Over four years and counting. Zero of eight violations corrected. Buildings in worse shape than ever. Who says the code enforcement system is working?
Bowmansville resident Darryl Carr, owner of 110-118 South Park Avenue, is heading back to Housing Court Thursday morning at 9am for conditions at 110 South Park Avenue. It’s no secret that Carr wants to demolish historic buildings. He pursued a demolition permit in 2011 but was denied for 118 South Park. He has also not made any effort to stabilize the buildings or prevent their further deterioration.
The properties are the most iconic and most historically significant structures in the Cobblestone Historic District which was established in 1993 by the Buffalo Preservation Board and certified this past year by the Secretary of the Interior as meeting the federal standards for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. 110 South Park originally housed Muggeridge’s Steam Bakery which made hardtack for the Union army during the civil war. As late as the mid-nineties, 118 South Park was home to Rudnicki’s blacksmith shop.
They are intact artifacts of Buffalo’s history and are considered by many to be community treasures yet they are being allowed to be demolished by neglect right across the street from the First Niagara Center and the historic DL&W Terminal. They sit in stark contrast to the restored structures around them and all of the new investment and activity in the immediate neighborhood: HARBORCENTER, Canalside, the new Courtyard by Marriott, and new night spots like Helium Comedy Club, Buffalo Iron Works music club, Ballyhoo and RiverWorks.
Carr narrowly escaped losing the buildings. Last year the mortgage holder for the property started foreclosure proceedings against Carr. BPRSF, LLC citing the persistent and unheeded code violations, sought to prevent Carr from further neglecting the properties in a filing in Supreme Court dated May 28, 2014. Carr paid off the mortgage instead of spending funds on addressing the code violations.
Back in 2011, Housing Court Judge Patrick Carney today told an attorney for Carr that the blacksmith shop building at 118 South Park Avenue had to be fixed in two weeks or Carr would be jailed. He made some superficial repairs only days before the court appearance to escape that penalty.
Among the violations at the property are open and broken windows, significantly degraded and missing brick causing water damage, a deteriorated roof, and a rat/rodent problem. Carr’s other buildings along Illinois Street are also in disrepair including missing foundation stones, a partial collapse of one of the walls, damaged roofs, water damaged bricks and open/broken windows.
Carr, owner of Cobblestone Bar that is adjacent to the properties at South Park and Mississippi Street, is said to have reuse plans for the property. He has never presented anything remotely close to a plan for the redevelopment of the properties. Most say his only goal is additional parking for Cobblestone Bar. At least two capable developers have tried to purchase and redevelop the buildings without success. The Buffalo Sabres organization is also said to have inquired about the availability of the properties. He has thumbed his nose at all of them, the Court, and the public.
“This is the most propitious time to let the Court and the City know that such demolition by neglect should not be allowed to continue,” says developer and neighboring property owner Sam Savarino who also resides in the Cobblestone District. “Delay and sclerotic enforcement of City building codes have already resulted in the severe deterioration of part of the structure.”
Carr did have an engineer survey the buildings at 110 South Park last April. Optima Design concluded that the interior wood framing one and two-story portion had deteriorated to the point that it has suffered a partial collapse and “must be demolished” and the walls for the remaining three portions of the building “will require extensive repairs.”
It is expected that the City Preservation Board would require that any selective demolition not include the historic building façade along Illinois Street. The report did determine however that the four-story portion of the property was still salvageable. Carr claims to want to build a larger building on the site but retain the exterior brick walls. Optima concludes “that it would be impossible to construct another structure at this location without removing the exterior walls given that a deep foundation system would be required for the new building.”
The City is expected to again press for immediate repairs of the property in Housing Court while Carr can attempt to make a case the building is unsound and a threat to public safety and seek an emergency demolition of the structure via the process laid out in City Code. Meanwhile the buildings deteriorate. Four years and counting.
Those who care about these structures can show up in court this Thursday at 9am to express support and ask to speak to the Court on the matter. The address is below. You can also fax a note or letter to the Court and Judge Carney and let them know how you feel about this matter. Address and fax number is:
Buffalo Housing Court
Honorable Patrick M. Carney
50 Delaware Avenue
6th Floor – Part 14
Buffalo, New York 14202
It may also be helpful to write a letter or call the Mayor’s office to express your opinion:
Mayor Byron Brown
City of Buffalo
Room 201, City Hall
Buffalo, New York 14202