Dipizio asks to takeover a town street while having $275k in tax arrears

In this file photo, Doyle firefighters fight a grass fire along the portion of Mansion Street that businessman Bernard Dipizio wants to acquire from the Town of Cheektowaga.  (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
In this file photo, Doyle firefighters fight a grass fire along the portion of Mansion Street that businessman Bernard Dipizio wants to acquire from the Town of Cheektowaga.  (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA – The Cheektowaga Town Board is not moving forward with a local businessman’s request to have the town transfer a portion of Mansion Street into his possession.

Bernard Dipizio through his 100 Stradtman Avenue LLC sent a letter to the town last August requesting that the town abandon a portion of Mansion Street north of Stradtman Street into his possession.

The town council discussed the matter during their Tuesday afternoon work session and decided not to move forward with any deal citing future use for the town, access issues, and back taxes owed to the town by Mr. Dipizio.

“There was no benefit for the town to abandon the right-of-way because we use it,” said Supervisor Diane Benczkowski.  “We have a sewer line in there.  We have to get back to the Rails-to-trails.  We have utilities there.”

Another point discussed by councilmembers was Mr. Dipizio’s tax arrears.

“Arrears close to $275,000,” said Supervisor Diane Benczkowski.  “They have certain LLCs, so there could be more, but what we were able to identify was $275,000.”

Mr. Dipizio has 17 properties – all in Cheektowaga – tied to his name according to Erie County Real Property records.  He also owns the former orphanage site at 2600 William Street.

“I don’t care if it was $5 or [$275,000]; square up with us first and then ask us to move forward with the project,” said Councilmember Brian Pilarski.

Cheektowaga Chronicle reached Mrs. Dipizio Thursday morning by phone seeking comment from Mr. Dipizio.  We didn’t hear back from Mr. Dipizio at the time of publication later Thursday afternoon.

Mrs. Dipizio tells Cheektowaga Chronicle that the properties are in arrears because of an ongoing lawsuit between her husband’s construction company Dipizio Construction and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.

Dipizio Construction won a $19.8 million contract to develop a portion of Buffalo’s Canalside project, but the contract was later terminated, and a different company was brought in to complete the ice-skating rink and canal development at the former Memorial Auditorium site.

“[The lawsuit is] still ongoing,” Mrs. Dipizio said.  “We lost Dipizio Construction.”

The company shut down last year and sold off all of its assets according to a Buffalo News article.

Mr. Dipizio owns at least three small parcels near the Mansion Street right-of-way according to real estate records.  His business partner and daughter, Roseanne Dipizio, tells Cheektowaga Chronicle that the request to take over the road came from 100 Stradtman Avenue LLC which is owned by the Dipizio Family Trust.

This article has been updated with a response from Roseanne Dipizio and Supervisor Diane Benczkowski.

Roseanne Dipizio called Cheektowaga Chronicle late Thursday and says Mr. Dipizio is a managing member of the LLC and the tax arrears on his other properties shouldn’t be held against him.

“Just like if he worked for Benderson [Development], he could be the managing member for Benderson and put a request in.  [The town] has no right to not answer that request or hold that request hostage on a piece of property that owes not a penny,” Ms. Dipizio said.

The town’s tax office confirms to Cheektowaga Chronicle that the taxes are up to date for 100 Stradtman Avenue.

“This property owes not a penny in taxes, of course, this property’s owner hasn’t given any one of those [board members] campaign contributions either,” added Ms. Dipizio.  “I was asked for a political contribution from Diane Benczkowski a couple of years ago and I said no.”

She went on to say the request came from an ally of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“I don’t even know Roseanne.  I wouldn’t know what she looked like,” Ms. Benczkowski said. “She doesn’t know me, why would she donate to my fundraisers?  Look at all my financial [disclosures] if you want.  Nobody from Governor Cuomo’s office has thrown me a fundraiser and nobody has ever asked for money from The Friends of Diane – not one – there was no reason to ask for money.  That’s a total lie.”

Dipizio goes on to say that other than a few points of contact with former Councilmember Tim Meyers, the highway department, and town engineer, she has heard nothing from the town board.

“Jim, you’re the first person who has told me anything about it.  Up until now, all I got was we’re still looking at it, we’re still looking at it,” Ms. Dipizio said.  “Not one person had the decency to pick up the phone since last August and even ask a question.”

Ms. Benczkowski says the law department sent an email to Ms. Dipizio on February 15th to say the matter was going to be brought up at a future work session.  She questions why Ms. Dipizio is now involved.

“If [Mr. Dipizio] sent the letter, I’m not sure how Ms. Dipizio got involved in this because the letter was signed by Bernie Dipizio so I didn’t call her because it was Bernie who sent this letter to us,” added Ms. Benczkowski.

Town officials had no indication from the letter what Mr. Dipizio planned to do with the street if they turned it over to him.

Councilmember Brian Nowak spoke during the work session and his concerns centered around the Rails-to-Trails project and the nearby residential area.

“There are too many different things – balls in the air – to give this away or sell it off,” said Mr. Nowak.  “There are a lot of residential areas that are closely packed in here, and the argument on paper that this would be a good access point would be one thing, but when you know all those residential properties are around, there is a real material, practical use for that being an access point someday.”

The supervisor told her colleagues in government that a letter would be drafted to Mr. Dipizio on behalf of the town board denying his request.

“My father has paid his bills his entire life after providing millions of dollars in wages to employees his whole life for 37-years until Andrew Cuomo came into power,” added Ms. Dipizio.

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