Here’s what the Inspections Department had to say when pressed by Councilmember Franczyk’s office:
The property returns to court on 3/1/2018. Inspector Walter was out there today and noting that the roof is leaking severely. Our department requested an engineer’s report. We received a letter that the roof was fine but recommended temporary repairs and a complete inspection of supporting members. As of today, no permits have been secured nor have they retained any contractors to make the repairs, temporary or otherwise, to our knowledge.
It is seldom good when a historic property gets demolished. When it’s on one of Buffalo’s most architecturally interesting blocks, it is a double hit. And when it’s on a corner on one of Buffalo’s most architecturally interesting blocks, it is even more painful. The former boarding house at the southeast corner of Carolina Street and Whitney Place is endangered. City officials recently put the kiss of death on the property- a red X in a square signaling that utilities have been disconnected. It was heartbombed by Buffalo’s Young Preservationists last week to bring attention to its plight.
The West Village Historic District property has been a mess for some time but a buckling roof has pushed it to the edge. While there is current interest in buying the building, it is owned by an Israeli that is said to be seeking $700,000 for the property.
The following information was taken from some of the 63 comments that seemed to be “in the know” on the Buffalo Rehab and Reuse Facebook page:
CH: Why? I do not understand. If the owner doesn’t want to sell it, then he should take care of it. He is the custodian. The maintenance is his responsibility. This “demo by neglect” sh*t has got to STOP!
BR: This was heart bombed yesterday. The roof is caving in! In all my experience, I’ve never seen anything like it – it’s completely separated from the mansard. It’s bad news.
BE: The house is 69 Whitney place and is owned by Mr. Efraim Ullman. The property is in the County Tax foreclosure. The Judgment of foreclosure lists the property as delinquent but I do not see a referee’s deed for the property. The taxes are still listed as owed back to 2012.
TR: I was in this home for about a year and put in a ton of work, I was turning it back into a single family with a in-law suite, the owner listed is just a business partner with Joe singer of summer one reality. Joe Singer is the one dealing with the city and the Court’s. The roof caved in June and he refused to replace it, the home is destroyed to the point it needs a full tear out now the water damage destroyed all the work I did in matter of a month.
MR: Joe Singer is a leech. And the past year, before move-out, the condition of the surround of the property was a total mess and disaster. No one even took initiative to take care of the grounds – lawn, litter, trash – a total mess, so I hardly believe anything was going on to stabilize it considering the curb to foundation sink hole on the Carolina side.
MR: Owner lives in Israel. Wouldn’t give it up for some reason, even when going through housing court for years and 3 owners before him. Had a “resident” in there until a few months ago but the foundation is sinking all the way to the street. Too much comedy on the Housing Court bench. We tried to get them to take it seriously but were told we wanted to gentrify the neighborhood. Not in my 24 years here have we ever attempted social gentrification. We always have embraced our diverse culture and income levels. It makes for a strong community. Nope, the city did not take action and allowed this to occur.
LS: Will he sell it?
TR: I’ve tried, I wanted to buy it out right he thinks he can get 700k because location
TR: I was working on the home/living there when the roof caved I got the home condemned
AS: The entire ridged portion of the mansard roof has collapsed, it needs a lot of help.
MD: They should have my team come out. We can handle anything. New beam full length of the house- no problem. New roof – no problem. Structural issues – no problem.
Water damage. No problem.
Owner wanting $700k for this- big problem.
There is alot of disbelief:
JH: What?! Why on earth… This is incredibly frustrating.
JR: You’re kidding, that place looks like it has great bones. Just has been neglected for a long time. Property values are exploding in that neighborhood, surely someone would profit from restoring it to it’s former glory?!
DB: Wow!! “I” think it would be a shame to tear that down completely!! It certainly has more outstanding character than most of what has been built in the last 50/75 years!!
AS: I spoke with many city departments, they seemed in consensus that demo is very unlikely to be allowed
RS: Then they need to put up or shut up because if they delay even longer this property is a loss and on their backs. Listen, I was a consultant for Judge Nowak to work on Housing Court Reform and after he left no one really gave a sh*t
And a little bit of hope:
AS: I’ve been pursuing this hard. There are many many layers to it. The owner doesn’t live in this country. I am still in pursuit
LS: I’ll buy it! Let the owner know.
AS: My findings confirmed. A lawyer got it out of foreclosure last year, and the county doesn’t seize properties, only sell at annual auction in September I believe it is. So it’s still in limbo until then. But there are other difficult factors as well I’ve been trying to navigate
MR: So, with that in mind – here’s what needs to be done – a new court case with people attending and voicing the issues with the history. Have the city/court take possession – BUT they have a savvy attorney who pays the taxes at the last juncture. Just like every other building in the city that goes through this – like, say, the white house on Johnson Park – Chuch Debucki – slips through the cracks – they know the legal system. The group would need as attorney with government and real estate background – not just real estate.
And this from Jessie Fisher, Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara:
So, this building cane up a few weeks ago as well – I can’t remember if it was this page or Preservation Ready Sites – and Chris Hawley reported that the building is not condemned but is in housing court, and the owner has apparently been unwilling to sell (Chris can fact check me if I’m wrong here).
We see this A LOT in Buffalo. It’s just classic demolition by neglect, whether intentional or unintentional, it doesn’t really matter. What we need is a real call to action and we can’t have that until we have an actual legislative/policy fix. In order to create that, we need experienced attorneys in the real estate, land use, and municipal law categories. We need actual attorneys who can stand up to the attorneys and judges who tell us all the problems with crafting and enforcing these types of laws and policies. If you are such a person or you know such a person, have them get in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the hand wringing in the world isn’t going to help this problem we see over and over and over again.