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ACTIVIST'S BID TO BUY DECREPIT HOME PUT OFF

Steve Huston, a prominent African-American activist in the city, wants to buy a run-down old house from the city for $300.

However, Mayor Michael W. Tucker and Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano have held up the deal.

They told the Common Council the bid needs to be considered by the city's Real Property Management Committee. Action couldn't be taken at a meeting last month to consider Huston's bid for 261 Genesee St. because two of the four members didn't attend.

Tucker, who serves on the committee, said his view has nothing to do with Huston. Tucker asked Huston to resign as chairman of the city Human Relations Commission last June after Huston circulated what the mayor thought was an inflammatory questionnaire on race relations in Lockport.

Enough other members also quit that the panel had to shut down. So far, there have been no new appointments.

Huston, who did not return a call seeking comment on the situation, had a long-running and unsuccessful battle with city officials over his effort to open a banquet hall on the site of the former Windmill Terrace restaurant on Michigan Street, near his home.

He wants to buy a three-story house at Genesee and Washburn streets, in the heart of what a former local affairs Web site dubbed Lockport's "Crime District."

In December 2002, the Council approved a $5,000 bid from Craig W. Pearson, a Florida investor who bought several old houses on Genesee Street. However, he never filed the deed confirming his purchase of 261 Genesee.

"Maybe there was a lot more to repair than he thought," said Alderman Scott A. Cercone, R-3rd Ward, who sponsored a resolution approving Huston's bid, which he agreed to withdraw from last week's Council agenda.

Cercone said the interior of the building needs to be gutted.

"That house doesn't have any plumbing. It would cost $50,000 to $60,000, minimum, to get that house into (code) compliance," said Alderwoman Phyllis J. Green, R-2nd Ward.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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