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Judge drops all charges in demolition at historic Coit House in Allentown

Charges have been dismissed against the owner of a historic Allentown property following collapse of a structure on the site.

Gerhardt Yaskow, owner of the Coit House, the city's oldest wood frame residence, said he's "breathing a lot easier" after being vindicated in the destruction of his carriage house-turned-garage.

"There was never any merit to the accusations that we damaged what was left of it. This has caused a lot of stress for me, so I'm relieved to have it over," Yaskow said.

Yaskow was to be arraigned in Buffalo Housing Court on Friday for failing to obtain a demolition permit before he began tearing down the late 19th century outbuilding located at 414 Franklin St. Instead, Housing Court Judge Henry J. Nowak dismissed the charges.

While he admits he started the work without a permit, Yaskow maintained the structure was damaged by a falling tree in the October storm, which caused a portion of the building to collapse.

"It was all a misunderstanding. The garage was in terrible condition when I bought it 10 months ago and the storm did it in. All I wanted to do was to remove a dangerous situation and the judge saw that," Yaskow said.

Richard Tobe, Buffalo's development commissioner, stands by the city's charge against Yaskow and has asked the corporation counsel to explore avenues to revive the case.

"The city is very dissatisfied with the result. We were prepared to prove our case, but the judge chose to dismiss the charge at arraignment without hearing any evidence," Tobe said.

The city began an investigation regarding the damaged building after neighbors claimed the building was untouched by the storm and Yaskow purposely damaged the structure to force demolition.

The owner subsequently applied for and obtained a city permit to take the rest of the building down and it has been razed.

Also on Friday, Yaskow and co-owner Russell Maxwell transferred ownership of the circa-1820 Coit property to Yaskow's real estate business, Dixon Enterprises. The company, which specializes in converting commercial buildings back to their original residential use, has completed a number of building rehabilitations in the Allentown neighborhood.

Yaskow said he's shelved plans to turn the Coit House into a bed-and-breakfast and will instead restore it as a single-family home. He expects to complete interior and exterior work next summer and will rent it out to a residential tenant.

Yaskow and Maxwell continue to own and operate Gene McCarthy's Tavern on Hamburg Street in the Old First Ward.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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