STEUBENVILLE - The assistant property manager of the Fort Steuben Apartments has asked for a meeting with city officials in response to a letter sent by Mayor Domenick Mucci to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding issues at the building.
Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi discussed the details of the requested meeting "to develop a working relationship with city officials" during the Fair Housing Practices Commission meeting Monday night.
Petrossi indicated the letter from the owner of the Fort Steuben Apartments and the request for a meeting was in response to a fair housing meeting held in April at the apartment building and attended by several building tenants.
That meeting prompted Mucci to send a letter to Secretary Shaun Donovan of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development citing residents' concerns about criminal activity in the complex.
Andrea Clancey, assistant property manager, attended the fair housing meeting and spoke briefly on her role at the apartment building on North Fourth Street that once housed the Fort Steuben Hotel.
Her request to the city included a letter from Emmanuel Ku, the managing member of Alicia Holding of New York authorizing Clancey to meet with Mucci.
"One of your goals must be to encourage greater police involvement in the local neighborhood. It can be argued that the neighborhood security issues have increased since 2009 - at about the same time when the police notified us that due to manpower reductions they would no longer perform background checks for potential tenants. It is my view that the mayor may be able to increase the priority of security in the neighborhood surrounding our property, thereby ensuring that tenants' calls to police get returned and improving police response times," wrote Wu.
"You are authorized to offer the mayor and the police department our available resources to improve the safety and security of the neighborhood surrounding our property for the benefit of our tenants. The letter can include the use of our facilities for community meetings that deal with neighborhood safety and security, the use of our security and camera systems that may provide evidence needed to prosecute criminal offenders and the use of our time to coordinate meetings between law enforcement liaison persons and our tenants," Wu stated in his letter.
Wu also indicated he was willing to meet with the mayor and police department "to facilitate this very important and positive step forward."
Mucci's April 23 letter said the Fort Steuben Apartments is used for federal subsidized Section 8 housing.
"Residents said the 88-unit apartment building is overrun with criminal activity and that they are living in fear. They said management does little or nothing to screen applicants for housing, offering almost anyone who applies a unit in spite of extensive criminal histories. Our local police department has verified this stating that while many landlords contact them for free assistance regarding tenant criminal background checks, they have never been contacted by Fort Steuben Management," stated Mucci.
"The residents stated that security cameras were not working, doors were left unlocked and there were no security guards physically present at the building. Several residents of the building are convicted felons with extensive criminal records well known to the police department," Mucci cited in his letter to HUD.
Mucci said the city has requested HUD to conduct a complete onsite review of all of the facility's management practices, policies and procedures.
"We have also asked for HUD to meet with the residents on site so concerns can be heard and for an inspection of the facility to determine if the building and site complies with HUD standards," Mucci said.
Petrossi said he will attend the meeting along with Mucci, City Manager Cathy Davison and Police Chief Bill McCafferty.
Commission member Mattie Patterson requested that commission Chairperson Gloria Crossland also participate in the meeting.
In other business, Petrossi asked the commission to review proposed changes to the city's fair housing laws to bring them into compliance with recent changes in Ohio's and federal fair housing laws.
"These are basically two changes to add military status persons as well as sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected class," Petrossi explained.
"We can discuss these proposed changes at next month's meeting," said Petrossi.