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Cancemi says he is uneasy about suing school district; Lawsuit claims store was damaged by water

Niagara Falls Board of Education member Vincent A. Cancemi Sr. acknowledged Monday he feels uncomfortable about suing the school district, but he had to take action to preserve his legal claim to restitution for water damage in his furniture store.

Cancemi Furniture, on Sixth Street, abuts an abandoned warehouse owned by the city school district.

On Nov. 10, Cancemi discovered that water allegedly leaking from the roof of the warehouse was running into his store, which shares a wall with the warehouse.

"We'd been seeing spots on the ceiling. We didn't know where they were coming from," he said.

According to the lawsuit, the water damaged the bricks and mortar, drywall, ceilings and floors in the store.

"We've been able to work around it. It's inconvenient," said Cancemi, who added that no merchandise was damaged.

Cancemi's attorney, Richard A. Clack, said he thinks the matter can be settled without going to trial, but a lawsuit had to be filed before Sept. 1 in order to maintain Cancemi's rights.

"We're trying to work this out with [the school district's] insurance company, but so far it's not worked out," Clack said.

School Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco said the warehouse has been mostly vacant since the district moved out in 2008. Cancemi said the city had been storing some holiday lights there.

Bianco said the district has listed the property for sale. She declined to comment on the suit itself.

Cancemi said he briefed his fellow board members about the lawsuit before he filed it.

"It was done in executive session, so I'm not happy talking about it," he said Monday. "I don't feel comfortable about suing my board members, but you have to do it because of the time frame."

Clack said the lawsuit doesn't mention a specific loss figure because Cancemi "has an operating store there, and so far, he hasn't chosen to remove the whole wall to check the damage."

Clack said the wall that abuts the warehouse is about 130 feet long. Cancemi said the warehouse roof is flat but has multiple levels. "That's part of the problem," he said.

Cancemi said he is not pushing for a rapid court date.

"We've extended the hand of friendship to the insurance company and given them an extension [of the time to respond to the suit]," Camcemi said.

Clack said he's been dealing with attorneys for Hanover Insurance, the district's liability insurance carrier.