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Judge Urges Episcopal Church Home to Look After Dilapidated Property

Neighbors of the Episcopal Church Home on Busti Avenue complain that the church is neglecting the property and leaving it open to vandalism while it awaits a payoff from New York State and the Public Bridge Authority.

Former City Councilman Al Coppola put on a photographic show in City Housing Court last week. Two sets of photos. One on the vandalism and dilapidation of the abandoned Episcopal Church Home on Busti Avenue, and another depicting the dapper current Episcopal facility in Williamsville.

The previous week, area residents staged a small guerrilla theater performance at the abandoned facility that included supplying their own chain and lock to secure the perimeter fence gate that had been found unsecured and open.

Reports on the imminent sale of the property to the State of New York, which would then presumably turn it over to the Peace Bridge administration, which wants it for erection of a larger Duty Free store, have been bruited for the past six months or so, but no sale has occurred, and it is unknown when it might occur, Episcopal Church Home CEO Rob Wallace told Housing Court Judge Patrick M. Carney when Carney questioned him on the matter.

(Nor, by the way, has any substantial rationale ever been offered why the State of New York should be putting up money to buy property for the Peace Bridge administration.)

The judge seemed to be losing patience with the Episcopal Church Home people in the wake of the fence gate episode. Apparently, the neighborhood residents, after securing the gate, attempted to turn the key over to Judge Carney, who refused to accept it. They then made the trek to Williamsville and found Wallace and turned the key over to him.

Coppola’s photographs of the Busti Avenue property showed numerous broken and broken-out windows, and graffiti on exterior walls as high as the third floor. Also, interior dilapidation, including fallen ceiling light fixtures and tiles.

Without denying the veracity of the dilapidation, Episcopal Church Home attorney Paul Taylor accused Coppola of having entered the building to take the interior pictures. Coppola said no, he had not entered any building, but took the pictures through one of the broken-out windows. Judge Carney seconded Coppola’s version. He said Al Coppola was “too old to be crawling in windows.”

Coppola asked why, in light of the diligent care and maintenance that is obviously bestowed on the Williamsville property, the Episcopal Church Home couldn’t have a maintenance worker check on the Busti property at least once a day. The Episcopal Church Home representatives averred that such frequent visitations to the Busti property would be infeasible. Judge Carney was not convinced. Short of issuing a direct court order, he urged the Episcopal home representative to have one of their maintenance people stop by the Busti property on a daily basis. “I’ll buy him coffee,” the judge said.

Coppola pointed out that the Episcopal Church Home owes some $550,000 in unpaid city back taxes on the property.

Area resident Kathy Mecca asked about “Plan B,” if for some reason the projected sale to the state does not occur. There seems to be no Plan B.

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