Forty years ago, New York’s legislature enacted General Municipal Law Article 16 – the “urban development action area act” – with one goal in mind: to provide enhanced tax exemptions to private businesses to encourage redevelopment of blighted and deteriorated city-owned property. [Here’s the statute’s text: GML Article 16 Sections 690-698 .]
Article 16 offers private developers two generous incentives:
(i) a twenty-year exemption from paying city real property taxes, with 100% tax exemption for the first ten years, and negotiable terms for the second decade [see GML Section 696]; and,
(ii) loans that can be automatically reduced to zero payments for up to 30 years if multiple dwellings are rehabilitated or constructed, and the owner complies with the terms of a negotiated regulatory agreement [see GML Section 696-a].
To be eligible for this financial assistance, the follow requirements must be met: the city-owned property must be blighted or deteriorated, or becoming so, and must have been acquired by the city through condemnation, tax foreclosure, or a similar process; the present status of the property must tend to impair or arrest the sound growth and development of the city; and, the enhanced tax incentives available through Article 16 must be necessary to enable a restoration project to be undertaken.
As described in an August 1, 2019 Buffalo News article, “Civil War-era home in Fruit Belt gets one last chance to avoid demolition,” the long-vacant Italianate residence at 204 High Street – known by preservationists and neighborhood activists as the Meidenbauer House – appears to perfectly meet Article 16’s criteria.
[by AJG, 08/05/2019]
[by AJG, 08/05/2019]
[by AJG, 01-06-2016]
There is little time to waste. According to BN reporter Caitlin Dewey, “[This] battered, much-debated home in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt will fall to bulldozers this September unless city officials can find a buyer to salvage it.” The fate of this iconic Fruit Belt structure, it seems, depends on the will (whim?) of Common Council President – and Ellicott District Council Member – Darius Pridgen.
In April of this year, the Council President supported what I will charitably characterize as the “creative” use of Article 16 tax incentives to bail out financially-strapped TM Montante Development LLC at Gates Circle. [See my prior post.] During the Gates Circle proceedings, Mr. Pridgen expressly stated that he would like to see Article 16 financial assistance used in the Fruit Belt.
Well, here’s Council President Pridgen’s opportunity, if he has the will.
As reported in the August 1st newspaper article, a high-ranking (but, unidentified) city official told preservation groups that Pridgen “wants [204 High Street] demolished.” That sentiment might explain the tone of the Council President’s comment quoted in the recent Buffalo News article: “I am not shying away from the fact that if the building cannot be sold and cannot be rehabbed … then safety should trump preservation.”
Darius Pridgen is in a position – thanks to the many hats that he wears – to save the Meidenbauer House. To do so, he must place the importance of preserving this significant piece of Fruit Belt history above whatever political benefits he hopes to attain by removing this century-and-a-half old structure to make room for further advancement of the nearby medical campus.
Call on Mr. Pridgen to use his authority – as Council President, as the Councilmember in whose district 204 High Street is located, and as a director of the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency – to begin the process (if it hasn’t already commenced) of designating an “urban development action area” eligible to obtain Article 16 incentives. The UDAA should include, at a minimum, the Meidenbauer House parcel, as well as the two vacant city-owned lots at 206 and 208 High Street immediately adjoining the east property line of 204 High Street.
Please don’t wait. Darius Pridgen can, theoretically, be reached at: (716) 851-4980; firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Full disclosure: I am currently representing Elmwood Village resident and activist Daniel Sack, pro bono, in State Supreme Court, asking the court to annul the Buffalo Common Council’s April 16, 2019 creation of the Linwood Lafayette Urban Development Action Area as an unlawful use of Article 16 of the State’s General Municipal Law to bail out TM Montante Development LLC.]
With All Due Respect,