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Prominent Falls Tourist Stop on City's Foreclosure List | News

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Prominent Falls Tourist Stop on City's Foreclosure List
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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - An assessment dispute has landed one of Niagara Falls' top tourist stops in the city's final foreclosure list.

The property in question is the old OxyChem building that sits right at the doorstep of the Falls. The facility is now the One Niagara Tourism Center, where thousands of visitors stop every year. It was once the planned site for the defunct Aqua Falls project, which became known as the infamous "hole in the ground."

According to city tax records, the building's owners owe the city and school district 1.6 million dollars in delinquent property taxes, dating back to 2006. They owe the county another 100-grand.

The Mayor says that One Niagara is making plenty of money, and has no reason not to pay up. If the owners don't, he says the building will be auctioned off in a matter of weeks.

"And I think people are resentful that an operation that seems to be taking in so much cash, including this 2011 tourist season, and it's found money for political contributions, doesn't find the money to pay its taxes like everyone else," Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said.

2 On Your Side spoke to Paul Grenga, the Managing Partner of One Niagara.'

REPORTER: You do look awfully busy, even when the weather is crummy. Why can't you come up with the money for the property taxes?

GRENGA: Well, in spite of the lack of assistance that we've got from the city, and the hundreds of hurdles that they threw in front of the development of this project, we are busy, and we are successful and we have the ability to pay the property taxes. What we have asked is that we pay a fair tax based on a fair assessment... To throw an exorbitant amount of money, based on a ridiculously high assessment at the city for it to deposit it in its black hole doesn't make any sense to us at all.

Grenga says only two floors in the building are essentially being used, yet the city is assessing it as though it's fully in use.

REPORTER: Is there anything the city can do to work with them so it doesn't come to this - foreclosure?

DYSTER: We've engaged in negotiations with them over a period of months. We've explored various unconventional options that they have suggested we might be able to offer them. We have not found that we have the legal latitude to do things they asked us to do.

Grenga guaranteed the city won't actually foreclose on the property, vowing to fight it in court.

GRENGA: And then we'll come up with a fair assessment, and at that point, we're happy to pay the taxes.

REPORTER: You will pay whatever the court decides is a fair assessment?

GRENGA: Yes we would.

In the unlikely event of a foreclosure, Mayor Dyster guaranteed the building would not become vacant, saying that the city would continue to rent out the space inside.

Grenga says One Niagara has made previous property tax payments to the city, and is actually suing for a partial refund, arguing it was over-charged.

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