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Buffalo Common Council directs school sale proceeds to King Urban Life Center

The Common Council voted on Tuesday to sell a vacant school building to King Center Charter School and directed the sale’s proceeds to be used to support the building the school will leave.

After weeks of debate, the Council voted to sell the former site of School 71 at 104 Lang Avenue for $330,000.

The 7-2 vote means the charter school will be able to move into the vacant school building. But it will leave a vacancy at the King Urban Life Center, which is housed in the former St. Mary of Sorrows Church on Genesee Street, a city property.

The city owns both buildings.

More than $20 million in public investments have been spent at the former church site. Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk said he is concerned the charter school’s departure will negatively impact the surrounding neighborhood, which he represents.

“This sale was not very well thought-out,” Franczyk said. “I tried to make the case, I’ve said this is a lot deeper than a landlord-tenant dispute.”

Franczyk and Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto voted against the sale, while the other Council members supported it.

The entire Council supported Francyzk’s resolution to give the proceeds to the King Urban Life Center. The center will lose at least $167,000 per year in rent from the charter school and faces nearly $350,000 in maintenance costs.

Franczyk also criticized the city’s Office of Strategic Planning, which sent the request to sell the vacant school building but did not talk about how the city will re-use the King Urban Life Center.

“It’s abandonment as far as I could tell,” he said.

The city has been in contact with the King Urban Life Center board about opportunities for the building’s re-use, said Brendan R. Mehaffy, executive director of the Office of Strategic Planning. The discussions will continue, he said.

LoCurto said he voted against the sale because the measure lacked a re-use plan for the King Urban Life Center.

Also Tuesday, the Council approved a $1 million payment to Erie County in connection with a near drowning at a city pool. The incident happened when the county was in charge of city pools. The county has paid the victim, Jannette Morales, $7 million. The city’s $1 million portion of the settlement will partially reimburse the county.