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A fight over the future of the city-owned Marine Drive Apartments heated up Tuesday when some residents claimed the complex has been plagued by problems since new managers stepped in last year.

They said their once tranquil 616-unit waterfront community is being undermined by crime and unclean conditions.

But other tenants and Marine Drive managers contend much of the discontent stems from some residents' resistance to changes that have produced a more diverse group of tenants.

Residents also are divided over whether the seven-building complex should be converted into privately owned condominiums. Two Council members said Tuesday they think the conversion should be considered.

Jerry Butler, who has lived in Marine Drive for 18 years, said "everything has changed" since the city ended its 40-year association with a tenant co-op that managed the complex and hired HKMDA, a local apartment management company.

Butler complained about escalating crime, gangs, graffiti and unclean conditions. She said she was embarrassed to invite out-of-town guests because the lobby was a mess.

"It looked like a drunkard's dream. It was horrible," she said.

Crime calls at Marine Drive have increased in the past few months, Council President David A. Franczyk said. But managers attributed the increase to a rash of car break-ins that also affected other parts of downtown. They disputed claims that security has become lax and denied that gangs roam the complex.

"We don't have gang activity," said Julie Neumann, the on-site manager. "What we do have is a more diverse population that is residing at Marine Drive."

The tenant co-op that managed the complex from 1965 until last year was faulted for admission policies that discouraged members of minority groups and favored politically connected applicants. The new managers said Marine Drive now has a more "multiracial" tenant base that includes young families.

Franczyk and North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. plan to sponsor a resolution to put Marine Drive back on the tax rolls while protecting lower-income tenants. They want the Council to review a condominium conversion proposed by Queens Landing Tenant Action Group, a group that includes some Marine Drive residents.

But a member of the board of commissioners of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, which owns the complex, said talk of selling is premature.

"It is not for sale at this point," said Matthew L. Brown, Mayor Anthony M. Masiello's communications chief.


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