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Land deals questioned as city's BNRC faces dissolution

Mike Desmond

Buffalo's Common Council president is raising questions about land deals by an agency City Hall is trying to dissolve.

The Council has been asked to dissolve the Buffalo Neighborhood Revitalization Corporation. The paperwork sent to councilmembers says the agency established to provide funding for housing rehab for low- to moderate-income residents "has not convened a formal meeting in some time and lacks proper transparency, oversight and management."

Council President Darius Pridgen says he discovered that even while the agency was being dissolved, city Real Estate Director John Hannon was transferring property from the BNRC without Council approval. Pridgen cited the deal for the middle of Iroquois Place, between Broadway and William Street in the city's Willert Park neighborhood.

"Former alleyway off of Broadway. It still has city stop signs and the middle of it was sold to a business," Pridgen says. "There was no notification to the city. The other businesses that abut this property just came out one day and the alleyway was blocked off with trucks, on purpose, so that no one could go through the alley to get to the other side."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Records in the Erie County Clerk's office list that land transfer as taking place October 23, 2917. Six other BNRC land deals have continued since then, including one just last week. Pridgen says these deals are not supposed to be secret.

"Absolutely against what the city's Real Estate Department is supposed to do," he says. "When the city's Real Estate Department is involved in a transaction, it has to come through this Common Council. If not, then any 501(c)(3) could just come up and say we want you to sell our property for us. It cannot occur. It should not occur. BNRC should be dissolved, yesterday."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

He wants more information on the non-profit.

"Cloudy on whether the city has them all on MLS or not," Pridgen says, "and at the end of the day, after this situation, I've asked for a full listing of every piece of property this city and sub-agencies have, because we should know and we should know what's happening with it. Where's it in the process? Will it be sold? Is it being held for other development?"

The Mayor's office had no immediate comment, saying it would check with officials and records.

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.