[Hpn] Herkimer officials getting tough with lot owner

William Charles Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Wed, 16 Aug 2006 02:41:09 -0400


Herkimer officials getting tough with lot owner

By JESSICA ARSENAULT - Telegram Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2006

HERKIMER - Village officials are giving up on peaceful and informal attempts 
to get the ruins of a North Main Street building cleaned up.

Last February, Great Rentals and John's Upholstery burned to the ground, 
leaving two businesses temporarily out of business and leaving three 
families temporarily homeless. Six months later, the lot at 109 N. Main St., 
which housed John's Upholstery, remains a pile of charred rubble that is 
causing a headache for village officials.

The lot that formerly housed Great Rentals, owned by local Castle 
Enterprises, was promptly cleaned up, barely two months after the tragedy. 
Lot 109, owned by Queens County resident Panneer Kulasekaran, remains an eye 
sore for village residents and officials.

Initially officials attempted to contact Kulasekaran informally, asking him 
to clean up the mess. While he repeatedly assured those calling that he was 
working on it and the cite would soon be cleared, Kulasekaran has yet to 
even begin the clean up process, said Village Attorney Nicholas Macri.

Adding to the belief that Kulasekaran was indeed working on cleaning it up, 
his attorney, also from the Queens County area, called Herkimer's village 
offices a number of times earlier this summer, asking for names and phone 
numbers of possible clean up crews, Mayor Mark Ainsworth said.

But nothing has ever come from any of the phone calls.

"He could have had the place cleaned up a lot cheaper a long time ago by the 
same crew that was cleaning up Castle Enterprises' building because they 
were there anyway," Macri said. "But he chose not to and now it will cost a 
lot more and he says he can't afford it."

In June, Codes Enforcer Dave Kuehnle sited Kulasekaran on several codes 
violations including New York Fire Codes 108-1 and 108-1.3 which address 
unsafe structures and structures that are deemed hazardous and not fit for 
human occupancy, Kuehnle said.

Kuehnle previously said he sent Kulasekaran four letters asking him to clean 
up the site, all of which were ignored.

The matter was turned over to police who issued a summons for a June 27 
court date. That summons was sent to the Queens County Sheriff's Department 
to be served. As far as Macri knows, however, that summons was never served 
and Kulasekaran did not show up for court.

Now village officials will make a more aggressive attempt at persuading 
Kulasekaran to clean up his property. Macri informed the village board last 
night that he plans to have Ainsworth and Kuehnle sign an affidavit and hire 
an independent agency to serve Kulasekaran with a court summons. Macri will 
seek a reverse injunction from the Herkimer County Supreme Court calling for 
Kulasekaran to "cease and desist allowing an unhealthy and dangerous 
situation to persist within the village."

A court injunction is an order for someone to do something or a prohibition 
against an action. A reverse injunction is an order to stop doing something. 
In Kulasekaran's case, the reverse injunction will order that he stop 
leaving his property as it is, meaning he must clean it up.

An Affidavit is a written document in which the signers swear before a 
notary public or someone authorized to take oaths (like a county clerk), 
that the statements in the document are true. For Ainsworth and Kuehnle, the 
affidavit they sign will include statements and details of their attempts to 
make Kulasekaran clean up the property as well as their belief that he was 
moving toward that end by his false representations of himself.

Those filings will cost $600, a far cry from the up to $30,000 it would cost 
the village to clean up the ruins itself.

"Best case scenario, (Herkimer County Supreme Court) Judge (Michael) Daley 
will order him to clean it up," Macri explained. "If he still does not, he 
will be in contempt of court and could be jailed. The threat of jail time is 
enough to scare most people into action."

That process will begin this week as officials sincerely hope to get the 
problem fixed as soon as possible and at latest, before snow falls.

"We want this thing expedited," Ainsworth said. "It's creating an eye sore 
and a hazard for residence. He's had plenty of time to take care of this 
thing but he hasn't."

"It's pity it has to come to this but we've tried everything else," Trustee 
Gary Hartman added. "It's time we show him we're serious."