The owner of the decaying Vernor Building could face up to 17 months in prison and hefty fines after being convicted of 35 violations in Buffalo Housing Court.
City prosecutors will push for the maximum penalty when the owner of the building, in the 700 block of Main Street near Edward Street, is sentenced by Housing Court Judge Henry Nowak in September. Last week, Nowak found Tech Associates of Cleveland, the building's owner, guilty of numerous violations. They include a gaping hole in the roof, damage to the terra cotta facade, broken windows, missing bricks and debris.
Each of the 35 violations carries a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail and $1,500 in fines for every day the problems remain unresolved. City officials intend to ask the judge to impose stiff penalties against David Shifrin, Tech Associates' owner.
"In our opinion, this is a case of total neglect," said Assistant Corporation Counsel Lenora B. Foote.
Randolph C. Oppenheimer, Tech Associates' attorney, did not return calls to comment Monday. But in an earlier affidavit, Shifrin spoke of a half-dozen development efforts that been launched involving the Vernor Building, two of them by the city. Oppenheimer said in an interview last spring that his client spent "a very significant amount of money" hiring architects and engineers to develop several plans for the structure that is just east of the Theater District. He said the owner wasn't about to pour more money into the building unless he couldrecoup his losses.
A demolition application filed by Tech Associates has been pending before the city Preservation Board for "quite some time," said board Secretary Thomas Marchese.
Earlier this year, Nowak temporarily barred the emergency demolition of the building. But he raised questions about its prospects for rehabilitation. A construction analyst testified that repairing the building would cost more than $3 million. Saving the facade and razing the rest of the building would cost about $700,000, he estimated.
"We're waiting for direction from the (city) Law Department," said Marchese, of the pending demolition application.
Built in the early 1900s, the structure once served as a Pierce-Arrow Motor Car showroom. The building is named after the soft-drink company that moved in after Pierce-Arrow relocated.