BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Efforts to reopen a corner store at 271 Ludington Street in Buffalo’s Lovejoy neighborhood have hit a brick wall and landed in court.
Ahmed Jmaii submitted a license application with the city to operate a food store at the location.
Lovejoy council member Richard Fontana admits he put the brakes on the idea because of issues in the past under different management.
“This location he’s trying to open up is a bee’s nest,” Fontana tells News 4.
“I said no. I said save your money. Don’t spend cash. Find another location because this location is toxic and people don’t want to see a store here,” Fontana added.
Jmaii has taken the city to court — asking that his application go through the proper channels for review.
“I met with Mr. Fontana and he acknowledged that he did that. He said this is not going through. We’re not going to approve this. And all we’re asking that it go through to the council,” said Thomas Keefe, Jmaii’s attorney.
Fontana says the corner store has had a history under different management, and that the city pulled the license last year because of problems.
Representing the city, Assistant Corporation Counsel Rashied McDuffie argued in court that the application process starts with the permits and inspections, and then moves to the police and fire departments for review.
“They should follow the process and when the City of Buffalo receives the application, it will go through its review. It will potentially get to the council for a final and ultimate decision,” McDuffie explained in court.
But Jmaii’s attorney says his client submitted an application, and that he was told to get approval by Fontana as a starting point.
“From a due process standpoint, his reasons maybe reasons that are sound and appropriate for him, but we feel that we’ve done everything that we were supposed to do, but we got short-circuited by having this application stopped by Councilman Fontana,” Keefe said in court.
State Supreme Court Justice Catherine Nugent-Panepinto expressed concern with the process that Jmaii finds himself navigating at City Hall — saying there needs to be a “spirit of cooperation.”
“I just need some assurance that if he goes over and tried to restart this process, and I’m not sure exactly how he does that, but that there’s not going to be any action taken to stop him because then you’re going to end up back in here, and it will seem arbitrary and capricious to not allow somebody to go through the steps that the city has laid out,” Nugent-Panepinto said.
She has given the city and the license applicant 60 days to restart the process and get the balling rolling.
Ultimately, the common council will have the final say on whether to grant a license to reopen the Lovejoy store.