Mayor Shayne Gallo’s statement on Brad Will
Mr. Will's remarks demonstrate a lack of understanding of the law and the facts regarding unsafe buildings. His suggestion that the City of Kingston take unsafe buildings by eminent domain is a silly idea that would result in irresponsible landowners being rewarded for their lack of attention to their buildings. What he proposes is that the City pay the owner of an unsafe building for the privilege of taking over their mess rather than enforce the law to compel them to fulfill their responsibilities With respect to the process of demolition, had Mr. Will asked before he commented, he would have discovered that in each case the City elicited three bids for the demolition of the structure. In addition, a Request for Proposals has been circulated for an annual contract to demolish structures as necessary. As to the costs themselves, the disposal costs alone, paid to the landfill, for 72 Garden Street debris contaminated by friable asbestos waste exceeded $20,000.00. The New York State Labor Department Notification fee for the demolition of a building containing hazardous materials was $3,000.00. These expenses were incurred prior to any labor or material costs. The fact is that Mr. Will's purported "average" cost, which he found on a website promoting private demolition contractors, does not reflect the fixed costs for hazardous materials disposal and permitting. Once again, had Mr. Will inquired prior to his public criticism of the process, he would have learned that since the time that the Mayor spearheaded the initiative to rid the City of unsafe building, three other structures were demolished by their owners, saving the City taxpayers approximately $87,000.00. Three additional buildings have been renovated by their owners with a total investment of over $140,000.00. All of this was a direct result of the City's adoption of the legal measures necessary to robustly enforce the building code and enhanced enforcement that the new law allows. Mr. Will's proposal also demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the eminent domain process. Assuming that the law can be used for this purpose, the process requires the City to appraise a property and pay the property owner the appraised value upfront. The owner can keep the proffered payment and still litigate the property value in an effort to obtain additional funds. The City would have to incur appraisal costs, lay out the appraised value, and incur the costs of expert witnesses and other court costs, all in the name of "saving money." Mr. Will's suggestion also presupposes that there is a ready supply of well-funded private and not-for-profit developers ready and willing to undertake the trouble and expense of demolishing or renovating substandard structures. If there were such developers, why are they not now stepping forward to make offer to purchase these properties? Notably, the bank that held the mortgage on 72 Garden Street
recognized its utter lack of value when it forgave the property owner’s debt in order
to rid itself of any responsibility for a building which posed an imminent risk to public safety. In Mr. Will's world the City would have paid the owner and/or the bank for the privilege of owning a derelict property. The City would then became the proud owner of a dilapidated building which is at imminent risk of collapse. The City taxpayers would then be responsible for insuring the building and taking on the risk of an injury to a neighbor or other third party. In the event that no one stepped forward to claim this gem of a property, the City would still have had to demolish it, incurring that cost as well.