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Saratoga Springs Hires Prosecutor To Address Abandoned Homes

Lucas Willard
Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Pater Martin

The City of Saratoga Springs has a new tool to tackle vacant and abandoned structures.

Saratoga Springs is in demand, with ongoing commercial and residential development and real estate prices soaring.

But Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin says the Spa City, like many other communities, still has a problem with abandoned homes.

“Despite what I call very robust economy here in Saratoga Springs, and in some cases maybe even because of this economy, some of our neighborhoods are suffering from a blight from these vacant and zombie properties,” said Martin. 

The city’s code enforcement officers have been keeping a tally on vacant properties. Currently, the city has identified 80 such homes. A year ago, the city began registering the so-called zombie properties.

“Now 59 of these have registered with us as vacant structures. And this is an improvement. We started the registry a year ago and at first we had 12 registered,” said Martin.

Speaking Thursday, Deputy Public Safety Commissioner John Daley said over the past two years, code enforcement efforts to target vacant structures have been supported by a $150,000 state grant. Now, the city has another tool.

Daley said a search was made for a special prosecutor to go after abandoned properties.

“We went through a relatively lengthy interview process to find that person. We think we have that person: Sam Better.”

Better, a graduate of the University at Albany and Albany Law School, has a background in both law and the construction industry.

“You can’t ask for a better combination than that when you’re trying to address this particular issue,” said Daley.

Better said his task is to pursue landlords, businesses, contractors and homeowners who are violating city codes.

“It is an honor and a privilege to serve this city,” said Better.

Better began his job at the city in April.

Daley said registries like Saratoga Springs’ are becoming more common across New York.

“There’s been a concerted effort from the governor on down to make sure that, A, there is a state registry. And, B, that more and more local governments are adopting these and trying to integrate these with the state system. And I think that you’re seeing success across, really, the whole state of New York.”

As the city steps up its watch on abandoned homes, it is asking the public to notify the Public Safety Department as well.

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