As we have started hitting the streets, knocking on doors, I haven't had much time to blog lately. But I think what I'm going to show you is very important and is a perfect example of why we need change in our local government.
You're not going to see something like this in the media or at any upcoming forums. This may seem to some as a personal attack, but it's not. This is about issues - how our government is run and what is done with our tax dollars.
In case you missed it, a number of Green Rochester candidates attended the most recent City Council meeting and attempted to put in a bid on Midtown Tower. This offer was not only ignored, but mocked by the current mayor as "political theater". When the vote for the deal to give a $430,000 property away to a Tom Richards campaign donor, came up, the current City Council President objected to the parking provision of the deal, the least expensive part, but in the end, ended up voting for the big chunk of the corporate welfare, as did the other elected officials.
GR Mayoral Candidate, Alex White, posted a blog about the whole affair called, Midtown Tower of Lies.
Links to the blog post was shared on Facebook by a number of people. But City Council Member, Carolee Conklin was not content with getting everything they wanted. She had to defend her decision on a constituent's Facebook page.
What follows after the jump is the edited conversation between the constituent [LW], Ms. Conklin, fellow GR City Council Candidate, Dorothy Paige and myself. The only edits made were removing the constituent's name, removing unrelated comments by people not involved in the conversation and Facebook jargon ("reply", etc.)
LW: Just wow. Midtown illegally given away for $2 last pm by Rochester's city council. Transfer of public wealth (2 million) to private hands. Time for a change.
Carolee Conklin: [LW], this was not an illegal act, allowed under Urban Renewal Agency
LW: Carolee, can you site something? Read the article. Alex shows that it wasn't.
Carolee Conklin: [LW], here is the section of NYS General Munic. Law. Perhaps Mr. White is not aware of it.
[ED: Looks like this was cut & pasted from an email from another person. Someone at City Hall we can assume. The amount of space between some paragraphs shows that all the info in the provision is not included.]
Carolee Conklin: Carolee,
I understand your request as being for the underlying authority of the URA to sell the property. Based on this assumption, here is the applicable section of state law relating to sale by the City of parcels in an urban renewal area, and the hearing notice setting forth the particulars of the sale.
General Municipal Law
§ 507. Disposition of property.
2. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this article
and notwithstanding the provisions of any general, special or local law
applicable to the sale of real property by a municipality, such real
property and appurtenances thereto may be sold, leased for a term not
exceeding ninety-nine years or otherwise disposed of for the
effectuation of any of the purposes of the urban renewal program in
accordance with the urban renewal plan:
(d) to any person, firm or corporation designated by the agency as a
qualified and eligible sponsor pursuant to the provisions of clause (1)
of subsection (c) of this subdivision without public auction or sealed
bids, provided that (1) the price or rental to be paid by such sponsor
for such property and all other essential terms and conditions of such
sale, lease or other disposition shall be included in the notice
published by the agency pursuant to the said clause (1) of subsection
(c) of this subdivision, (2) that such sale, lease or other disposition
be approved by the governing body after a public hearing held not less
than ten days after the publication of such notice, and (3) such sale,
lease or other disposition shall, in the case of projects aided by a
state loan, periodic subsidy or capital grant or in which application
has been made for such loan
LW: [tagged] Alex White, Dave Atias, Drew Langdon, Dorothy Paige comments?
Dorothy Paige: She was quoting state code, not city code. Does state code take priority over city code?
She failed to include section 1 of 507 (below) which contradicts what she is stating.
She picks and chooses what meets her needs. Here is the missing section that she failed to include.
§ 507. Disposition of property. 1. In addition to employing any other
lawful method of utilizing or disposing of any real property, and
appurtenances thereto or any interest therein owned by a municipality or
acquired by it pursuant to section five hundred six of this article, a
municipality may sell, lease for a term not exceeding ninety-nine years,
or otherwise dispose of any such real property and appurtenances
thereto, to any person, firm or corporation at the HIGEST MARKETABLE PRICE
or rental at public auction or by sealed bids pursuant to the
provisions of any general, special or local laws applicable to the sale
or disposition of real property by said municipality.
This also is a questionable sale due to contributions to Tom Richard's campaign by the owner of Buckingham properties to whom the property was sold to.
This is an article concerning a similar situation in Baltimore, Maryland.
Section 21-5, Public auction sales, reads: All sales of City-owned real property at public auction shall be made by the Director of Real Estate or his or her representative after notice of the sale has been published at least once in an official newspaper of the City, subject to the approval by City Council of the sale price and purchaser.
There follows a set of terms and conditions.
Alex correctly pointed out that NO such notice of sale was published anywhere. This action was another violation of the City Code.
What it really boils down to is that Citygov decided to have a closed sale to a campaign contributor, which was what the code was written to prevent.
LW: Thank you!
LW: I'm disappointed, Carolee Conklin.
Carolee Conklin: The City and City Council made the decision to sell this Urban Renewal property to a firm that was willing to put millions into developing a site that had sat dormant for years with no one showing any interest in developing it. It will increase the property tax base and add to the long term growth of the City. Sorry you are disappointed but I stand by my vote.
LW: Yes I am. Could you have found a legal means to the same end?
LW: [tagged] Dorothy Paige
Dorothy Paige: Millions of dollars from city taxpayers at 1 percent interest, and no taxes paid for 20 years and also
Section 21-13. Sale of Rochester Urban Renewal Agency property states: Rochester Urban Renewal property shall be sold in accordance with New York State law. The sale must be approved by the Rochester Urban Renewal Agency, and its action affirmed by City Council. The procedures for submission and selection of development properties shall be the same as those established for the disposition of City-owned real estate.
Dave Atias: I'll leave the legal aspect to others. It's another giveaway to a campaign donor and it is a traditional and proven ineffective way of development. We...and by "we" I mean those in office, continue to do the same thing over and over again. And our poverty rate continues to climb.
Dorothy Paige: There is a stipulation that the mayor may make modifications to the loan and that there is a balloon payment included in the deal.
Read Andreas Rau's blog
Dorothy Paige: Do you know that the mayor and city council approved the purchase of a property on West Main Street which will now become a valuable piece of real estate on property that is a gateway to the city? the property is being demolished, purchased and the restaurant and apartment residents relocated at the cost to city taxpayers. I wonder who will get to purchase that property for a dollar. We need to stop these sales of valuable city property to developers who get tax breaks and low interest loans at the expense of the taxpayers.
Apparently the city and whoever was contracted to remove the city owned buildings were negligent in their ability to safely remove the building without causing the damage they did. Does this company that caused the damage have liability insurance? They were paid by the city to demolish the building and they caused the damage that is now sucking more resources from city taxpayers. We should have the company return the fees charged and pay for the damages.
This is from Two insurance websites for demolition companies
"Collapse hazard" means to break down suddenly or give way; and includes "structural property damage" and any resulting "property damage" to any other property at any time.
Controls to address property damage claims include:
• Conducting pre-project survey of the area for general conditions and pre-existing damage . This can include video, photos, engineering surveys, identification of historical or old buildings/structures, surveys of the interior of neighboring buildings, etc .
• Conducting seismograph/ground vibration surveys prior to and during demolition and wrecking operations
• Having a document retention policy for all records and reports related to the project (i .e . job files, log books, engineering reports/surveys, accident reports, pre/post job surveys, etc .)
• Shoring and demolition plans designed by professional engineer .
This is the article from the democrat and chronicle website
City to buy, raze building
The city could spend $70,800, including closing costs, to buy a West Main Street property that housed Critic’s Restaurant, which was torn down in May.
Demolition was an unintended consequence of the city’s planned razing of a vacant and condemned city owned structure that was part of a block of interconnected row buildings in the Bull’s Head neighborhood. The restaurant at 906-910 W. Main St. had been open for more than 100 years.
In a memo to City Council members seeking their approval, Mayor Thomas Richards wrote that the April demolition of the other attached buildings “revealed and exacerbated structural defects” in the Critic’s building. Costs to temporarily stabilize the restaurant were estimated at $60,000 to $100,000. An agreement with the owner was reached to sell the building to the city, which also plans to help with relocation expenses for Critic’s and tenants who lived upstairs.
[Crickets from Ms. Conklin]
What will we do when you put us in office? Find out.
It's been the same thing for 40 years in Rochester. The same ways of "development". The same tax breaks for the rich. The same political machine. This is why we are running this year and this is why you should vote Row F on November 5th.