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Activists seek code enforcements on Washburn St.

A citizen group plans a walking tour of one of the city's more run-down streets Saturday to highlight what it says is inadequate enforcement of building codes.

Save Lockport Housing will host a "Walk on Washburn" at 10 a.m., starting at the corner of Washburn and Oliver streets, to point out boarded-up windows and other code violations.

Former alderman Jack L. Smith Jr., the group's spokesman, said it wants the city to enforce limits on how windows can be boarded up without being repaired.

Washburn Street, which runs from near the Kenan Center to downtown, features many large old homes, now subdivided into apartments and blighted.

There was a homicide in one of the homes last year, and fights and drug arrests are a common occurrence on Washburn and streets that connect to it.

One of those streets, Genesee Street, is being remade.

Housing Visions, a Syracuse not-for-profit organization, bought most of the street's real estate and is constructing new apartments to be rented under tough policies designed to keep troublemakers out.

Housing Visions was lured to Lockport by a block club headed by Smith.

"We're trying to get some public exposure," said Smith, who ran for mayor last year but lost in the Democratic primary. "As homeowners, property owners, we've just let this thing go on and on We need to bring some of those properties to resolution."

Smith also sought to meet with his former Council colleagues to discuss plans for one of the properties Housing Visions didn't buy, 170 Genesee St.

Called "the Calvin Burton house" after the convicted drug dealer who once owned it, the small house was once slated to be forfeited to the federal government as part of Burton's sentence. However, the government didn't follow through on that plan.

Council President Joseph C. Kibler said Smith's requested meeting was blocked by Mayor Michael W. Tucker, who had a strained relationship with Smith when the latter was on the Council.

"All my interaction with Save Lockport Housing is with Michael Manning," Tucker said. "I don't feel I can trust Jack Smith. It goes back to the taping thing."

Smith revealed to his colleagues last July that he had been surreptitiously recording Council executive sessions for more than a year on a small recording device in his shirt pocket.

"I've never recorded any person's private conversations. I wouldn't say I don't trust the mayor," Smith said. "He doesn't have the final call as to whether I can present to the committee of the whole."

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com