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Schneiderman targets 'notorious' University Heights student parties

ALBANY – The landlord whose University Heights properties had what the state’s top lawyer called “notorious” house parties has been ordered to enforce limits on gatherings that over the years have attracted hundreds of students in the residential neighborhood.

“Everyone deserves to live in a safe neighborhood," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who on Thursday announced a court consent order against landlord Jeremy Dunn. "The consent decree we secured will help ensure that University Heights residents finally get the peace and safety they deserve.’’

The consent order requires Dunn to ensure his tenants do not have parties for which a fee is charged or alcohol is consumed in public areas or by minors and to better maintain the appearance of the houses and properties.

Parties will be limited to no more than 40 people.

The legal document is supposed to put an end to sidewalk and rooftop drinking gatherings. Dunn is also required to ensure there are rental applications for the dozens of of units he owns or controls on Winspear Avenue and Northrup Place, get at least three references from would-be tenants, inspect his own properties to ensure code compliance and clean up properties after every weekend.

“For years, University Heights residents have had to sacrifice their quality of life, simply because they lived near one of Jeremy Dunn's properties. Dunn's reckless management not only harmed the other homeowners in the neighborhood — it was a disservice to the students who lived there, too,” Schneiderman said.

The nightmare of living in University Heights: ‘That’s what you get for living here’

Dunn did not return an email seeking comment. He did not answer his phone and his voicemail mailbox was full.

"It's just a perfect example of what happens when there are no controls," said Fred Brace, University District liaison for Buffalo Housing Court, on Thursday night.

"I'm happy with this," said Mickey Vertino, president of the University Heights Collaborative, an umbrella group of neighborhood block clubs. "It gives us some teeth in there ... but this is not the end of it. We've got to keep the quality of life concerns in mind."

"I've been here 35 years," Vertino added. "I've been a landlord."

Vertino said, "I don't think it could have been done without everybody stepping up."

Schneiderman said Dunn’s properties, popular with University of Buffalo students, have been the subject of more than 500 calls to 911 since 2014. Besides complaints from neighbors, the attorney general said parties at Dunn’s properties – which are often rented to five or more students apiece – have resulted in public drunkenness, property damage, students urinating on sidewalks and brawls. Reports of assault, rape and other crimes have been reported at the parties.

Buffalo police respond to a reporter house party in University Heights in 2016. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

Schneiderman said his office will “actively monitor the situation” to make certain Dunn complies with the consent decree.

The consent decree was filed in state Supreme Court in Erie County on Tuesday. The action was begun May 3 and, according to the document made public this afternoon, was not replied to by Dunn. The order involves both Jeremy and Barbara Dunn and trusts they hold on the properties.

Tenants can be automatically ejected if they are involved in violating any of the terms of the order Schneiderman secured for Dunn’s properties and they will be responsible for any remaining rent payments until their lease ends. Dunn must also ensure “reasonable access” is provided to his properties by the Buffalo Police Department and the city’s code enforcement officers. Dunn, or an agent, must be available to respond in person within one hour if police are called to one of his properties and he must provide working phone numbers where he can be reached by police, the Department of Permit and Inspector Services and the University Heights Collaborative.

The order also includes bans on “unreasonable noise,” open containers and construction of makeshift bars at any of Dunn’s properties in the neighborhood. It was signed by Judge Paul Woktaszek.

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