Piccirillo Mum on Shutdown of Facility as Owner Claims Action “Unjust”

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Santarosa Says Piccirillo “Looking for a Headline”


By: Tony Farina

Investigative Reporter

Seth Piccirillo is a one-man army for the City of Niagara Falls and acting on behalf of the administration, Piccirillo has declared war on a College Avenue repository for large cardboard bundles, the site of a fire on Aug. 6, issuing a cease and desist order that for the moment has shut down the facility and put 23 employees out of work.

Aaron Santarosa, the president of the Santarosa Group that owns the facility, is calling the city’s action unjust and a bullying tactic by an administration that is anti-business and suggesting somebody in the administration may have been looking for a headline.  Piccirillo did not return a phone call seeking comment.

“We were in full compliance [with city codes] and nobody got hurt and our employees and the Niagara Falls Fire Department did a terrific job containing the fire,” said Santarosa.  “This cease and desist letter was a tactic [by the city] to embarrass us publicly, and it is not pleasant.”

Piccirillo, the director of community development, also serves as acting building commissioner which includes being the city’s code enforcement officer.  He issued the cease-and-desist letter to Santarosa Holdings last Thursday, saying the company was in violation of numerous site plan conditions that made it difficult to extinguish the fire.


Niagara Falls Director of Community Development and Commissioner of Code Enforcement


Among the violations cited in the letter by Piccirillo was the failure to install a water supply/hydrant system. And also violations related to lighting, parking, landscaping and the failure to submit a $75,000 performance bond.

Piccirillo wears many hats for the administration, too many according to some insiders, and while Santarosa said his company is currently in talks with the city to get the facility up and running again, he suggested in a telephone interview on Monday that city officials singled out his business while ignoring the smoke-belching operation across the street from his plant, Globe Metallurgical.

“We’ve put $3 million into our facility,” said Santarosa, saying the opportunity to further develop his property into a world class data center and beyond is stalled by the lack of cooperation from the state and the city.

“We should be taking advantage of the low cost power that is available, but we’ve been stalled in our efforts,” said Santarosa, adding that despite the setbacks and current problems he has no plans to leave the city, insisting that he’s hopeful that things will work out in the current talks with the administration.

Santarosa certainly was not pleased with the lack of any notice from Piccirillo of any code problems in advance of the current situation, noting that at the time of the fire, the Niagara Falls Fire Department chief said publicly that the facility had been regularly inspected by the department and no safety problems had been identified.

Niagara Falls Councilman Ken Tompkins said Monday it may be too much for Piccirillo to serve two masters as building commissioner and director of community development, leaving the opportunity for a grey area when it comes to monitoring the entire city.

“I think code enforcement needs to be beefed up,” said Tompkins although he conceded that financial resources continue to be an issue in a cash-strapped city facing a more than $13 million deficit next year.

As for Piccirillo, many suggest he may be harboring mayoral ambitions next year if his boss, Mayor Paul Dyster, decides three terms is enough.  If Piccirillo is indeed eyeing a run for mayor, he should certainly be available to the media to explain his actions in a move that shuts down a tax-paying enterprise amid serious controversy about the lack of any warning to the facility.

As Santarosa suggested, his business should not be singled out for a headline when every effort has been made to operate in full compliance with city codes.  Piccirillo can and should respond.

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