding properties, depresses the spirit of city dwellers, attracts criminals, poses safety risks to children and besmirches the city's reputation.
Despite its claims of success, city hall has a means to fight urban decay — an anti-blight ordinance on the books and recently revised by the city council — that the mayor has not used. The coalition of community organizations that organized the rally this week is on the mark in demanding that "the city use this enforcement tool to force owners to either fix up their vacant, boarded buildings or sell them." The need to use the ordinance couldn't be clearer.
We have long bemoaned a trinity of Hartford eyesores: the Capitol West building on Myrtle Street near I-84; the H.B Davis building on Main Street, also known inelegantly as "the Butt-Ugly Building"; and the former Clarion Hotel on Constitution Plaza.
Especially distressing because they are so visible are the Capitol West and Davis eyesores, which are moldering by the minute.
Mr. Perez has a redevelopment plan that is to take care of these vacant rattraps, but still they stand. Nothing says "failure" like the persistent presence of these prominent, rundown dumps.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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