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Niagara Falls selling vacant lots to neighboring homeowners

File photo

Niagara Falls residents with a city-owned vacant lot next door are getting a chance to buy the property. Mayor Paul Dyster started this year by talking of an aggressive push to sell off the hundreds of lots the city has accumulated, mostly through tax foreclosures. He says it hasn't been simple, especially because past practice has been to put them up for sale during the in-rem foreclosure sale bringing in speculators who will pay a lot.

The mayor says the city has instead sold a dozen lots for around $500 each. So far, he says a dozen have been sold, bringing in around $6,000.

Dyster says the sales also let the city off the hook for costly maintenance and liability.

"When we're trying to prevail upon property owners in the same neighborhoods to cut the weeds, for example, on a vacant lot that they might own and the city owns a vacant lot and the grass is not being cut, then we look like hypocrites and I can understand why people would be upset about that. So, the very best possible outcome is to put these lots into private ownership," Dyster says.

Dyster says many times neighbors are keeping up those lots to ensure the look of their own homes, but in the past haven't been allowed to buy the lots. He says also at this time of year, the city doesn't have to worry about shoveling their sidewalks since that is a legal obligation for city-owned property.

Dyster says many of the vacant lots are already maintained by neighbors to keep up the look of their homes and he says it's only fair that they should be able to buy those lots. He suggest there might be gardens or picnic tables or rose bushes put on the now privately-owned lot or even a garage for the family cars.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.