ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The City of Rochester’s Arson Task Force continues its investigation into the five-alarm fire at an abandoned warehouse on Otis street, which broke out March 13.

Kenyon Binns has lived in the area for more than 6 years and is currently the Recording Secretary for the Lyell-Otis Community Association, or LOCA. The group formed in 2021, comprised of people who live in the neighborhood, to help lift voices for an overlooked and underserved community. Binns explains LOCA was actually in the midst of a meeting when the fire first broke out.

“I was not surprised at all that this was happening because this place has been, it’s been vacant for years and its been an eyesore for years and we’ve been calling and complaining about it for years,” Binns says. 

The organization had been communicating these concerns with the Northwest Quadrant Service Center, which does come to LOCA’s monthly meetings. LOCA members also called and emailed to the city directly.

LOCA recognizes the city did start to take action last summer but the state of the property had gone beyond an eyesore.

“The spots that I’m talking about specifically are the parking lots that you can see from Otis street, because I drive by it everyday. Honestly it looked like a bomb had gone off in there. There were trailers, there were people had started using it as a junkyard basically. There were abandoned cars, somebody had brought a boat in there and left it… there was just scrap metal everywhere. It looked terrible. It wasn’t sealed off so kids…I saw 8, 9-year-old, 10-year-old kids riding their bikes, goofing off in there, riding out of there. There’s no way that they should have been in there, “Binns says. 

The city’s Housing Quality Taskforce began taking action against problematic landlords last summer and even hired a municipal attorney with the primary focus being abandoned and vacant buildings.

In a statement provided to News8 in regard to this story, the city’s Corporation Counsel Linda Kingsley says: 

Mayor Evans’ Housing Quality Task Force set into motion an upgraded process of addressing the most egregious properties in city neighborhoods in an effort to improve the quality of life for families. The City’s onboarding of a new municipal attorney whose sole focus is to ensure residential and commercial properties are in good standing. This addition has been making a significant impact on addressing negligent landlords and vacant homes and buildings by bringing more properties to court in the past several months than there have been in years. The City is attentive to the community’s concern for neglected properties, and remains committed to aggressively pursuing habitually non-compliant property owners and implementing enforcement practices.” 

 LOCA is not placing direct blame on any person or entity, but the grassroots group does hope to see progress of efforts made to address blight.

“This isn’t the only problem property, there are others that people in the neighborhood have told us about, like, we just want to see more accountability,” says Binns, adding an accessible or periodic list or chart of current properties could be a way to increase transparency and foster confidence. 

LOCA adds, since the organization’s inception in 2021, there have been four leaders of the Northwest Quadrant Center and while communication has been proficient, it speaks to a larger volume of a need for greater stability, in particularly within the Northwest district.