Newberry Square building owner fined $20K over codes

Village Justice Richard Hamm on Tuesday ordered Newberry Square building owner Charalambos “Harry” I

Village Justice Richard Hamm on Tuesday ordered Newberry Square building owner Charalambos “Harry” Ioannou to pay a $20,000 fine for violating a property maintenance code by not adequately repairing broken storefront windows on the Main Street landmark.

“Mr. Ioannou, you remind me of the Frank Sinatra song ‘My Way,’ ” Hamm said before handing down his sentence.

The long-running case is apparently not over, however. Ioannou has vowed to appeal his conviction, and village Code Enforcement Officer Michael Piccolo said Tuesday that Ioannou is now in violation of rules governing the village Historic District, which could bring new charges.

Ioannou was convicted by a village jury Aug. 6 of violating a code requiring windows and frames to be kept “secure and weathertight.”

After a three-hour trial, he was found innocent of a second charge relating to keeping glass intact.

The three sidewalk-facing, plate-glass windows were shattered the night of March 1. A police investigation has so far uncovered no explanation for how they were broken.

Ioannou covered the gaping spaces on the mostly vacant building’s facade with unpainted waferboard wood sheets a few days after they were broken.

Saying he couldn’t afford the approximately $3,500 cost of replacing the windows, Ioannou removed the waferboard after his Aug. 6 conviction and placed sturdier plywood over the three approximately 71⁄2-by-91⁄2-foot window areas and painted the plywood gray.

He continued to contend Tuesday that the plywood and other framing secures the building from entry and complies with state property maintenance codes.

Before entering court, Ioannou showed a reporter photos of several other buildings in Cobleskill and other communities that have plywood covering openings.

But because Historic District regulations require any exterior changes to be approved by the district’s review commission, “he’s in violation of the Historic District regulations,” Piccolo said after Tuesday’s court session.

As Ioannou left the courtroom without commenting on his sentence, Piccolo gave him an application and copy of the Historic District rules.

“He said [the plywood] is only temporary until the building is sold,” according to Piccolo.

“I’ll give him 30 days. If he doesn’t comply, I will cite him,” Piccolo said.

Hamm gave Ioannou six months to pay the $20,000 fine. “If it’s not paid, there could be jail time,” the judge told him in handing down the sentence.

Neither Ioannou nor his attorney, Edward Wildove, commented on the sentence Tuesday, but Wildove said he plans to appeal Ioannou’s conviction to Schoharie County Court.

The sentence was not the maximum $148,000 fine requested Tuesday by Village Attorney Meredith Savitt, but Savitt said she was “very satisfied” with the outcome.

“We want the property [maintenance] law to be complied with,” she said.

“There is absolutely no excuses or justification,” for Ioannou’s actions, Savitt told the judge.

In asking Hamm for the maximum $148,000 fine, Savitt said the allowable $1,000 per day penalty was calculated from March 24, when Ioannou indicated he had repair estimates.

Savitt requested the “maximum fine be payable within 30 days … if not, we leave it to the court’s discretion to calculate jail time.”

Wildove called Savitt’s demand for a $148,000 fine “outrageous … and counterproductive.”

He said Ioannou could not afford to pay that and it would lead to further deterioration of the downtown building.

“That’s almost as much as the building is worth,” Wildove told the judge.

The three-story brick building is currently assessed at $140,000, including the 0.3 acres on which it sits, according to county property records.

It is listed for sale for $699,000. Ioannou’s corporation, Newberry Square LLC, bought the building June 4, 2002, for $155,000, according to county records.

“He’s not a criminal,” Wildove said, noting that Ioannou has made efforts to secure the window areas with sturdier wood and that the jury did not uphold the allegation that he needed to keep the glass intact.

During the trial, Hamm refused to allow an attempt by Wildove to introduce another section of state codes that Ioannou contends the plywood coverings comply with.

“He tried to make the building more secure … so the windows wouldn’t be broken again,” Wildove said in court Tuesday.

Earlier this month, the Village Board approved paying a grant writer $4,500 to seek funds under the state’s Restore NY program to rehabilitate the 137-year-old building to help revitalize the downtown business district.

A potential developer is reportedly interested, according to local officials, if funding assistance is available.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply