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Niagara Falls Director of Community Development and Code Enforcement, Seth Piccirillo, who also happens to be running for Mayor, has been silent in the days after stories by the Buffalo News and Niagara Reporter regarding allegations of corruption with regard to a property giveaway.
As of the date of this article, there have been no response on Piccirillo’s Facebook page or website regarding the complaints made by the Memorial Parkway Block Club.
The link to the Buffalo News article can be found here: https://buffalonews.com/2019/04/14/memorial-parkway-residents-seek-investigations-of-falls-mayoral-candidate/
The story written by the Niagara Reporter expanding upon the allegations and including a background on all of the players involved can be read below.
By: Frank Parlato
Leaders of the Memorial Parkway Block Club sent complaints to state and federal officials about how Piccirillo, in his capacity as Niagara Falls Community Development Director, seems to be giving a sweetheart deal to a supporter on their street.
Piccirillo, who is appointed by Dyster, and is running for mayor with a promise to continue the policies of his leader, policies that led Niagara Falls to be the poorest city, with the highest crime rate, the highest taxes and the fastest-shrinking population in New York State.
Piccirillo said he did nothing wrong, of course. It was all in a day’s work to give 424 Memorial Parkway away to someone who would develop it. The only problem is the house was never developed.
And, on May 1, if Piccirillo has his way, the City Council will vote to pay the current owner, Karen Mock of Memorial Parkway, $10,000 to buy back the house so the city can give it away all over again.
This is extremely generous of Seth since they legally they don’t have to pay her a dime.
But Mock was a campaign supporter of Mayor Dyster, a member of his Healthy Community Committee and reportedly supports Piccirillo for mayor.
Under Piccirillo, the Community Development Department, offered 424 Memorial for sale through a special “home ownership auction,” in which the city required the buyer to renovate and live in the home.
In 2017, the city put the vacant 424 Memorial Parkway, a 3,100-square-foot, five-bedroom house, assessed for $48,000 up for sale. The property was in disrepair with broken and boarded-up windows.
The City received two bids: $7,000 from three brothers from Buffalo who wanted to spend their own money, fix it up and rent the property.
And a bid of $1,000 from a couple, Ryan Cali and Mathew Melcher.
In April 2017, at Seth’s urging, the city sold 424 Memorial Parkway to Ryan Cali and Matthew Melcher.
It was typical of Niagara Falls’ policies that the city rejected the higher bid of $7,000 and sold it for $1,000.
The couple claimed they would live in the house and Cali and Melcher got the house for $1,000.
As a condition of the low price, the city put in writing that the couple had one year to renovate the house or else the property would “revert” back to the city.
The couple did not fix the house. In fact, they broke up. And Melcher sold the house he got from the city for $1,000 to Karen Mock – the Dyster supporter – allegedly for $10,000.
Somehow, instead of enforcing the terms of the original contract – which prohibited the sale of the property – the city stood by as Melcher sold the property to Mock for 10 times what he paid for – at least that is what is shows on paper.
It is unknown if money actually changed hands.
This happened in December.
Seth not only allowed the illegal sale, he argued it was fine because Mock ’s son was going to live in the house.
As a strict point of law, Piccirillo wasn’t authorized to allow a private sale instead of having the city take back the property as required in the contract.
Now, after being exposed by the block club, Seth wants city taxpayers to pay Mock the $10,000 she allegedly paid for the house in the illegal sale.
Remember, the city sold the house for $1,000 and the seller illegally sold it – with Seth’s consent – and now Seth wants the city to pay the new owner – a Piccirillo supporter – $10,000.
The council will vote on it on May 1.
Ah, if only no one had been looking. But the Memorial Parkway Block Club sent complaints to the State Comptroller’s Office and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, demanding an investigation into Piccirillo’s alleged “inconsistencies.”
In reality, the city likely doesn’t have to pay Mock anything. She does not have a clean title.
The city has the right, as per the contract, to take back the property and pay nothing. The house was never repaired.
“We have not violated any of our procedures,” Piccirillo told the Buffalo News. “Unfortunately, it looks like we’re not going to be able to find a compromise and we’re going to have to go the route of the clawback.”
So why does Piccirillo want to give Mock $10,000 of taxpayer money?
Mock declined to answer questions about the case. “It’s being handled legally,” she said.
But this isn’t the first time that Piccirillo has given a sweetheart deal to Mock.
A few years ago, Seth arranged a city-owned Chilton Avenue apartment house be sold to Mock for $500.
She was then a volunteer member of Dyster’s Healthy Community Committee.
The Chilton Ave. property had an assessed value of $37,260. And came with a $40,000 reimbursable grant for renovations.
Before that Mock was able to purchase 435 Memorial Parkway for $500 from the city. The seven-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath brick structure had an assessed value of $44,047.
When Mock bought the Chilton property for $500, Ron Anderluh of the Niagara Street Area Business Association, characterized the price as “very, very low” while addressing members of the planning board.
“I have an interest in making the neighborhood better and making this city better because I live here,” Mock said at the time.
The Chilton property Mock purchased for $500 qualified for a $40,000 grant because it is in a two-street Historic District created by Dyster in 2009, which also includes Dyster’s own street, Orchard Parkway.
Mock was asked by Piccirillo to sit on the housing subcommittee of the Healthy Community Committee. Piccirillo said at the time that it was only natural that someone on Dyster’s committee should get the house.
“It doesn’t surprise me that someone involved in the group was interested in that vacant property,” he said. “But I don’t think there’s a headline —member gets a sweetheart deal — that’s really not the case.”
Meantime the Memorial Parkway Block Club thinks an investigation is warranted in the latest deal involving Mock.
Their letter to the HUD Inspector General – who has the ability to make a criminal referral to the FBI – charges, “False Representation, Mismanagement, Abuse of Authority, Conflicts of Interests” against Piccirillo.
“We would appreciate your investigation into this matter,” the Block Club wrote to authorities.