News Column

One Seneca Tower building manager dismissed

February 27, 2014

By Jonathan D. Epstein, The Buffalo News, N.Y.



Feb. 27--Steve Fitzmaurice, the longtime chief operating officer and building manager for the former One HSBC Center, was let go this week along with two other employees, as Buffalo's tallest tower continues its trek through foreclosure.

Fitzmaurice, who has overseen the operations of what is now One Seneca Tower for over 16 years, confirmed he was laid off on Tuesday along with controller Judy Tallman and a part-time property accountant. The director of engineering and five building engineers are still on the job to maintain the facility.

Fitzmaurice said his dismissal was "sudden and unexpected," adding that he would have expected such a move in early January, after the lender first filed the foreclosure papers and after the court appointed a receiver for the building, not almost two months later.

"It's something that happens in foreclosure cases, but my understanding is it's something they would do right off the bat," he said.

Fitzmaurice and the other building workers were employed by Seneca One Realty, the New York City-based investment group that has owned the building for the past 10 years. With the filing of the foreclosure, however, the building and its finances are now overseen by the court and its receiver, whose job is to maintain the value of the facility that secures the $85 million loan. That includes funding for payroll, which was withdrawn for the three employees.

Richard Schechter, the court-appointed receiver, and a broker at Pyramid Brokerage Company of Buffalo, said the loan servicer that initiated the foreclosure "required that we terminate the relationship with Seneca One Realty."

"We're no longer funding that portion of the Seneca One Realty employment," he said. "It's unfortunate. They did a great job. It's just an unfortunate set of circumstances when you lose 95 percent of your tenants."

The layoffs do not affect the remaining tenants in the building, which is now 95 percent empty, Schechter stressed. He noted that the building engineers are still at work and Syracuse-based Widewaters will handle the building accounting.

"Nothing's really changed from a tenant standpoint," he said. "The heat's on. The water's on. The floors are cleaned. The elevators work. Everything is status quo from that perspective. We're accommodating the tenants who are there as best as we can and we are actively looking for more tenants."

Meanwhile, Schechter said the legal process continues. "The foreclosure proceeding is moving forward, and it'll still be a couple of months before we know anything," he said.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com

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Source: Buffalo News (NY)


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