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McCarley Gardens residents feeling put out during renovations

McCarley Gardens
Citizen Action New York
/
WBFO News
McCarley Gardens

In February of 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a $57 million project to upgrade McCarley Gardens to improve energy efficiency and overall quality of life for the 149 families that live in the apartments that sit just south of the medical campus.

But apartment residents are calling foul on the project claiming that both the renovations and interface with residents is being poorly handled.

The complex is currently owned by locally-based Oak-Michigan Housing Development Fund Company, Inc., with Brooklyn-based developer BFC Partners handling the renovations.

Citizen Action New York Community Organizer Kelly Camacho said McCarley is a symbolic housing development in the city.

“It is historically for women and children to live affordably in the city of Buffalo,” she said. “Affordable housing is all but disappearing you really can't find anywhere for under $1,000 anymore.”

BFC Partners Managing Principal Donald Capoccia addresses McCarley Gardens residents
Thomas O'Neil-White
/
WBFO News
BFC Partners Managing Principal Donald Capoccia addresses McCarley Gardens residents

But for residents like Jazmine Pruitt the renovation process turned into a living hell.

At first Pruitt said residents were kept up to date on the movement of the project.

“Well, McCarley Gardens was constantly having meetings about it,” she said of the early stages of the renovation discussion. “They were sending notices about it. So, when they finalized the decision to actually do the renovations, that's when they were more frequently you know, keeping us up on what was going to happen, the layout of the situation sending pictures. We were having resident meetings and everything of that nature. So it seemed like it was going to run smooth.”

Inside a McCarley Gardens residence during renovations
Citizen Action New York
/
WBFO News
Inside a McCarley Gardens residence during renovations

Pruitt has lived in McCarley Gardens for 13 years and said it is a comfortable neighborhood for her and her children.

But that level of comfortability changed drastically as renovations began.

“So, they kind of kept us posted and brief on everything except for when everything was finalized,” she said.

Pruitt’s only inkling that renovations were possibly taking place soon was the night before they actually began.

“I was just chilling in my house one day,” she said. “School day I'm up with the kids and I get a knock on the door now the night before I came home no notice no letter no hey this is about to happen and be prepared I came home to bins on my porch.”

Unsealed piping at McCarley Gardens
Citizen Action New York
/
WBFO News
Unsealed piping at McCarley Gardens

The abruptness of renovation process, with no advanced notice, threw Pruitt off guard.

“Imagine somebody coming to your house eight o'clock in the morning,” she said. “Telling you we got to work on this part of the house, in this part of the house and you say ‘okay,’ I cleared out the front closet cleared out the kitchen area so this is all you guys have to work on because you know I didn't get a notice. So nothing in my house is packed up. There's nothing that's done, and I don't want you guys touching throwing my stuff around.”

Other McCarley residents have similar experiences of no notice of when renovations began and damaged property due to what they say is an overall lack of profession from…

Karen Paris lives in a four-bedroom apartment in McCarley.

“Beds totally broke,” she said. “They're not even two years old my dining room set broke they didn't want to come fix that.”

Paris is seeking compensation for her damaged furniture.

Residents also say the actual renovations were shoddily done — including improper sealing for new windows and in the piping that has led to rodent and insect infestation in some apartments.

“I have a draft in my kitchen,” Pruitt said. “So, I don't know if the counters are not leveled or whatever the case may be but it is like a very horrible draft coming right up into the counters of the kitchen.”

She said the storm over the holiday season was a nightmare.

McCarley resident Jazmine Pruitt (left) and Ellicott District Common Council member Darius Pridgen
Thomas O'Neil-White
McCarley resident Jazmine Pruitt (left) and Ellicott District Common Council member Darius Pridgen

“It snowed in my house so the back door was like piled up with snow on the inside it snowed in my children's room so the window it was like snowing and windowsill on top of random it was also coming in so it was like piled up on the floor as well the basement foundation was started to crack.”

During a Buffalo, What’s Next segment in February Fruit Belt Advisory Council President Dennice Barr asked that BFC Partners simply do right by the people they are serving.

“It's the issue with the developers,” Barr said. “And the people that have been doing the renovations because hearing that people have been told consistently by management, by the project manager that they ought to be grateful you know, you ought to be grateful we're doing anything for your housing.”

Resident letters detailing renovation problems were sent to Ellicott District Common Council Member Darius Pridgen.

This led to a contentious meeting in late-February between McCarley residents and BFC Partners.

BFC Partners Managing Principal Donald Capoccia refused to speak to media at the time of the meeting but released a statement to WBFO saying his company has rehabilitated 135 apartments in McCarley Gardens and the company continues to be in contact with each resident.

BFC estimates the project will be completed later this spring.

Unsealed piping at McCarley Gardens
Citizen Action New York
/
WBFO News
Unsealed piping at McCarley Gardens

Following the meeting Pridgen said it’s important for the two sides to find an equitable solution and he has an idea on how to get the ball rolling.

“So what I’d like to see from ownership is that they communicate with these residents and that they actually go door to door themselves,” he said.

Pruitt would like to be compensated in some way for the trauma she has endured.

“If I'm constantly telling you hey this is a problem, this is a problem, this is a problem then you looking at me like oh well there's not too much we can do about it but rent is due on the 1st,” she said.

According to Pridgen’s office the next meeting with McCarley residents is scheduled for the evening of March 27th.

Update, March 27th:

Nearly one month after the initial meeting McCarley Gardens residents and BFC Partners met again to discuss the progress being made to fix the numerous problems caused by the renovations. BFC Partners collected sign-offs from 110 satisfied residents but some residents said they were still dealing with cracks in their walls, slanted floors, loose drywall and rodent infestations. McCarley resident Jazmine Pruitt felt developers tried to put one over on McCarley tenants because of their socio-economic status.
"I just want them to care," she said. Like how we will be talked to, even making calls to ask them, you know, can we get be compensated on [damaged furniture]. I've been told by somebody that they wasn't a bank. When I asked him to help me with my food, he said, 'what you think I am a bank?' That's what he says to me. But then you're talking to somebody who had to just deal with not waking up with water everyday. [No] electricity, not being able to get my kids ready for school. I didn't even understand for the life of me how y'all were in my house at seven o'clock in the morning to stay until seven o'clock at night, I was confused. I was never able to cook for my kids properly cared for my kids doors was always open. It was cold. It was horrible. And then for them to always constantly be like, 'Oh, be patient.' Well, okay, take me out to dinner then maybe put me in a hotel make me comfortable. Make me feel okay. about what's going on here. Like make me feel like you're really saying, we do care, like saying it and doing it. It's really two different things."

BFC Partners said they will continue canvassing McCarley Gardens and meeting with residents to resolve problems as renovations continue. They expect renovations to be finished later this spring.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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