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Going … gone


OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino. The 300 block of Central Avenue.

Six properties in downtown Dunkirk have a new owner, but not an unfamiliar one.

Promptly at 11 a.m. Tuesday, the public auction for 324-330, 332, 334-336, 338 and 609 Central Ave. and 605 Lark St. began at Chautauqua County Court with a reading of the legal terms for the auction by referee Arc J. Petricca, a lawyer from Buffalo.

The properties were put to public auction after the owner, the United Secular American Center for the Disabled Inc., defaulted on its mortgage with the trust of Robert K. Lesser and a complaint of commercial foreclosure was filed in late November. The court passed a judgment of foreclosure in June. The estimated amount owed was set at $470,378.77 plus interest and costs.

Several interested parties attended the auction, including investors Richard Morrisroe of Lackawanna and Chris Williams of Tonawanda, Central Station Owner Kathleen Dennison, and Lesser’s sons James Best of Pound Ridge, N.Y., and Stanton Lesser of Connecticut.

Petricca first asked for bids on the six parcels as one lot. The trust, represented by Phillips Lytle of Rochester attorney Richard Evans, entered an opening bid of $480,000. No other bids followed.

OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino. The Stearns Building, 324-330 Central Ave.

Under the rules of the auction, separate parcels would be put out to auction, but bids would only be awarded if the aggregate exceeded the bid for the whole lot. There were no bids, but since Dennison had expressed interest in 332 Central Ave. and Morrisroe is looking for a storefront for his law practice, Stanton Lesser and Best said they would speak to them during their tour of the buildings that afternoon. Dunkirk Development Director Rebecca Yanus was also on hand to offer assistance filling the downtown storefronts with new small businesses.

Best, an architect, said they plan to fix up the properties.

“Should we keep the buildings, which it seems like we are, we’ve told everybody that we will keep them in pristine condition and do whatever it takes to renovate the buildings as necessary.

“We already authorized work to be done on the roof because there were problems there, even without owning it. We have no intention of letting it get run down,” he said. There are “for lease” signs in all of the empty storefront windows.

Evans told the OBSERVER, from this point the referee will prepare the deed and it will be recorded in the Chautauqua County Clerk’s Office within 30 days.

OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino. 609 Central Avenue.

Prior to the meeting, Sharif Rahman, president of the center, attempted to stop the auction because a notice of appeal had been filed. Evans explained that only a court order could stop the auction or subsequent deed process, however, the process to perfect an appeal can take up to nine months and is also costly and arduous.

“Many file notices of appeal are filed, those who perfect them are far less,” he said.

The center — a nonreligious, nonpolitical not-for-profit based out of New Jersey with a mission of helping individuals with disabilities, especially those who do not speak English — also purchased the former Ehler’s building at 400 Central Ave., and the former School 10 at 201 Lake Shore Drive E. in July 2016. However, those properties are not a part of this process.

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