BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Frank Chinnici owns the building that collapsed on North Oak in Buffalo just before 11:00 a.m.
“We could feel it coming,” he said. “We were working frantically to come up with a plan, but any plan required people to put their safety at risk, and I don’t know if we were going to come up with a real plan that didn’t do that,” he said.
In late April 2020, one month into the pandemic, Chinnici owner of Legacy Development purchased a stretch of historic businesses on Elliott and Oak Street in Buffalo for $2.75 million.
“The prior landlord allowed the buildings to deteriorate over decades,” he said.
In December 2019, one of those buildings on Ellicott, owned then by Bruce Adler of Buffalo Properties Ltd. partially collapsed.
This was Chinnici in 2019: “Their condition is deplorable, they've been allowed to deteriorate for many years, and we hope to be able to correct that," he said at the time. "The biggest problem that we have had in trying to come to a final arrangement was to deal with these on-going code violations that were obvious the minute we stepped foot on the properties."
Chinnici purchased that now demolished property and the one at 324 Oak that partially collapsed today from the same person he says neglected it for years.
“What really happened was water damage, making sure water wasn’t coming into the roof would have been enough to prevent this,” Eamon Riley.
Lou Petrucci, the Deputy Commissioner of Permit & Inspection Services for the City says the previous owner was in court for this building from 2004-2013 and eventually granted a discharge. Petrucci says in 2019, the owner was brought back to court again and eventually fined $22,500.
Petrucci says the city inspects buildings every one to three years, and can issue citations; but it can only go so far, as due-process in the courts usually ties up getting anything done.
Chinnici says he was in the process of preserving the building and applying for historical designation for the building, but trying to reverse the years of deterioration was the main problem.
“The city had given us permission on a stabilization plan to deal with the issue. We had to shut down for about five months because no one would work, and we continued to have deterioration. Any stabilization plan required people in the building, and I wasn’t going to send my guys there, and I wasn’t going to ask someone else to do the same thing,” he said.
No one was hurt. The owners say they will assess what can be saved from the building.