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United Refining adds fence to enhance former zombie gas station site

The parent of the Red Apple and Kwik Fill gas and convenience stores has put up a new  fence around a former gas station lot on the West Side that it already cleared, cleaned and sodded as part of a beautification project it undertook under community pressure.

United Refining Co., owned by billionaire chairman John A. Catsimatidis Sr., said it is spending nearly $19,000 to put up the post-and-chain-link fence around the grassy field at 161 Grant St. That's in addition to the $15,000 it already spent to take out signs, level the ground, remove weeds and brush, add soil and plant grass.

The existing concrete Jersey barriers will also be removed from around the site, where the company is talking with neighborhood representatives about putting in a community garden.

The investment is part of a larger $250,000 program by Catsimatidis, whose company was publicly criticized by state and local officials in April for owning and neglecting five vacant "zombie" gas station lots in Erie County.

Catsimatidis responded in June by pledging to clean up the properties in Buffalo, Lackawanna, Amherst and the Town of Tonawanda, although United Refining is battling with Amherst officials over the town's intent to use eminent domain to seize the property at 159 Niagara Falls Blvd.

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