HERKIMER — The H.M. Quackenbush buildings on North Prospect and North Main streets are unsafe and not to be occupied, according to an order that has been posted in several places on the structures.
The order, signed by Whitney Russell, assistant director of the inspection unit of the New York State Department of State Division of Buildings and Codes, states the buildings are in violation of the Uniform Code in that there are unsecured doors, openings and windows, accumulations of combustible materials inside and overgrown weeds around the building. Posters with the letter “X” appear near the notices with “NYS DOS 4/2/2018” printed on the borders of the signs.
The order cites a State Supreme Court decision that ruled the Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency is the owner of the property and that the New York State Department of State is responsible for enforcing the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code with respect to the buildings.
The IDA currently is in the appeals process on the latest court decision regarding the property, Herkimer County IDA Executive Director John Piseck said. He did not have a court date yet.
“We’d like to have closure on it,” he said.
State Supreme Court Justice Erin P. Gall’s decision stated that the IDA is responsible for unpaid water rents on the Quackenbush property but that the village does not have the authority to enforce its building codes on the buildings. Property ownership and the unpaid water rents have been the subjects of litigation between the village and IDA for years.
Attorney Michael Longstreet, who has been representing the village in the matter, told the village board
in February that the balance owed on water rents for the property totaled more than $2.3 million at that time including penalties and interest.
IDA officials have maintained that the agency’s ownership of the property is in name only and dates back to when the IDA extended a sales tax benefit to the company. The IDA, which is tax exempt, was left with the parcels after the owner filed for bankruptcy.
In 2016, the village served the IDA with an order to remedy followed by appearance tickets for fire and building code violations on the Quackenbush property. After the court ruled the village did not have the authority to enforce the codes, Fire Chief and Codes Officer John Spanfelner said he contacted the Department of State and was advised to send officials there the information he had collected on the property.