City demolishes man’s home and business despite court order

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–All that is left of Timothy Jones’ property at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Carlton Street—Jones’ apartment above a former restaurant–is a hole in the ground, surrounded by an orange plastic fence, and signs warning of asbestos.

The restaurant was the former The Belt’s Own Steak Shop which was heavily damaged by fire, last year, then last week Jones found a final notice that the property was due to be demolished tacked to a door on the building.

The notice was dated August 15, and Kevin Stocker, Jones’ lawyer, wonders why Jones never received a notice at his temporary address.

“On the notice they had Timothy’s forwarding address where he was located. So he never got notice, where he was living, that they had intentions to do this.”

Even though the fire was ruled accidental, Jones’ insurance carrier took more than a year to process his claim, and city building inspectors seemed to believe repairs to the property were not imminent.

So as time passed and the fire-damaged building deteriorated, Jones said he came upon Buffalo firefighters using the house for practice—further damaging the two-story house—and asked one of the firefighters why they were using his property without his permission.

“I took pictures, I asked the guy what is going on?  He said, the city owns this building. Then he got on the phone and somebody told him to go ahead, and they kept going.”

Stocker notified Buffalo’s Law Department Jones had finally received his insurance settlement and was in the process of making the needed repairs, but in a thread of emails between Stocker and the city attorneys, Stocker was informed if he wanted a last minute reprieve, he would need to get an order in state court.

The Tonawanda attorney, obtained a restraining order in state court, “We advised the City Law Department that the Temporary Restraining Order was signed, and for some reason they went forward and demolished it anyway.”

While Stocker went to state court to get the TRO, city attorneys went to city court, considered Stocker a no show, and proceeded with the demolition.

The demolition contractor was Hannah Demolition, Inc. and company president Albert Steele said city officials gave him the go ahead Friday, “I checked with the city and they said it was a go to take the building down.”

Jones is wondering what to do after a court order failed to protect his property, “I have nothing.  It is a hole in the ground and, from what I am hearing, I am going to end up owing the city.”

A hearing was set for this Friday in state court, where attorneys for Jones and the city were supposed to argue the pros and the cons of the restraining order–if the city had not torn down Jones’ building.

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