Ithaca, N.Y. — The notice was sent from city officials to Ithaca landlord Ronald Bergman on August 28, 2012.

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“Dear Mr. Bergman,

This letter is to advise you that because of the severely dilapidated condition of the front porch and the rear porch at the property located at 312 S. Plain Street … I am causing this building to be posted with the notice that ‘This building is unsafe and its use and occupancy has been prohibited by the Building Commissioner of the City of Ithaca, New York.’”

312 South Plain Street. (Jeff Stein/Ithaca Voice)

The letter, viewed by The Voice in court records made public as part of Bergman’s plea last week to 350 violations in city court, continues in all caps:

“I  AM HEREBY DECLARING THAT THE BUILDING AT 312 S. PLAIN STREET BE POSTED AS UNSAFE AND PROHIBIT THE USE AND OCCUPANCY UNTIL SUCH TIME AS THE BUILDING HAS BEEN BROUGHT INTO COMPLIANCE.”

Phyillis Radke, then the city’s building commissioner, listed 11 offenses at Bergman’s 312 South Plain Street residence. Among them were:

— That there was black mold on the roof.

— There was “extensive rot” on the porch floor, roof, and other parts of the front porch.

— The toilet was clogged.

— Solid waste, including unlicensed cars, were in the yard.

— An electrical survey by an inspector was required.

— The faucet was broken.

The same day the letter was sent, a city inspector put up yellow police tape around the house with “Police Line Do Not Cross” written on it. Code Inspector Mary Brenner wrote in a sworn affidavit that in July 2012 she observed:

— “Extensive rot and water damage to the front porch.”

— “Exterior walls that were not plumb.”

— “Exterior walls also included open cracks, broken siding, rotten siding, gaps in the siding rendering….”

— A porch that left residents at “risk for collapse pos(ing) a threat to public safety.”

— “Insufficient shingles and weatherproofing such that there is a hole approximately three feet long by one foot wide that goes entirely through the roof.”

— “No drip leg on the furnace installation, many housekeeping issues, feces on the floor … tub has a faucet below the rim … among many other problems.”

Bergman’s “Certificate of Compliance” for the rental property had also expired on Feb. 25, 2008, according to court documents.

City officials had put up police tape, sent threatening letters and posted a notice on the property.

But when on March 18, 2014, Inspector Brenner went back to the property she found not only that the property hadn’t been repaired. According to court documents, she also discovered that a tenant had been living in the property for several years.

An image of the notice posted on the door. Image from court documents

Brenner wrote:

“No improvements, repairs or changes had been made to the exterior of the premises and, in fact, the condition had deteriorated since the August 24, 2012 inspection.”

In April 2014, charges against Bergman were formally filed by Michael Niechwiadowicz, director of code enforcement for Ithaca.

The total file comes in three separate packages of over 400 pages each. Bergman is cited for 8,057 violations of city code — mostly because each day of non-compliance added another nine counts to the charges.

All together, the case file against Bergman numbers 1,368 pages. That’s longer than Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” which at 1,255 pages clocks in as one of the longest novels ever written, according to Wikipedia.

Bergman pleaded guilty to the charges last week, city officials said in a statement. He faces up to $50,000 in charges.

City Clerk Julie Holcomb said that Bergman has “agreed to remedy every violation and bring the house in compliance with all codes within a period of approximately four months.”

Efforts to reach Bergman Wednesday have been unsuccessful. The city publicized the charges against him in a press release Tuesday.

One expert in urban housing said he’d never heard of such extensive violations being tied to a landlord in the city.

“I think it’s extremely serious,” said Joe Bowes, senior real estate developer at the non-profit Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, of the violations.

“I think it’s good the city is taking action, taking it seriously and making sure people aren’t living in conditions that are unhealthy and unsanitary and dangerous.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.