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Amherst uses eminent domain to seize billionaire's disputed property

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Mike Desmond / WBFO News
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The long-vacant corner property will be turned into a park.

The vacant lot at Kenmore Avenue and Niagara Falls Boulevard on the Amherst-Buffalo line has a new owner, but the same old fight over what should be on the piece of property marked by large concrete blocks and two new benches continues.

Billionaire John Catsimatidis' Red Apple Group has owned the corner lot for decades. Two decades ago, expanding the intersection effectively forced a prior store on the site to close because there wasn't enough land left for a gas station.

The property has sat vacant since, subject to occasional town complaints and the owner seeking the property next door to be big enough for a new Red Apple. Now, the town has siezed the land for a park.

Catsimiatidis is angry about the taking and the price offered.

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Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
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The own of Amherst has put its mark on the corner lot.

"Eminent domain to create a park. The town already has 41 parks. Why do they need another park? And then, as a taxpayer, my property is appraised at $300,000 plus and the town only wants to give me $80,000, he said. "If they can do it to me, they could do it to any taxpayer."
               
Town Supervisor Brian Kulpa said that section of Amherst needs a park. It has already bought the property next door and demolished the building to expand the site for a park to be built next year.

The Town Highway Department built the two benches for Metro Bus riders and the supervisor said they are better than sitting on the concrete blocks.

"We've got work to do to create a park to try to turn a neighborhood around," said Kulpa. "All this funding and all this attention that is being spent fighting off and threatening me politically and stuff like that, I wish that much energy had gone into the property for the past 20 years. If he would have done that, it would be a world-class property there and it never would have been an issue."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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