NY town pressures property owner to remove fire-ravaged building

PORT HENRY, N.Y. (WCAX) Authorities say they are concerned a Port Henry building damaged in a fire two months ago could be a danger to the community, but the owner has so far resisted tearing it down.

The once historic building was gutted by fire over two months ago. It's now an eyesore and the town wants its taken down immediately.

Videos posted to Facebook show crews battling flames coming out of the old historic building and getting all tenants out safely.

"It was up in flames, it was it was completely up in flames," said Tyler Floriom, a Port Henry resident.

What remains of the building is still sitting on the corner of St. Patrick and Main Streets. The roof is caved in and you can see the charred rubble covering the sidewalk.

"It's really terrible because it's tying up the parking too. They had to block off a lot of parking. If you see where the cones are, it's blocking a lot of property," Floriom said.

Port Henry is a hamlet to the town of Moriah, and the town says it has boarded up the windows, blocked off the sidewalks and converted two streets to one-ways to keep people from walking too close to the building.
The town board has said it's time to bring this building down and that it's become a safety hazard for those walking and working around it. But the cost of tearing it down could fall on taxpayers.

The town says it has tried to work with property owner Greg Cunningham to have the building removed. They said the original plan was to take the top floor off and leave the bottom structure standing. "We prefer to see the owner of this property do what he says he is going to do, but we can't wait," said Town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava. He says it's expensive to take a building down, and town would need to file liens against the property
to recoup its money.

"The tax base is already expensive, and to add that burden, I think they should go after the guy that owns the property," said Jenny Ahmed, a Port Henry resident.

Scozzafava says the town is planning on suing Cunningham. "We don't have any choice. It's not something we want to do. We want to work with the owners of this property, but we are not getting the cooperation that we need," he said.

Efforts to reach Greg Cunningham for comment were unsuccessful.