Watertown apartment’s property manager blames squatters for garbage problem

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 6:22 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Neighbors say a Clay Street apartment in Watertown has become a problem property. Despite the city codes department’s attempts to clean it up, the problem keeps coming back.

The tenant housing at 334 Clay Street has come under fire from code enforcement, earning 3 violation letters for a seemingly never-ending pile of trash overflowing from its dumpster.

Property Manager Stephen Byers says the problem stems from the tenants.

“Until I get those people out of there, it’s not going to do anything. They recommended removing the dumpster so locals weren’t using it, but I guarantee you the second I remove that dumpster there’s going to be trash all over the place,” he said.

But removing those tenants is proving difficult since the courts are still clogged after the state’s eviction moratorium was lifted.

Byers says there were originally 3 tenants. Now there are as many as a dozen living in one bedroom, who he says are now claiming squatters’ rights.

“The whole process of serving someone an eviction kind of goes out the door when you don’t know their name,” he said.

Some neighbors we spoke with on Clay and Academy streets say they don’t feel safe. They’ve reported drug use, dumpster scavenging, and for Amanda Gourley, even a break-in.

“Within two days of us filing the police report, there were things in the trash that were our items. Clothing items. A box with our address on it with something they’d stolen and opened,” she said.

City police say they’ve been called to the site 8 times since August 1. That works out to around once a week.

“And I’ve gone in with the Watertown Police Department. On several occasions, there were heroin needles in broad daylight. There was one that had 50 needles. There was crack, meth, drugs in plain view,” said Byers.

According to Byers, the situation on Clay Street is a symptom of the city’s drug and homelessness problems. He echoes what local leaders have been saying for months now: fixing those issues is the only long-term solution.