Niagara Gazette

December 18, 2012

Midtown Inn condemned after fire

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A South End bar turned rooming house, that once housed a collection of sex offenders, has been shuttered by city building inspectors.

The Midtown Inn, 1967 Niagara St., was ordered condemned by inspectors after a fire there Sunday afternoon. The building was declared uninhabitable as a result of both damage from the fire and a number of building code violations.

The decision, approved by the city’s senior building inspector, Dennis Virtuoso, to condemn the structure brought heated complaints from the property owner. Renee Finkas of Buffalo complained to Falls police that Virtuoso “can’t just kick everyone out.”

“There were several building code violations,” Virtuoso said. “There were electrical (code) violations that could have caused a fire. There were plumbing (code) violations and there were no carbon monoxide detectors in the building.”

Virtuoso said Finkas declined to tell him who may have performed electrical repairs in the building. He said Finkas also refused to allow inspectors to re-enter the structure on Monday to do a more complete inspection.

“My concern is the safety of the people living there,” Virtuoso said. “It’s better to condemn it and move on from there. The owner can make repairs and we will re-inspect (the building) and if everything’s OK, we’ll open it back up.”

Late Monday afternoon, Finkas told the Gazette he “currently (had) no comment” on the condemnation. He said, “Legal counsel is going to be dealing with it.”

According to police, the fire started around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, after a “resident set his bed sheets on fire.”

The inn was a target of controversy in 2009 when the New York State Division of Parole began placing level 2 and level 3 sex offenders there after their release from prison. At one point, 16 level 2 and level 3 sex offenders were housed at the inn which is located within 1,500 feet of the city’s Niagara Street Elementary School.

After community protests, the Division of Parole agreed to relocate the sex offender population. As of September 2009, all of the sex offenders had been moved to new locations scattered around the city.