By ALISSA SCOTT
Recorder News Staff
The mortgage of a Grove Street property that an out-of-town man purchased last week is proving to be a bigger investment than he imagined.
Bala Peri bought the mortgage of the former Park Hill Adult Home, 52 Grove Street, from the bank for $175,000 from his home computer in Leesburg, Virginia. The foreclosure should go through within six days, he said, making him the rightful owner.
"When I bought it, I didn't know about the building," Peri admitted. "I was thinking of it as an investment."
He soon discovered that the property holds immense back taxes and that there are several penalties in conjunction. The structural equivalent of those fees is also displayed throughout the building in stolen copper plumbing, a rotted roof and black mold "growing wild" throughout one wing, the main contractor said.
Rick Boyer, of Upstate Construction, said he and his crew have taken precautions with the roof, which has collapsed, and restored 90 percent of the outlets and water to the backyard. Peri, after visiting his new property, said he also started removing truckfuls of trash and sorting patient files for the state to pick up.
"The plumbing is definitely our biggest challenge," said Boyer, whom Perri appointed as maintenance manager of the building.
Vandals broke into the building during the years it was vacant and stole just about $10,000 worth of copper piping, coils within the radiators, and even the building's main boiler. To replace the equipment, Boyer said it may run Peri about $80,000 including labor.
"I don't want to lose this property," Peri said. "All the wood work is so beautiful. ... I was planning to buy the building as an investment before knowing about the property, but once I saw the building, I realized it is a treasure of Amsterdam."
The majority of the three-floor, 52-room structure's wood work and carpeting is intact. A large fireplace saw little-to-no damage, Boyer said. Even with all the work that needs to be done, Peri said he considers the 24,000-square-foot property a "beautiful mansion."
"It's still a huge expense," Peri said. "The thing is, I'm happy to come here, but the city charges 24 percent interest for the taxes due. Twenty-four percent is so huge. Even the credit card company doesn't charge that."
Peri said he tried to negotiate with the city, requesting it waives the $60,000 penalties or offer him aid in the almost $200,000 he owes in back taxes, but he said city officials couldn't help him. Because of the business and employment he will offer the city once the building is complete, Peri said he deserves some help.
"They are not helping me out at all," Peri said. "It's disappointing. ... I already spent about $10,000 in the city and they are getting business from me. Definitely I'll be spending in the city more than $800,000 after fully restoring it on employment and maintaining the building. I don't know why the city isn't looking at that."
Community and Economic Development Director Robert von Hasseln, one of the city officials Peri has been working with, said waiving his property taxes is illegal, but they are still willing to help him out.
"I admire the guy's interest," von Hasseln said. "We're certainly doing everything we can to help him from a preliminary stage, even before he actually owns the building. But, there are certain things we can't do legally and other things that will depend on where exactly he is in terms of his business plan, his concept and his status with the city in terms of fines and penalties and user fees."
Within those fees, there may be some Peri can bring before the Common Council to try to remove, like water, sewer and garbage. Those fees have accumulated over the years because noone officially told the city the facility was no longer in use.
Peri said he intends to preserve the original intent of the building -- a senior home. However, that requires a license and can take 18 months to receive. During that time, to generate income to pay the back taxes and penalties, Peri said he wants to work with the Disabled American Veterans and the Department of Social Services to rent out rooms to those in need.
Working with the Department of Health to obtain a license to run a nursing home can be tough on a deadline, von Hasseln said, and as far as a bed and breakfast, he doubts it would stand up to the Amsterdam Castle or any other area B&Bs. However, a youth or bicycle hostel may just be what the city needs.
"You're right near the Erie hike and bike way," von Hasseln said he told Peri. "They're not looking for elaborate, fancy feather beds in each room. They're looking for cots and a nice area they can assemble, play games, watch TV, eat, that kind of stuff. You've got that."
Peri said he's just interested in "giving a boost to the city" and will do so at whatever cost.
"I want to give quality to the people so that's definitely going to benefit the city," Peri said. "If I make it as a bed and breakfast, and if I give people quality, people will love to come to Amsterdam again."
Neither Peri nor Boyer were able to pinpoint a projected date of completion, Boyer adding he still needs to inspect the entirety of the building's damage.
Peri said, "if everything works out," he is looking to retire to Amsterdam in the next year or so.