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Who's responsible for heat & hot water at Frederick Douglass Towers?

Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority

Buffalo's Common Council is starting yet another look at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority after the heat went out for tenants at the Frederick Douglass Towers and it took a long time to get it back on.

The public housing facility is home to many senior citizens and young families.

Council President Darius Pridgen said this isn't a "witch hunt" and it's not a war with the housing authority, just a desire to figure out who's in charge and who is responsible. He says the BMHA and Shinda Property Management are sniping at each other about who was responsible to get the heat and hot water working again in the units at Clinton  Street and Jefferson Avenue.

There have been problems for a couple of weeks and it was not made clear during Tuesday's meeting whether the heat is back in all of the units. There also is a dispute about relocating tenants until the units are warm again.

The Council voted to haul in the authority and property manager to its Legislation Committee meeting February 13.

"We're hearing mixed signals of who's responsible to do what. Who's responsible for the heat? Who's responsible to replace the heat? How long should it take to replace the heat? Who's responsible for snow? All of these things," Pridgen said. "One party says the other one is responsible for certain things. The other party says the other one. They've got a contract."

Pridgen said he wants that contract brought to the committee meeting to determine who's in charge here. He said the elderly shouldn't be confined to their apartments without heat or hot water and forced to use space heaters - but that's happening.

He said the Council has investigative and subpoena power and will use them when something goes badly wrong.

"We are not the BMHA, but at the end of the day the things that affect our constituents, our people, especially our poor," Pridgen said. "It broke my heart to go into a house, person confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair enabled, who had no heat, had just got the hot water on."

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.
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