Res­i­dents seek­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Falls may­oral can­di­date

The Buffalo News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Thomas J. Pro­haska

Lead­ers of a Memo­rial Park­way block club in Ni­a­gara Falls have com­plained to state and fed­eral of­fi­cials on how Ni­a­gara Falls Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor Seth A. Piccirillo han­dled the sale of a house on their street.

Piccirillo, who is run­ning for mayor, said he did noth­ing wrong in the mat­ter, in which the city sought to place 424 Memo­rial Park­way with some­one who would re­de­velop and live in it.

The house re­mains va­cant.

As soon as May 1, the City Coun­cil may vote to pay the cur­rent owner, Karen Mock of Memo­rial Park­way, $10,000 to take back the house so the city can try to sell it again.

Un­der Piccirillo, the Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment De­part­ment has of­fered a few fore­closed homes for sale through “home own­er­ship auc­tions,” in which the city re­quires the buyer to ren­o­vate and live in the home.

In April 2017, the city tried that for 424 Memo­rial, a once-el­e­gant, 3,100-square-foot, five-bed­room house dat­ing from 1930. To­day the house is in dis­re­pair with many bro­ken and boarded-up win­dows.

The city re­ceived two bids: $7,500 from the Valle Group, three broth­ers from Buf­falo, and $1,000 from a Ni­a­gara Falls cou­ple, Ryan Cali and Matthew Melcher.

Sev­eral Memo­rial Park­way res­i­dents urged of­fi­cials to re­ject the higher bid and fa­vor the city res­i­dents on the grounds that the cou­ple would live in the house rather than use it as a rental prop­erty, as the Valle broth­ers planned. The Plan­ning Board and the Coun­cil agreed, and Cali and Melcher bought the house for $1,000.

The city gave them a year to ren­o­vate the house, but the cou­ple found they couldn’t af­ford the work and then broke up.

In­stead of en­forc­ing a “re­verter clause” that called for the city to take the house back if it wasn’t fixed up, the city took no steps to stop Melcher from sell­ing it to Mock for $10,000 in De­cem­ber. The home was to be lived in by Mock’s son.

John A. Cooper, on be­half of the block club, said Piccirillo wasn’t au­tho­rized to al­low the pri­vate sale in­stead of hav­ing the city take back the prop­erty. “This is about pub­lic trust and pub­lic pol­icy,” Cooper said.

The block club sent com­plaints last week to the State Comp­trol­ler’s Of­fice and the U.S. De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment, de­mand­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Piccirillo’s al­leged “in­con­sis­ten­cies.”

Piccirillo said he ex­pects a $10,000 city buy­back of the house to ap­pear on the May 1 Coun­cil agenda.“

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