I had to chuckle at attorney James Ostrowski's comments in The News regarding City of Buffalo Housing Court Judge Henry Nowak's effort to fine building code violators. Ostrowski feels that imposing fines will be a detriment to the city's "bad business climate" and may cause property investors to become "scapegoats" for problems not created by them.
He is correct in saying the underlying problem affecting housing is poverty, and the judge and inspectors must take this into consideration. The court and inspectors work to find grants, low-interest loans or volunteers to help correct housing violations on properties where poverty may be an issue.
Recently, the city Department of Permit and Inspection Services has drastically reduced and in some cases eliminated the need for building permits to help the poor and encourage development. In the past, there has been talk of using fines collected in court to rehabilitate worthy structures. And in many cases, the fines the judge imposes are only to cover the cost of demolition.
The intention of the judge and inspectors is not to find scapegoats, but to enforce state and city building and zoning codes to try to improve neighborhoods and business districts to encourage development by investors. The judge and inspectors are merely using tools at their discretion to help improve a city that they live and work in.
Brian J. Higgins
City of Buffalo building inspector