Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 12, 2006

The cost of neglect in the Falls

More than $1 million of federal and city money goes each year to address private properties

Demolishing Dante’s Pizzeria last year cost the city $113,400 after the roof collapsed and its New York City owner didn’t fix the building.

A pair of crumbling garages on South Avenue cost $7,589 to tear down after their owners failed to respond to the city’s warnings.

At 716 Division Ave., Niagara Falls spent $235 to board up a vacant house last year. On Friday, city workers were out there again, clearing weeds and garbage from the private property.

The list goes on.

The city spent $617,517 on boarding up, tearing down or removing unsafe structures from 159 properties between April 2005 and March 2006. More than half of the properties are held by out-of-town owners.

It expects to nearly double that amount this year just to demolish abandoned buildings.

“The need is great,” said Robert Antonucci, project administrator for the Department of Community Development.

Antonucci has a list of 140 properties that need to be torn down. At most, Antonucci said, the city will have enough federal Community Development Block Grant funds to tear down 75 of those buildings. Several large buildings on the list may cut into that goal.

The city will use $1.1 million of its federal community development money to demolish abandoned buildings that are blighting neighborhoods.

That’s more than twice the community development money the city usually spends on demolishing properties. The sale of several east side properties has increased Community Development’s budget this year after an initial cut in federal aid.

But the money still won’t be enough.

Residents cite dozens more vacant properties they would like to see torn down.

Charles Lamar, a member of the Memorial Park Neighborhood Block Club, documented more than 60 blighted houses just in his neighborhood that need to be addressed. He asked Antonucci and city officials to dedicate federal funds to demolish the structures, which he said pose a safety hazard to children.

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