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Preservation Champions Robinson-Albers, Kauffman, and Sack honored

 

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Beth Kauffman, center left, and Meg Robinson-Albers received the inaugural President's Award for service to Buffalo preservation from Campaign for Greater Buffalo President Paul McDonnell, right. Campaign Executive Director Tim Tielman, left, joined them on the staircase of the Herbert Hewitt House at The Campaign's 2019 Solstice Party

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture recognized three board members for their long-time service to preservation and the City of Buffalo at its 2019 Solstice Party, held at the Herbert Hewitt house on Lafayette Avenue. The inaugural President's Award, was presented by Campaign President Paul McDonnell to Campaign board members emeritus Beth Kauffman and Meg Robinson Albers, who both recently ascended to emeritus status. Over 100 people attended, enjoying not only the food, drink, and preservationist plotting, but the magnificent house itself, and the hospitality of Joe and Ellen Letteri, owner-operators of InnBuffalo.

McDonnell cited Kauffman—a founding Campaign board member—for her decades of work on preservation activities ranging from attending Common Council hearings, to stuffing envelopes, writing letters, and dragooning friends to Campaign events, in addition to board work of almost two decades. Beyond preservation, Beth was a tireless contributor to her Allentown neighborhood, Shea's Performing Arts Center, and the Buffalo Philharmonic. Campaign Executive Director Tim Tielman called her the "type of citizen that is the foundation of any community, and that any organization needs."

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Meg Robinson Albers at work in the fields of preservation, at The Campaign's Big Dig for Erie Canal artifacts in 2006 at a Tonawanda landfill, where they had been unceremoniously dumped after being scooped from the Commercial Slip

Robinson Albers—also a founding board member—was similarly cited for her decades of work on the barricades and boardroom (that sounds fancier than it is—the Campaign board meetings tend to be around dining room tables and living rooms). Meg also was a matchless event organizer: she cut her teeth in her kite business, where she organized dozens of international kite events, including one locally spanning the Lower Niagara River which the Times of London called one of its Top Ten international festivals. It takes a lot to carry off public events at sometimes challenging venues (no electric, no bathrooms, but great architecture!), and Meg was a charismatic leader.

In over 20 years in the preservation trenches, Beth and Meg never refused a request, no matter how small or how big. They inspired others to do the same. Much of the success of Buffalo' preservation movement, and The Campaign in particular, is due to them.

In a less formal vein, Campaign Vice President Dan Sack was recognized for his lifelong inability to be satisfied with  the status quo, the default way of doing things, rank incompetence, everyday villainy, and the local sport of end-running zoning, preservation, and planning. Dan, in November, won a significant lawsuit against the City of Buffalo, which was attempting bail out a development of Gates Circle by declaring the pavement of Delaware Avenue and the Circle, and a public parking ramp, part of a "blighted" Urban Development Action Area, to qualify the project for tax abatements.

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Dan Sack, center, receives mass affirmation, led by Campaign Executive Director Tim Tielman, holding sign. At left is Tim Herzog of Flying Bison, official beer suppliers to The Campaign, and Joe Letteri, owner of InnBuffalo, where event took place.


Dan is a regular attendee at Planing Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Preservation Board hearings, and puts up with the indignities and calumny often visited upon citizens wishing to speak at such meetings. Occasionally, board members elect to follow the letter and spirit of the law and proclaim to agree with what Dan has just elucidated for them. To illustrate the point, Tim Tielman asked Sack to participate in an ad hoc skit of a planning board meeting; Tielman played the chair of the Planning Board making the case for a drive-thru donut shop in a historic neighborhood. Sack interjected—as if scripted—causing the "board chair" to relent and state, "I agree with what Dan said." Tielman then whipped out a sign saying just that, as did, by pre-arrangement, 30 others in the crowd. 

 

Also getting a shout-out was attorney Fran Amendola, who 20 years ago in October filed the federal lawsuit that led to the reconstruction of the Commercial Slip, Central Wharf, and the early street network of the Canal District. Fran, there is a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck awaiting you.

Campaign for Greater Buffalo board member and attorney Richard Lippes also received a tip o' the hat for his victorious lawsuit, on behalf of The Campaign, that ended the receiving and filing of landmark applications by the Buffalo Common Council.

InnBuffalo also offered a free night at the inn for a lucky attendee. That lucky person was Dana Saylor, long-time preservationist, researcher, and artist.

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