BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A former Catholic Church on Buffalo's East Side has fallen into a state of disrepair. Even though it's been abandoned for years, it's now part of the mayoral campaign.
Candidate Betty Jean Grant called out Mayor Byron Brown on Monday saying he isn't doing enough to fix the problem.
Grant is clearly using this as a campaign tool. She is running in the Democratic primary against Mayor Byron Brown and Mark Schroeder. So, at first we weren't sure if this was a story or just a campaign press conference, but once we got there, we saw the condition of the church. It's crumbling, and bushes are blocking the sidewalk.
"Look at the structure, you've got bricks falling. That's a hazard. That's a potential lawsuit for the City of Buffalo that does not need to happen. Also, one of two things, fix it up or tear it down. It's been like this for 20 years," says Grant.
St. Matthew's Church, at East Ferry and Moselle, closed in the 1990s. Grant says a private individual now owns it, and she's calling out the City and the Mayor for not taking action to secure the building.
Grant says she — along with her supporters who live in the neighborhood —have called City Hall and 311 several times and have gotten no response.
"As a county legislator, is there anything you could do before or now to help fix this problem?" asked 2 On Your Side’s Kelly Dudzik.
"Well, this isn't even my legislative district. My district starts one block going north. But because I'm a people person, because I believe that all people should be represented by good representatives, I step in where there's a void. And the void has been a lack of attention to this building, to the streets, to the potholes," says Grant.
We contacted the Mayor and Schroeder to give them a chance to respond and also to ask them what they would do to fix the church property and other properties in need of repair on the East Side.
“I'm going to be in the neighborhood devising a plan with the neighborhood to do something about these vacant buildings and these parcels that can be developed into helping the neighborhood," said Schroeder.
"Does it fall on the city even if a private owner owns the building to come in and condemn it and to secure it?" asked Dudzik.
"It does to a degree because then it becomes a public safety issue, and so that would be under Safe Streets in my plan. And so, you would have to have cooperation from the inspections department in City Hall and also the Police Department," says Schroeder.
We asked Mayor Brown's spokesperson if we could speak with the mayor about this. We wanted to know who owns the building and why it appears the city hasn't done anything to clear the sidewalks or secure the building.
The mayor was not made available, and we were told the church is not owned by the city and that the case will be in housing court next month.