DEC gets look at Central Park Plaza cleanup plan

December 23, 2011 Updated Dec 23, 2011 at 8:15 AM EDT

By Business First by James Fink, Buffalo Business First Reporter


DEC gets look at Central Park Plaza cleanup plan

December 23, 2011 Updated Dec 23, 2011 at 8:15 AM EDT

As part of a settlement reached with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the owners of the blighted Central Park Plaza have officially filed paperwork with the state Department of Environmental Conservation concerning the cleanup of the Holden Street property.

The DEC has received details for the 29-acre property under the state's mandated Brownfield Cleanup Program. The application was made by Strickler Development Group LLC on behalf of Brooklyn investor Samuel Kurz and his Central Park Plaza LLC partners. The formal application is available for review at the E. Delavan Library Branch in Buffalo. Comments will be accepted by the DEC through Jan. 20.

The cleanup is part of a multi-pronged agreement brokered between Schneiderman, Kurz and the City of Buffalo concerning the fate and future of the Central Park Plaza, which was once the retailing anchor of Buffalo's Central Park and Masten neighborhoods.

Kurz has also agreed to sell the property. Kurz and Central Park Plaza LLC are also barred from owning property in Buffalo, as part of the settlement.

Schneiderman's office got involved in the Central Park Plaza issue at the urging of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, who had been thwarted in previous attempts to revive the plaza or find new owners willing to take on Holden Street property.

Schneiderman found the plaza's property unkempt, virtually empty and the hub for a number of criminal activities including dog fighting and drug dealing. The plaza property is surrounded by single family homes and apartment buildings. Five schools are located nearby.

"For years, residents living near Central Park Plaza have had to live in fear of this eyesore and dangerous public nuisance located in the heart of their community. As a result of this settlement, the dark days will be over soon," Schneiderman said in late November. "This neglect has threatened the health, welfare and safety of its residents and my office is committed to cracking down on absentee landlords who devastate our neighborhoods."

The A.G.'s office investigation found property that was unlit at night and drew vandals and thieves into the community, putting neighborhood residents at risk of being the victims of crime, and allowing individuals to dump garbage and trash into the plaza.

Moreover, the unlit plaza is a danger to pedestrians and drivers because the parking lot is riddled with cavernous potholes and other obstructions, Schneiderman said.

With no proper security, criminals routinely break into and vandalize the buildings at Central Park Plaza, he added. Making matters worse, the unsecured buildings attract neighborhood children who are able to enter the buildings at an imminent risk to their safety.

Brown, last month, said he was pleased with Schneiderman's response to his request.

"My city housing inspectors have worked hard to get this site cleaned up, and made safer for residents by writing up the Brooklyn-based owners, both the corporation and the individual," Brown said. "Central Park residents will no longer have to live in fear of this dangerous public nuisance."

Under the agreement with Schneiderman's office, Kurz and Central Park Plaza, LLC must pay for the cleanup of the property.

Further, the consent order also requires the respondents to:

• Light Central Park Plaza from dusk to dawn.

• Patrol Central Park Plaza from dusk to dawn.

• Repair or secure all broken windows, holes in exterior walls and doors.

• Remove all trash and debris.

• Cut and remove all overgrown weeds and grass.

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