CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – A majority of the Cheektowaga Town Board made it clear to a bank representative Tuesday night that they are fed up with the condition of a vacant house on Yvette Drive and the only solution now is to raze the property.
The Town of Cheektowaga has been fighting with out-of-town banks for nearly five years asking them to improve or demolish the vacant house at 17 Yvette Drive. Since the bank’s eviction of the homeowner nearly five years ago, Town Board members say the lien holders have allowed it to fall into disrepair and let it become a hazard to the neighbors around it.
“The bank told us three years ago that they were going to remediate it and make it livable. The bank has failed at that, so why should I or any other board member in this Town allow that not to be demoed,” said Council Member James Rogowski.
A public hearing to discuss the demolition of the property was held Tuesday night.
Karen McCloskey told the Town Board that she was local counsel representing Leopold and Associates of Armonk, New York. That law firm is representing the Bank of New York Mellon – a second position lien holder on the property. The property is currently undergoing a foreclosure.
“My client is not an owner of the property, but he is a lien holder and in the event the foreclosure is completed, if you do proceed with the demolition, the cost of that demolition, because it will be put on the property, will become a cost that my client would have to pay,” said McCloskey.
“We would like to say that we are aware the situation. We are aware of your concerns of the situation. But, we would like to ask you for just a little bit of more time to get this resolved.”
Council Member Rogowski interrupted McCloskey affirming his disapproval in that he heard the same story from another bank two years ago.
“Two years later, on March 28th at 7:30 [p.m.] you’re coming in here and, no disrespect to you or what you do, and you’re asking this Town, you’re asking me to consider giving you more time, while the people that live on Yvette Drive have to suffer with this house that needs to be demoed,” said Rogowski.
Council Member Gerald Kaminski echoed Rogowski’s concerns.
“We went through this the last time. The bank wants to buy time. They made all kinds of promises – I think they said they were going to put in twenty or thirty thousand dollars into it,” said Kaminski.
In November, 2015 a bank started to repair the house. The roof outside and plasterboard inside were repaired and the basement fixed up. But all work appeared to stop after the basement flooded and workers pumped sewage and asbestos out to the backyard.
“As soon as the banks ask people to leave or force them out – the first thing they do is turn the utilities off. We live in the northeast. We have winters up here. The first that happens with sump pumps is the basement flood. The furnace is gone. The recreation room is gone. Everything permeates up to the house and black mold sets in. Then we listen time and time again that the bank needs more time. More time for what? [The bank] had well over a year – actually they had five years,” added Kaminski.
Former Town Council Member Stanley Kaznowski said referring to similar battle he had with a home on Barbra Place, “This is part of the shell game you banks play. You pay the taxes. It doesn’t show up for foreclosure and you let the house sit and rot. Folks on the Town Board, let them hold the lien on nice green grass. We didn’t have an issue back in 2008. We demoed the house and that property is nowhere near worth the value of what you hold the mortgage for.”
McCloskey said she would relay the concerns of the Board and the residents to Leopold and Associates. She declined to give further comment to Cheektowaga Chronicle after the public hearing and referred us to Leopold and Associates.
The notice of demolition posted at 17 Yvette Drive was served to Russel S. Caci, of Borden Road, Cheektowaga and Bory Road, Depew; Wachovia Bank; Xspand, Inc; New York State Department of Taxation and Finance; and the Bank of New York Mellon.
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance lists three outstanding tax warrants to Caci and his business, The Jewelry Store at 5860 Transit Road, Depew. The warrants date back to the September, 2012 and December, 2013 totaling $1,216.53.
Neither Caci nor a representative spoke at the public hearing.
The Town Board will hold a vote to demolish the property at a board meeting in the coming weeks.
“People should not have to live by a house that they pumped sewage to the backyard and they have to smell that all summer long,” said Rogowski.
“I don’t want to speak for other people, but Jim Rogowski is going to be a yes vote on the demo. I’m not happy with this. I’m not happy when the big pocket people, not average joe and mom that are living in the street, the people that have the big money. The bank could have easily thrown $80,000 at that house and had people back living in it years ago.”