At last month's Common Council Legal Committee meeting, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee, announced his intention to invite Richard Cohen, the owner of the buildings on the northeast corner of Warren and Fourth streets, to come to the next Legal Committee meeting to discuss the current condition of the buildings and explain his plans. The term being bandied about at the time was "demolition by neglect."
Cohen was present at the Legal Committee meeting on Wednesday night. Earlier in the day, he had met with assistant city attorney Dan Tuczinski and code enforcement officer Craig Haigh. At the Legal Committee meeting, Tuczinski reviewed the situation at the site: there are questions of public safety; the project is out of compliance with city code; no working plans for the building that have been filed with the code enforcement office or approved by the Historic Preservation Commission or the Planning Board. Tuczinski reported that the City had requested a letter from a structural engineer attesting that the site was safe. Tuczinski also indicated that a building permit was needed for the work now being done at the site, and Cohen had to present the "ultimate plans" for the site to the appropriate City regulatory agencies. "Time is of the essence," said Tuczinski. "It starts with the building office."
When Friedman asked if there was anything he wanted to add, Cohen said that the stabilization process, which he said had taken five years, was almost complete. He predicted that it would be done by the end of September. He indicated that the facade of 8 North Fourth Street would be "completely dismantled" but made assurances that "we are keeping whatever materials we can."
When asked if he had a plan for "what ultimately will be there," Cohen's response was only that they would be rebuilding the wall at 10 North Fourth Street.
Friedman concluded, "It sounds like everybody's talking, which they were not before." He asked Haigh to prepare a report for the Legal Committee and then declared the project "off the Legal Committee's agenda for now."
Rumor has it that Cohen was recently offered for the buildings an amount, in cash, that most of us could only hope for if we won the lottery, and he turned it down.
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