Buffalo businessman sues city for demolishing his property, despite court order

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–Buffalo business owner Timothy Jones didn’t think it could get any worse. A fire damaged his building—including a former ground floor restaurant and his upstairs apartment–on April 9, 2018.

Jone’s fire insurance carrier was taking forever to settle his claim, and all the while, city firefighters were using the building at Jefferson Avenue and Carlton Street for training exercises.

In September he discovered the building was on the city’s demolition list, but when Jones convinced a state judge to order the city leave the building intact, he thought his property would be safe.

It did get worse, though, and a wrecking crew hired by the city tore down the building, on the orders of the city’s Law Department.

Jones was stunned, “Amazing that they could just do what they want. the city could just take something from you, and even though you have been paying on it and everything is up-to-date, they just do what they want.”

The property sits right on the edge of the city’s Fruit Belt, and the vacant restaurant was the former “The Belt’s Own Steak Shop.”

A Housing Court judge had issued the demolition order, but State Supreme Court Justice Henry Nowak, a former Housing Court judge himself issued the stay.

Kevin Stocker, Jones’ attorney, said Nowak even went to the work site and told the demolition crew about the pending court action.

“Judge Nowak said he contacted the city’s attorney, letting them know early in the morning that he was signing the order.”

Prior to the demolition, Stocker said city firefighters had actually gone into the building, without Jones’ permission, for training, further damaging the property.

“We don’t know why the Fire Department was in there three times after the fire, conducting drills, damaging property. We don’t know if their actions caused it to be structurally unsound.”

Stocker noted, Jones wants to rebuild his business, but the insurance settlement is not going to be enough.

“Those funds were to fix up the property. Now that they have torn it down, to rebuild what was there is going to be a lot more damages.”

Because of the pending litigation, city officials declined comment for our story. However, sources indicated Jones’ fire-damaged property sat exposed for more than a year, with no signs he was shoring it up.

The building was deemed unsafe, although Stocker contends there was no hearing to that effect, and the structure was demolished.

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