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Memorial Parkway residents seek investigation of Falls mayoral candidate

Leaders of a block club on Memorial Parkway in Niagara Falls have sent complaints to state and federal officials about how Niagara Falls Community Development Director Seth A. Piccirillo handled the sale of a house on their street.

Piccirillo, who is running for mayor, said he did nothing wrong in the matter, in which the city sought to place 424 Memorial Parkway with someone who would redevelop and live in it.

The house remains vacant.

As soon as May 1, the City Council may vote to pay the current owner, Karen Mock of Memorial Parkway, $10,000 to take back the house so the city can try to sell it again.

Under Piccirillo, the Community Development Department has offered a few foreclosed homes for sale through "home ownership auctions," in which the city requires the buyer to renovate and live in the home.

In April 2017, the city tried that for 424 Memorial, a once-elegant, 3,100-square-foot, five-bedroom house dating from 1930. Today the house is in disrepair with many broken and boarded-up windows.

The city received two bids: $7,500 from the Valle Group, three brothers from Buffalo, and $1,000 from a Niagara Falls couple, Ryan Cali and Matthew Melcher.

Several Memorial Parkway residents urged officials to reject the higher bid and favor the city residents on the grounds that the couple would live in the house rather than use it as a rental property, as the Valle brothers planned. The Planning Board and the Council agreed, and Cali and Melcher bought the house for $1,000.

The city gave them a year to renovate the house, but the couple found they couldn't afford the work and then broke up.

Instead of enforcing a "reverter clause" that called for the city to take the house back if it wasn't fixed up, the city took no steps to stop Melcher from selling it to Mock for $10,000 in December. The home was to be lived in by Mock's son.

John A. Cooper, on behalf of the block club, said Piccirillo wasn't authorized to allow the private sale instead of having the city take back the property. "This is about public trust and public policy," Cooper said.

The block club sent complaints last week to the State Comptroller's Office and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, demanding investigations into Piccirillo's alleged "inconsistencies."

Piccirillo said he expects a $10,000 city buyback of the house to appear on the May 1 Council agenda.

"We have not violated any of our procedures," Piccirillo said. "Unfortunately, it looks like we're not going to be able to find a compromise and we're going to have to go the route of the clawback."

Piccirillo said some Memorial Parkway residents have contacted him and told him they don't object to letting Mock's son keep the house if he agrees to stay there for at least five years.

"From the block club's perspective, that's not a compromise for them," Piccirillo said.

Mock declined to answer questions about the case. "It's being handled legally," she said.

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