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Lawmakers subpoena New York City investor to testify on rundown Buffalo church

In what is believed to be a first for the Buffalo Common Council, lawmakers are preparing to subpoena a New York City investor they say ignored their past invitations to discuss the run-down church building he owns.

Lawmakers directed the city Law Department to draft and send a subpoena ordering Mohammed Kabir to appear in Council Chambers.

Lawmakers want Kabir to explain his plans for the former Salem Evangelical Reformed Church building at 413 Sherman St. that has continued to deteriorate since Kabir purchased the property at a city auction four years ago.

“He owes taxpayers an explanation of what he is going to do with the property,” said Council President Darius G. Pridgen, who represents the Ellicott District.

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Common Council members said this will be the first time, to their knowledge, that the Council is exercising its subpoena power.

Kabir bought the former church building for $1,000 in 2012, when he promised to turn it into a community center.

But the building has instead continued to decay, and Pridgen says it’s now being used by drug dealers and prostitutes, and could end up a candidate for demolition.

At Pridgen’s request, the Council last January asked Kabir to attend a Council session to discuss his plans for the building, but Kabir never showed up. When the Council followed up with a letter suggesting alternative dates Kabir could meet with lawmakers, the New York City investor responded with an email complaining about the way he’s been treated by city inspectors. The inspectors, he wrote, ordered removed some of the facade work his employees put up, and also cited his property for code violations. He was then fined in City Court, he said.

As a result of the way he was treated by Buffalo officials, Kabir wrote: “I lost my energy to build.”

Kabir’s email response did not address the Council’s request that he appear before the body.

After the Council received that email, Pridgen asked the city Law Department if the Council could use it subpoena powers to bring Kabir to address the Council.