Kearns gears up for ‘zombie’ fight after Covid moratorium

(WIVB) – Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns is bracing for a wave of home foreclosures with the state and federal moratoriums set to expire in the next two months.

But Kearns also says homeowners facing foreclosure should not panic.

Erie County Clerk wants homeowners on the verge of foreclosure to know their options

Woodside Avenue in South Buffalo is a neighborhood in transition.

New owners are fixing up their homes, but they are also looking after number 66 – a zombie property – that has become an eyesore.

“I would imagine the neighbors on both sides there would love something done to that house,” Woodside Avenue resident Mike Gibbons said. “You’ve got to look in your yard and then look at the yard next to it that looks a mess, at least a house that looks a mess.”

Bank foreclosures are filed in Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns’ office, but it has now been 15 months since those cases could proceed.. and Kearns says the Erie County Foreclosure Task Force is going to hold banks’ feet to the fire to keep the flood of foreclosures from turning into zombies.

“We are preparing for a crisis in our community, that there will be a greater number of filings because of Covid-19,” Kearns said. “We will be hitting the streets, we will be working with the block clubs and the neighbors. We want to make sure the banks do their part and follow the law.”

Housing advocates encourage homeowners who receive a foreclosure notice to stay in their homes.. for more time to get help, and prevent the property from falling into disrepair.

“To try to work out a solution – it is better for everyone involved, it is better for the communities,” said Jordan Zeranti of the Western New York Law Center. “The banks would prefer it because they don’t want to have to maintain the properties that are left vacant. So it is better for everyone.”

Kearns says with housing prices through the roof, homeowners who fall behind now have more options, such as a short sale to pay off the bank, and his office will go after banks that foreclose but fail to maintain the property.

“They could be held accountable for up to $500 per day that the property was not kept in compliance,” Zeranti said.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.


Shakespeare in the Park returns – with a twist

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A popular, local summertime tradition is finally back for the first time since the pandemic began.

Shakespeare in the Park returns to Delaware Park on Tuesday.

In Buffalo’s Theatre District, watch a play in a shop window

It kicks off at 6:30 p.m. with a walking tour of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

It’ll run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through August 12.

A production of Shakespeare & Love will run on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from July 9 to Aug. 21.

Reservations are required for all performances.


New signage goes up at Highmark Stadium

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – New signage is going up at the home of the Buffalo Bills!

Workers were outside Highmark Stadium Tuesday, putting up the sign with the stadium’s new name ahead of the regular season in September.

Highmark Stadium returning to full capacity for Bills season

Highmark acquired the naming rights of the stadium back in March.

For four years, it was known as New Era Field.


Buffalo mother charged leaving young children alone following Goodyear Avenue house fire

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Buffalo mother is charged with leaving her young children home alone after they were rescued from a house fire.

Chelsea Patton, 25, was charged Tuesday morning with three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Firefighters had to rescue three children ages two, three, and five from a home on Goodyear Avenue in Buffalo

Prosecutors say Patton returned home as fire crews were already on scene.

The children were taken the hospital, but had no injuries.

Patton is scheduled to return to court in late July.

Authorities are still trying to figure out how the fire started.


People Inc brings new transitional housing to Hamburg

HAMBURG, N.Y.(WIVB)– In a time where people with disabilities are facing a residential crisis, People Inc is working to ease the burden on families and caregivers.

The organization is providing a new transitional housing opportunity on the corner of Wayside Drive and Roberts Road in the Town of Hamburg. On Tuesday, employees and community members gathered for “On Our Way at Wayside”, a housewarming celebration for the training apartments. The goal is to prepare differently-abled residents for self-reliant living while they develop skills through hands-on learning.

“It encourages independence, personal growth, and staff will come here and help them with grocery shopping, budgeting, or meal planning. Things that you and I would learn at home with our parents and take for granted ,” said Concetta Ferguson, senior vice president at People Inc.

The building is fitted with three suites like apartments, each with its own bathroom and sitting area. A shared laundry and kitchen area complete the setting. Tenants will live there for three to nine months, tracking their progress with community living.

“If they can move here and go out into the community it opens up more opportunities for those that are on the incredibly long waitlist for certified living.”

Hamburg Town Supervisor Jim Shaw says he welcomes having the housing program in the “Town that friendship built.”

“We should characterize ourselves as the town that kindness sustains. The more we can do to help People Inc and organizations like it, the more we create a viable community and enhance the quality of life for everyone who lives here.”

People Inc’s training housing is up and running in the Town of Hamburg. How they plan to help prepare those with developmental disabilities take steps toward independent living on @news4buffalo . @peopleincnews 🦋

— Kelly Khatib (@KellyKhatibtv) June 29, 2021

Kelly Khatib is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.


National Fuel encouraging customers who have fallen behind on their utility bills to apply for assistance through the state

(WIVB) – National Fuel customers who are past due on their utility bills can now apply for assistance for up to 12 months of overdue gas bill payments through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). 

The ERAP is mostly funded by the most recent federal stimulus package and will provide the money directly to landlords and utility companies on behalf of the renter. 

Erie County Rental Assistance portal is now open

New York State has $2.7 billion in funding available through the ERAP for income-eligible renters who fell behind on their rent or utility payments during the pandemic. 

Eligible customers can also apply for up to 12 months in back rent and up to three months of future rent payments. 

To qualify, customers must meet these criteria: 

1. Household gross income has to be at or below 80 percent of the area median income, which varies by county and household size. You can use either your current monthly income or your 2020 annual income to apply. 

2. Someone in the household must have received unemployment benefits or experienced some sort of reduction in income or another financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic on or after March 13, 2020.

 3. A renter has an overdue rent balance at their residence for payments that were owed on or after March 13, 2020.

For more information, click here or call  1-844-NY1-RENT (1-844- 691-7368) from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.


City of Buffalo’s splash pads will stay open an extra hour Tuesday night due to heat advisory

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The City of Buffalo’s ten splash pads will be open for an extra hour Tuesday night due to the heat advisory in effect for all of Western New York.

The splash pads are generally open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., but will be open until 8 p.m. Tuesday.

You can find a list of the city’s splash pads here.

Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.


Parts of I-290 EB to be closed overnight starting next month

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Some people who drive on the eastbound I-290 in the Town of Tonawanda can soon expect to see some lane closures.

Starting July 6, closures will occur on weeknights from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Single lane closures will begin between I-190 and Exit 1 (Elmwood/Delaware avenues) starting at 7 p.m. A full closure of the eastbound I-290 in that area will take place nightly between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

A detour along Sheridan Drive will be posted.

The work in this area is expected to last two weeks. These closures are taking place to facilitate the first phase of a pavement rehabilitation project that’s expected to continue through the end of October.

MORE | 4K for Cancer crew makes pit stop in Orchard Park

Evan Anstey is a digital content producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.


Niagara County’s Honeymoon Trail Winery is up for sale for $920,000

It’s the second winery on the Niagara Wine Trail to hit the market in the past year.


Following acquisition, Kelly Brannen reflects on 33 years of Niacet family ownership

When Michael Brannen acquired Niacet in the late ’70s, it had $5 million in revenue and $5 million in debt. The firm just sold for more than $1 billion.

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