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City forecloses on Gantt property

Updated: Monday, June 2 2014, 06:55 PM EDT

Rochester, N.Y. --- The City of Rochester now owns 489 Central Park. The property was purchased by New York State Assemblyman David Gantt in 1985, according to records on file with the Monroe County Clerk’s Office.

The property was seized in foreclosure proceedings after Gantt failed to pay $720.36 in property taxes that were nearly two years overdue. Gantt and his property were named on a “List of Delinquent Taxes” published in July 2013 and a lawyer for the City of Rochester explained that the designation applies to property owners who are more than a year overdue on their taxes.

The city’s lawyer said property owners would receive at least three such notices before foreclosure proceedings actually take place. Typically property owners can pay their back taxes right up until the day before the property goes to auction.

The auction for Gantt’s Central Park property occurred in April 2014 and the city filed paperwork at the clerk’s office on May 23, 2014 that listed 489 Central Park and about 200 other properties that the city now owns. A representative from the city’s real estate office said a determination about what to do with the property has not yet been made.

Demolition at the expense of taxpayers is a possibility.

Neighbors Describe 489 Central Park

"If he didn't want the house he should've just sold it," said Yolanda Richards who has lived on Central Park for 38 years and lives directly across the street from 489 Central Park. “He just let it go.”

Richards said the property has remained vacant for more than 20 years. She even recalls being hopeful that a friend might buy it off of Assemblyman Gantt.

"A friend of mine asked me about the house and I gave him David Gantt's phone number and told him to contact him,” Richards said about the encounter five years ago. “He came back two days later and said he (Gantt) wanted too much money.”

Richards and another neighbor told 13WHAM News how they have yelled at kids to get them away from the property and had to stop some from climbing the fire escape ladder. Another neighbor said he knows people who sneak inside the home and have sexual encounters or use drugs.

"It's a good neighborhood, it's a good street and abandoned houses like this contribute to crime and that's not good,” said neighbor Luis Santiago. "If I had a house like that I would've pretty much taken care of it…it doesn't look good, it's not good.”

"This house right now it's an embarrassment because it's on a main street a lot of people come around here and there's a lot of bad things that happen, a lot of fights a lot of gunshots,” said Miguel Lopez, 15, who said he saw a fight in the backyard of the property recently. “How (are) you going to have a great job but you're not going to keep your house in good shape? You might as well sell it to somebody that will keep it safe, keep it ship-shape.”

"I wonder why he couldn't afford to fix it,” said Richards. “He is supposed to be representing us and he's letting his house run down."

“Shame on you,” Richards said when asked what her message to Assemblyman Gantt would be. “Because if you’re there to represent the people, the little people, than you should set an example for what you're all about.”

Gantt & Mayor Asked To Respond

13WHAM contacted Assemblyman David Gantt’s Rochester and Albany offices asking for comment or an explanation about the 489 Central Park. Staff informed us Gantt was in Albany on Monday and our calls were not returned by Gantt or any representative of the office.

Failing to pay taxes on properties he owns has landed Gantt in the news before. In 2004 Gantt was late paying taxes for his Lyndhurst Street home.

"I think being a public official I am held to a higher standard,” Gantt told Channel 13 in 2004. “I don't mind that criticism, but I pay mine (taxes) as dutifully as I can."

489 Central Park is assessed at just $20,000 and Gantt’s tax debt is $720.36. Gantt earns about $80,000 in base salary as a New York State Assemblyman excluding additional compensation for assignments to various committees. In 2011 Gantt was allowed to legally “retire” and begin collection a pension of more than $71,000 each year in addition to collecting his salary as an Assemblyman. In state compensation alone Gantt annually collects more than $150,000.

13WHAM News also approached Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren for comment about the city foreclosing on a property because of a tax delinquent state lawmaker. Mayor Warren refused to comment on-camera and said “it’s not fair” that we were asking about this property “because I have a relationship with that person.”

Warren worked in Gantt’s Assembly Office for most of her professional career and has repeatedly pointed to Gantt as one of her mentors.

"Somebody didn't pay taxes, the property was foreclosed upon because somebody didn't pay taxes,” the Mayor responded when asked if she had any message to the community regarding property owners not paying their taxes. “You don't pay taxes in this city the property will be foreclosed upon."

City forecloses on Gantt property

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