Code case goes to court

Village Justice Richard Hamm on Monday gave the owner of the dilapidated Newberry Square building on
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Village Justice Richard Hamm on Monday gave the owner of the dilapidated Newberry Square building on Main Street until May 12 to get a lawyer and return to court in response to a village order that he repair three large storefront windows that were mysteriously smashed March 1.

Hamm was about to sign a warrant for the arrest of Charalambos “Harry” Ioannou, when Ioannou arrived at court about 40 minutes late to answer a village building code citation Monday,

After his brief court appearance, Ioannou, of Charlton, said his limited liability corporation that owns the building can’t afford repairs. He said the brick building was put up for sale about two weeks ago, but declined to give the asking price or broker.

After consulting with state court officials, Hamm said he denied Ioannou’s request for a court-appointed lawyer.

Meanwhile, village Code Enforcement Officer Michael Piccolo is continuing to seek compliance with the law requiring owners to maintain their buildings, or face criminal action.

A conviction could result in fines of up to $1,000 per day the violation continues, according to Hamm. Jail time is also possible under the misdemeanor charge.

The condition of the 584 Main St. building has been a sore point for years with village officials, community groups and business operators seeking to revitalize downtown.

It is within the village historic district, which requires approval by the Historic District Review Commission for changes that alter the exterior’s appearance.

Commission Chairwoman Sandy Poole said she was in court Monday to “show support for Mike [Piccolo].”

“It’s just such a blight on the downtown,” said Poole, a local Realtor. Ioannou claimed village restrictions hindered local businesses.

“The majority of people who want to do business in the downtown area … they just get out,” Ioannou said.

“They can’t deal with all this historic mumbo-jumbo,” he said.

Piccolo said he cited Ioannou on March 3 and gave him 10 days to fix the approximately 6-by-8-foot plate-glass windows. Except for large sheets of particle board that were installed, no apparent repairs have been made.

“There is no money to fix the windows,” Ioannou said Monday.

Ioannou, doing business as Newberry Square LLC, has owned the building and parking lot since June 2002, according to county records.

It was purchased for $155,000 and is now assessed at $140,000.

“I’m the owner of the corporation … if there’s no money for the corporation, what am I going to do,” he said. Ioannou said the building is not covered by any insurance. He said just replacing the three windows would cost about $3,500.

After several shops left after brief stays over the past year or so, the only remaining tenant is ARC of Schoharie County.

Local ARC director Tony Alvarez said Monday the nonprofit group has rented several rooms for about five years for a program serving about 14 senior citizens with developmental disabilities.

Although he said the landlord has kept the ARC rooms in repair and they meet state program requirements, “we’ve had problems with the roof leaking into the hallways.” He said ARC is seeking another location.

Alvarez said he was not aware the building was not insured, but added “our space is covered under our own insurance.”

Piccolo said Ioannou left him a note saying he was waiting for police to finish their investigation.

Police still have no leads on what happened to the windows the night of March 1, village Police Chief Michael O’Brien said Monday.

“It’s still an open case,” he said. “We do not have any information that it is definitely a criminal incident,” O’Brien said. “It is a very strange situation,” O’Brien said.

“There were no footprints [in the snow] …  no stones in the area, we just don’t know,” O’Brien said.

Any suspect would face felony criminal mischief charges, the chief said.

“Whether the investigation is complete or not he’s responsible to do the repair,” Piccolo said.

Ioannou suggested Monday that “someone in government probably broke them,” but declined to identify whom that might be.

“A government official said he’s going to be my worst nightmare,” Ioannou said, without identifying the person he said told him that.

“It was a criminal act inflicted on the building,” he said. “Where is the help for crime victims?”

Property records show Ioannou and/or his wife, Christiana, own at least seven other properties in Schoharie County. Those properties, in Middleburgh and Richmondville, are mostly listed as vacant land or farms totaling about 426 acres and assessed for a total of $527,146.

Categories: Schenectady County

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