[Hpn] Herkimer officials getting tough with lot owner
William Charles Tinker
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."