Nix says politics motivated DEC visit at his industrial property
May 26—Officers from the New York State Office of Environmental Conservation and representatives from the Niagara Falls police and fire departments as well as the code enforcement office descended Friday morning on an industrial property owned by mayoral candidate Demetreus Nix in response to a pair of complaints lodged about potential environmental hazards on site.
Nix, who earlier this month won a lawsuit against the Niagara County Board of Elections that resulted in him securing a spot on the ballot for the upcoming Democratic mayoral primary, accused one of the other candidates in the race — incumbent Democrat Robert Restaino — of selectively targeting his property for political reasons.
"It's a hit job 30 days before the election," Nix said. "The mayor is showing he's scared."
The owner of the local contracting firm, Nix Contracting and Management acquired the former city department of public works yard located at at 2500 Hyde Park Blvd. last year. He said he uses the property to store dumpsters, equipment and leftover materials from construction jobs.
Nix said he arrived at the location at around 9 a.m. Friday to find police officers, code enforcement and fire department representatives already on-site. Nix, who took several videos of his encounter with the DEC representatives and city officials, said police officers were inside the property's unlocked gate near the entrance, but inspectors were looking around on the property's interior, including inside an unlocked garage.
Nix said he told the officers and the others to vacate the premises and was told by the DEC officer that he planned to return with a search warrant. Nix said he has not yet received any formal violation notices from city officials.
He described the scene, which he said included more than 20 officers and city employees, as "crazy as hell."
"It's been like that for years," Nix said, referring to the condition of his property. "All of the sudden, a mob of city agents, with one outside agent, showed up? It's an intimidation tactic to scare me and make me look bad."
"There's no search warrant. There's no nothing," he added. "They opened all my garage doors with no warrant, no nothing."
City Administrator Anthony Restaino confirmed that the mayor's office contacted the DEC after receiving a pair of complaints — one in a text message and the other in an email — about potential environmental hazards involving construction debris that was on Nix's property and not properly contained or covered. He noted that one of the complaints referred to the potential for asbestos to be among the construction debris deposited at Nix's property.
Restaino said he would need to contact the individuals who registered the complaints for permission to release their names publicly.
"They were concerned that there was some dumping going on on the property," Restaino said. "There was also some concerns about whether or not any of the materials there had any type of environmental problems."
Restaino denied the assertion that the mayor's office reaching out to the DEC to investigate the complaints had to do with politics. He said it was a situation where the city received complaints about a potential environmental issue and contacted the state entity in charge of oversight to investigate what he described as a "potential health concern."
"I don't think it's a target at all," he said.
When asked if there's a formal process involving a written complaint form used to notify the city of such situations, Restaino said it not unusual for the mayor's office to receive complaints via email, letters or even texts and that there are "all kinds of slips" involving concerns or complaints in his office.
"That's pretty much how it's handled," he said.
Restaino added that it will be the DEC, not the city, that will oversee any additional investigation at Nix's property.
Nix said he does not think it's a coincidence that enforcement officers and inspectors arrived at his property roughly 30 days out from the June 27 Democratic primary election.
"This is what happens in the life we have here," Nix said. "We're scared to do anything because people are scared that they will come after them."
"It's to drive people away," he added. "They've got to be scared. You've got to put that fear into people. That's what's happening right now. I'm trying to take that fear out of us. I'm saying if we stand together they can't break us. I'm not going to stop. This has made me go any harder. Malcolm X said it's the bullet or the ballot box. Were' going to the ballot box on June 27. That's who we're going to beat him. We're going to beat him at the ballot box."