Central New York, Community, Government, Poverty

DeWitt Trailer Park Residents Could Lose Homes Over Code Violations

Some trailer park residents are accusing the town of not doing enough, but one resident says the blame is misplaced. (c) 2018 Saniya More

Video transcript: Midler Meadows

By Saniya More DEWITT, N.Y. (NCC News) –  Because some residents continue to violate housing codes, the DeWitt town has considered shutting down the Midler Meadows Trailer Park and convert it into an industrial property.

The trailer park currently houses about a hundred residents but has run into trouble with local authorities due to an increasing number of housing code violations. Over the last two decades, the park has broken over a hundred codes.

Midler Meadows’ residents have accused the town hall of not providing the trailer park with adequate assistance, but William Stivers says residents should stop blaming others, and change their own living habits.

“In the last two months, I’ve been up there six times to unplug their sewage because they keep throwing stuff in there that they’re not supposed to. They know they’re not supposed to but they do anyways,” Stivers said. Stivers has been living in Midler Meadows for over two years, and also works as a part-time maintenance worker in the park. He primarily fixes sewage, plumbing, and electrical problems.

“A lot of people here don’t understand that it costs a lot of money to fix things, and then there’s people here that just don’t care,” he said.

Stivers says many of the problems he has had to fix in the park have happened to the same residents, who don’t care enough to stop the problem from happening again.

Samuel Gordon, director of planning and zoning at the DeWitt town hall, says in the long run, moving residents out of the park would be the best route to take.

“We want to make sure people have decent housing options,” Gordon said. “I don’t want people living in substandard conditions. I don’t think anybody should have to live that way.”

Gordon says there are some trailers at the park which are in good shape, and he says some residents have communicated with the town hall on a regular basis to resolve violations. However, he says many trailers are still not in good condition.

Shutting down the trailer park is a task in itself, according to Gordon.

“The trailer park has a patchwork of ownership,” Gordon said. “Typically, the park itself is owned by some kind of management entity. The individual trailers may be owned by the same entity, or they may be owned by the people who live within them. In that case, it’s harder to just say, ‘Oh, we’re shutting it down.’”

Because of the complicated trailer park ownership, if code violations occur, it’s harder to enforce change because there it isn’t always crystal clear who is responsible for fixing the problem. Thus, nothing changes.

Stivers says residents like himself have a lot to lose if they don’t start taking things into their own hands.

“I don’t have the money to move. And the next thing, I’d have to sell that, but who’s going to take it?” Stivers said, pointing at his own trailer. “It’s so old, you can’t put it anywhere. And I mean, I got a ton of crap to take with me,” he added with a laugh.

Gordon says the town has repeatedly tried to improve living conditions in the trailer park by carrying out inspections, taking unresolved cases to the town court, and working with local police officers to monitor trailers in case of crime.

“We’re doing everything we can with the tools that we have to address this situation,” Gordon said.

If the trailer park does shut down, there is little the town can do to help, as there is no particular compensation program to relocate residents.

Stivers says the trailer park would fare better if it was left alone, rather than constantly put under scrutiny. He also says educating the next generation and teaching them to care for their homes is key to bringing about change.

“I tell the kids here, listen, there’s garbage cans all over here. If you see something, pick it up and put it in the garbage can,” Stivers said. “You may not get paid for it, but it will make you feel good to do that. You’re going to live in a trailer park that doesn’t have garbage all over it.”

William Stivers says he has done what he can to keep his part of the trailer park clean. (c) 2018 Saniya More

The Midler Meadows trailer park could soon be turned into an industrial property. (c) 2018 Saniya More