Le­gal bat­tle con­tin­ues with Good­man fur­ni­ture store af­ter for­mer owner’s death

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Ni­cole Radzievich

An 80-year-old physi­cist’s decade-long fight with Beth­le­hem City Hall over the for­mer Good­man fur­ni­ture store will ex­tend be­yond his own life.

Alvin Kanof­sky was buried the same day a Northamp­ton County judge was set to ap­prove a $130,000 pay­ment on taxes and liens on the blighted build­ing and an ad­ja­cent lot that Beth­le­hem forced him to sell last month.

Judge An­thony Bel­trami de­layed that rul­ing un­til Kanof­sky’s es­tate can be opened and the city could pro­vide no­tice to the es­tate of the dis­tri­bu­tion of the pro­ceeds from the sale of that pair of prop­er­ties, as­sis­tant city so­lic­i­tor Matthew Deschler said af­ter meet­ing in cham­bers with the judge.

Un­der the pro­posal Deschler filed, the taxes, liens and other un­paid ex­penses as­so­ci­ated with the build­ing are so high that Kanof­sky’s es­tate would get noth­ing. The court fil­ing calls for the dis­tri­bu­tion of the money to be di­vided this way: $82,000 to the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice, $39,000 to the Beth­le­hem Area School Dis­trict, and $8,700 to the city.

But the sale price — $13,000 higher than the ap­praisal — was not enough to cover all the un­paid taxes and other ex­penses that have been ac­cu­mu­lat­ing at 30-32 E. Third St. for decades. Among the debt that will go un­paid: $69,000 to Northamp­ton County, $15,000 to Beth­le­hem Area School Dis­trict and $3,500 to the city.

Nor will the city get re­im­burse­ment for $135,000 in emer­gency re­pairs done to the shut­tered fur­ni­ture store in 2016 to sta­bi­lize the build­ing, which sits in a down­town block prime for de­vel­op­ment.

The de­lay is the lat­est in a pro­tracted le­gal bat­tle the city has had with Kanof­sky, who died Tues­day in hospice care.

Kanof­sky, who was a tenured Le­high Univer­sity pro­fes­sor and a pro­lific scholar whose pa­pers were fea­tured in more than 100 pub­li­ca­tions, had rep­re­sented him­self in court.

At times, he would make fiery ac­cu­sa­tions against the city in le­gal doc­u­ments but hold a con­ge­nial dis­po­si­tion in court when he con­tested city of­fi­cials’ char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of his prop­erty as an eye­sore and a threat to public safety. Since 2008, Kanof­sky had been cited dozens of times, but made lit­tle ef­fort to fix the di­lap­i­dated build­ing. The vi­o­la­tions ul­ti­mately landed Kanof­sky in prison for five days last year af­ter his ap­peals ran out.

The city pe­ti­tioned the court three years ago to be­come a con­ser­va­tor and made de­ci­sions a prop­erty owner would, forc­ing sale to Col­lab­o­ra­tion 3, a trio of lo­cal firms that want to turn the build­ing into a first-floor com­mer­cial prop­erty topped by apart­ments. The part­ners in­clude D’Huy En­gi­neer­ing, Al­loy 5 Ar­chi­tects and Skep­ton Con­struc­tion.

Kanof­sky’s ap­peals ran out in May, prompt­ing the city to move for­ward with the clos­ing on the prop­erty Aug. 29 and ul­ti­mately the dis­tri­bu­tion of the pro­ceeds.

Kanof­sky bought the three­story, 21,000-square-foot build­ing for $139,500 in 1986, two years af­ter Good­man Fur­ni­ture closed.

The store traces its roots to Ben Good­man, a Rus­sian im­mi­grant who set­tled in Beth­le­hem in 1900. His 1948 obit­u­ary says that in 1921 he founded a fur­ni­ture store, later passed to his son, Sa­muel, and the store moved to 30 E. Third St. Ac­cord­ing to the 1918 “Men of Beth­le­hem,” Theodore Good­man had es­tab­lished a fur­ni­ture busi­ness in south Beth­le­hem in 1910 and ex­panded it into the sec­ond and third floor of 30-32 E. Third St.

In the mid-80s, Kanof­sky told The Morn­ing Call that he planned to use it for pri­vate physics re­search, con­cen­trat­ing on ar­eas of physics that have pri­vate com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial ap­pli­ca­tions, and pos­si­bly for com­mer­cial space. He oper­ated a flea mar­ket for a cou­ple of years, but it has been va­cant for at least two decades, neigh­bors say.

The build­ing now sits in a his­toric block the city has in­vested hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to re­vive in the wake of Beth­le­hem Steel’s demise, and is around the cor­ner from a new 626-spot park­ing garage and six-story of­fice build­ing.

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