Exactly one year ago today, I posted about a pair of buildings on William Street that were a must save in my opinion. After many attempts to contact the owners and several returned letters that could not be forwarded, the trail went cold on tracking them down. Both of the “William Street Sisters” were demolished last week, adding to the ever-expanding urban prairie of the east side.
Ownership of the buildings has not changed since last year and although both mailing addresses turned up nothing for contacting the owners, someone has been paying the taxes on both buildings as they did not cross the block at the city’s annual In-Rem auction last week.
673 William Street was previously occupied by a fly-by-night storefront church, which looks to have just up and left one day, even leaving behind their church organ (built 1926). Barbara B. Jones of 124 Fulton Street owns 677 William Street and all attempts to contact her came back with a return to sender stamp (built 1913).
This is not the first time a handsome building in need of some serious TLC has had an invisible and neglectful owner and it certainly won’t be the last. In all fairness, 677 William Street was pretty rough with a portion of the first floor collapsing into the basement and some bad masonry issues on the rear. Regardless, both buildings had potential to become something special for a person with vision.
These buildings are a loss just like any other, but represent an all too common problem in Buffalo: an absentee owner and lack luster accountability at City Hall and Housing Court. Since both buildings are privately owned, the likely course of action is for the City of Buffalo to send a bill to each in the hopes they actually pay for the demolition costs.
The city website even admits no being able to collect serious money in demolition bills from an article back in 2007 and the issue has only gotten worse. A similar problem has been happening in Housing Court as well, where millions in fines go unpaid. In the mean time neglectful owners continue to let their buildings fall into disrepair and it costs every one of us in the long run.
This demolition isn’t just about two more pretty buildings that are headed to the landfill; it’s about a broken system that let’s people get away with murder at the expense of taxpayers and our city’s sustainability. This lack of accountability and resources to collect only perpetuates the ability of bad property owners to do as they please and never face the consequences. For additional information about the "vacancy vortex" be sure to check out Bernice Radle's blog by clicking here.