Boycott the Peace Bridge!

The Episcopal Church Home, represented for most Buffalonians for over a century by the iconic landscape of the Hutchinson Chapel and Thornton Memorial Hall, is under imminent threat of demolition. The chapel, Thornton Hall, and the landscape, an island of tranquility in the shadow of the Peace Bridge, was designated a City of Buffalo landmark in 1980. The Public Bridge Authority (PBA) and politicians, right up to the governor’s office, have long salivated over the prospect of increased payments into PBA coffers from Duty-Free sales.

 

The proposal to demolish the Episcopal Church Home (ECH), as well as a row of historic houses on Busti Avenue, is being driven exclusively, PBA documents show, to build a massive Duty-Free complex big enough to accommodate a feared diesel fueling station for tractor trailers and a gas station for cars. Lieutenant Governor Duffy parachuted into town on short notice on August 24th to announce the Cuomo Administration’s latest effort to facilitate the plaza expansion. The Campaign for Greater Buffalo has filed suit in state court to block the demolitions, and also opposes the demolition of the ECH.

Henry Osgood Holland, a Buffalo architect best-known for his Temple Beth-El on Richmond Avenue, designed Thornton Memorial Hall and its accompanying landscape in 1903-05. The building was named for Thomas Thornton, a local notable who was deeply involved in the “Church Charity Foundation.” Thornton Hall, Hutchinson Chapel and their setting are not only a beautiful design, but also a historic reminder of the importance of religious organizations before government care existed for the indigent.

Once officially transferred to the Public Bridge Authority, these landmarks will likely be bulldozed by a careless lot of businessmen in expensive suits, who seem unconcerned about the future of the neighborhood! They will then encircle the 1895 Hutchinson Memorial Chapel with giant cement walls and a ramp to the new Duty-Free store they hope to build.


But before the real estate deal closes between the State of New York and the Episcopal Church Home (ECH), numerous people came forward at City Housing Court on Thursday to address the issues on the site. Campaign for Greater Buffalo (C4GB) Executive Director Tim Tielman, representing the City of Buffalo Preservation Board, requested that Judge Carney allow the Board access to the City-landmarked Thornton building, due to potential code violations. They were denied that access after a tour of the Hutchinson Memorial Chapel in late July, which was to assess the condition of the structure. C4GB Special Projects Assistant Dana Saylor researched the properties this summer, and confirmed that indeed, both were granted City Landmark status in 1980. Carney ordered that access be granted.

 

Carney ordered the ECH to comply with the fire code and restore the sprinkler system at the site. It had been cut off, presenting a hazard to the buildings and neighborhood. Neighborhood residents, and board members of the C4GB, present at court, voiced concerns over blossoming graffiti, vandalism, and a lack of site maintenance by the ECH management. C4GB attorney Richard Berger clarified the urgency, stating that as soon as the State of New York or other entity completes the purchase, it will be out of City court jurisdiction. The PBA has a poor record of maintaining their properties, as evidenced by the row of historic homes on Busti Ave that they have allowed to languish, even helped along with recent “asbestos abatement” damage. City Inspector Michael Muscarella is working with ECH officials to ensure compliance with codes. Should they fail to do as they are required by the court, certainly there will be pressure from not only the neighbors and preservation groups, but Judge Carney as well.

Saylor vowed that the C4GB would continue its vigorous efforts to protect the landmarks. The PBA’s decades-long refusal to compromise is hampering the potential for neighborhood revitalization and heritage-driven economic development. Historic sites such as the Darwin D. Martin House, Canalside, and the Richardson Center (at which renovation has not yet been completed) draw huge international tourism crowds. We must recognize the importance of these landmarks for the public and the betterment of Buffalo, and preserve them to improve our future.


More Grain Elevator Tours Added!

Due to popular demand, the Open-Air Autobus will be available for two additional tours! "Very Big and Extremely Close: The Grain Elevator Tour" is being offered on Thursday, September 6th at 6pm (departing from the Erie Canal Basin near the Hatch restaurant), and Saturday, September 8th at 4pm, in conjunction with the free event CITY of NIGHT. For this tour, the bus will depart from 590 Ohio Street, at the intersection of Childs Street in the Old First Ward. $20 per seat, $16/members, $5/children under 12.

Additionally, historical walking tours will be offered during CITY of NIGHT at 5pm, 6pm, and 6:30pm, for $10. They will be led by extremely knowledgable and entertaining docents who care deeply about Buffalo's industrial heritage. You'll get to glimpse areas of the grain elevators that will be off-limits to the public during the event! 
CITY of NIGHT PosterWeb
CITY of NIGHT is a first-time event taking place in and around the Marine A and Perot Grain Elevators, as well as the old Malt House. The event is free to attend, and will celebrate Buffalo's art, history, culture, and sustainability. A bike valet will be available, as will art installations, live music, artisan vendors, cultural and environmental groups, kayak rides, beer/wine, food trucks, and performance art inside the elevators. At midnight, a historically-themed performance by PROJEX, an audio-visual DJ, will be accompanied by projections on the grain elevators, and a community mural being unfurled from the top of Marine A. More info at: CITY of NIGHT

Call (716)240-9621 to reserve your spot on the tours by credit card. You can pay cash the day-of, but as these tours are very popular, they may sell out before then. 


Rally for Prospect Hill, Part II

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo presents an informational session on Historic Prospect Hill and a rally to fight the unjust and secretive expansion of the Peace Bridge Plaza and its "Tax-Evasion Mega-Mart", the Duty-free shop. Learn the fascinating histories of the neighborhood and buildings, the latest on the lawsuit to stop the demolition of Historic Busti Row, and how you can be a part of this important resistance movement! http://www.facebook.com/events/422613247789958/

Seymour Abbey J