Franczyk & Hoyt...more laws won't work!

A month ago I reported about a bill that local New York State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt has sponsored. It's known in Albany as the "Demolition by Neglect" bill. It should not become law. I sited a very recent court case in NYC that is mistakenly used by supporters of Hoyt's bill to advance the cause of this misguided attempt to legislate compliance and save cool historic buildings. In that case Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Walter Tolub ruled that the owners of the Samuel Tredwell House in NYC must fix the building. He relied on the enforcement of existing building codes to reach his decision. He didn't need Hoyt's fix!

This is a very good thing. We have plenty of laws with substantial fines that accrue on a daily basis to compel most entities that own deteriorating property to bring their buildings into compliance. Now, Buffalo Common Council President David Franczyk has introduced and sponsored a similar piece of legislation here in Buffalo to do the same thing that Assemblyman Sam Hoyt would like to see done from Montauk to Michigan Avenue.

Franczyk's Resolution #129 "Demolition by Neglect" includes this language:
  • Whereas: Often these buildings are willfully left to deteriorate so that an unscrupulous property owner justifies having the structure demolished instead of renovating or repairing the structure; and

Woodlawn Row Houses 564 Dodge Street Transfiguration Church - Interior Wollenberg Grain Elevator 198 Emslie Street
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  • Whereas: This situation is commonly referred to as "demolition by neglect". Demolition by neglect should be avoided at all costs. Severe penalties should be imposed on any property owner who participates in this practice; and Penalties should be increased for any property that is located within a historic district or for a building that is declared a local, state, or national landmark; and

New laws just before an election cycle smell really bad. The thing to remember is that old laws will save old building provided that they are vigorously enforced.
Broadway & Sherman Urban Ruins Broadway & Fox Transfiguration Church Immaculate Conception
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The maximum fine per violation that can be imposed in Housing Court is $1500 for every day the violation exists on a property. Say there are 10 violations on one of the properties in the above pictures. Doing the math - that's $15,000/day! And multiply that by a twenty or thirty day inspection/trial cycle. It's hard to imagine a developer, non-profit organization or even Bishop Kmiec not being phased by those numbers.

Seems to me that if our old laws were properly enforced "demolition by neglect" would be a thing of the past. A few leading preservationists that I have talked to agree! Then again, who is going to bring the City of Buffalo, the CAO of Erie County or the Bishop Kmiec to Housing Court.

And then there is that property in Perrysburg, David Franczyk...who's going to bring that into compliance?
JN Adam - Perrysburg, NY JN Adam - Perrysburg, NY
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Time, energy and money would be better spent David, properly securing and protecting city owned local and national landmarks such as the Woodlawn Row Houses and the Wollenberg Grain Elevator. Forget the election spin, we are so very tired David & Sam. Get back to the fundamentals! Old laws only work if they are enforced. It's really quite simple!
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faq

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