BUFFALO, NY – The Executive Director of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) spoke with WGRZ-TV on Monday, addressing concerns raised by residents of Marine Drive Apartments along the city’s waterfront.
Built in 1950, the government subsidized apartments contained in seven, 12-story structures, are operated by BMHA and are home to some 1,300 residents.
Two on Your Side was contacted by residents after both elevators in the Ebbtide Building went down, leaving some elderly residents, who are unable to use stairs, stranded outside their homes for four hours.
"It is the mission of the housing authority to serve our residents and we're gonna try and do that the best that we can," said Dawn Sanders-Garrett, the BMHA’s Executive Director.
However, if you speak to some residents of Marine Drive, or the Common Council member who represents them, the “best efforts” of the BMHA have been far from sufficient.
“The BMHA is terrible," said John Nostrant, who has lived at Marine Drive for 17 years.
“The BMHA would screw up a two car funeral," said David A. Franczyk, the Common Council’s Fillmore District representative.
Tenants complain of recurring mechanical malfunctions within their buildings, and moreover a lack of timely response to them by the BMHA.
“You can’t get a window screen, you can’t get a light bulb fixed…you can’t get anything done without going through all types of hoops, and then it takes weeks to materialize," Nostrant said.
In response, Sanders-Garrett told Channel 2 News, “That is not my understanding…there's an adequate process in place to address resident concerns."
However, while noting that the BMHA is “Buffalo’s largest landlord”, with 31 properties and 10,000 tenants, Sanders-Garrett did concede the agency is at times challenged in keeping up with the demands of its facilities and residents.
Asked if the BMHA currently had enough personnel to meet those demands, Sanders-Garrett replied, “No. We have 155 employees authority wide. At one point in time the authority had over 475 employees, including its own police force. Over the years, there have been funding cuts, and things like that determine what the ability is of the housing authority to provide services.”
“A good example of that,” Sanders-Garrett continued, “was back in 2012 when we got stimulus funds from the government.”
The BMHA received $14 million and Sanders-Garrett says 89% of the money was used for capitol improvements and repairs within a two year period.
“That is a great example of how, when we receive adequate resources, what kinds of services we can provide our residents and what upgrades we can make to the physical plant of our inventory," she said.
According to the BMHA, Marine Drive is unique among its properties in that it has no dedicated funding stream for capital improvements and repairs.
Those funds, said Sanders-Garrett, are derived solely from rents, which are set by the federal government, and which the BMHA cannot raise.
Some have suggested BMHA sell Marine Drive, and Sanders-Garrett confirmed the concept has been discussed by the housing authority board, but without any clear consensus from its members.