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Council ready to lay down the law to out-of-town owner of rotting church

Bravo to the Buffalo Common Council for preparing to use its subpoena powers to call in a New York City investor to explain why he has not taken care of a problem property.

Members of the Council believe that this is the first time it has used its subpoena power. It should not be the last.

Maybe Mohammed Kabir took on too much when he purchased the former Salem Evangelical Reformed Church building at 413 Sherman St. four years ago. He had – and maybe still has – big plans. Either way, his refusal to respond to lawmakers’ questions is unacceptable.

They’re preparing the subpoena papers. Good for them.

Like other Rust Belt cities, Buffalo’s neighborhoods are beset by dilapidated buildings. Some were once cornerstones of their communities. Witnessing the decay is sad; experiencing the impact of the decay is worse. One or two – or more – rotting hulks can destroy a neighborhood’s vitality and discourage development. What business would locate down the street from a symbol of decay?

Buyers must be prepared for the tremendous responsibility of maintaining a piece of property. Resources must be dedicated to shore up the premises and make any necessary repairs. Homeowners sometimes learn the hard way about such costs when that fixer-upper bungalow becomes a money pit.

Kabir bought the former church for a mere $1,000 in 2012, and he promised to convert it into a community center. That was a promise full of hope for neighbors: creation of a terrific focal point for young and old. But since then, nothing. The building was left to rot.

Council President Darius G. Pridgen, who represents the Ellicott District, was reported saying it is now being used by drug dealers and prostitutes. It could end up on the demolition list if the deterioration continues.

The Council has reached out. At Pridgen’s request the body asked Kabir last January to attend a Council session to discuss his plans for the building. He didn’t show up. Council members sent a letter with alternative dates. Instead of setting a date for a meeting, Kabir sent an email complaining about the way he has been treated by city inspectors, who wanted work done on the property.

According to Kabir’s missive: “I lost my energy to build.”

Lawmakers have lost their energy to put up with such dodgy behavior. The message to slumlords: You may be next.