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City approves license for Chippewa building with sordid history

Mike Desmond
45 West Chippewa Street in Buffalo.

After a fight over the condition of the building, Buffalo's Common the Council has approved a lodging house license for a building on Chippewa Street with a history of bad conditions. However, the delay led to changes.

The building at 45 West Chippewa has a bad reputation for tenants and conditions inside. It is in the city's Ellicott District and the district's Council President Darius Pridgen stopped issuance of a new license for a new owner because of the building's history. That's rare.

"There are some people that are living there who have been identified as having mental illness and the owner even suggested that some of them may be evicted," Pridgen said. "I disagree. This is my feeling. People who have mental illness have every right to live in a neighborhood if they are not doing anything wrong, just like everyone else."

Now, that license will be issued. The council president said conditions changed as the new owners cooperated.

"After the new owner, who also owns a business across the street from the lodging house, did come before us in committee," Pridgen said. "I felt like we should give them a chance because he's put in tens of thousands of dollars in renovation. I was not aware that this location had one bathroom in it for, I don't know, 30 people. That's ridiculous."

Pridgen said the new owners have been told that if there are mentally ill tenants, they can stay as long as they are not causing more trouble than any other tenant. He also said that even if a state agency tries to place sex offenders in the building, state law bars them from the property because there are two nearby schools.

Pridgen said it is a message to other lodging house owners.

"It should always be a message," Pridgen said, "and I hope that in the years I have been Ellicott District councilmember that I have always been loud and clear on this, regardless of whether it's Town Gardens or whether it's on Chippewa or whether it's on Linwood: if you have a building you are renting out to people, you need to be responsible and people need to be responsible and when you find that you have tenants who are not, you need to be willing to spend the money to remove them."

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.