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Buffalo News calling for investigation into judge's handling of Great Northern case

The Buffalo News, in its lead editorial of September 20, is calling for an investigation into judge Emilio Colaiavoco's handling of the Great Northern case, in which he lifted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that had prevented the demolition of the landmark on July 5, but blocked the ability of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo to appeal until he dismissed the case on Sept. 14. That was the same day city officials had announced could be the start of demolition—72 days after lifting the TRO.

News cartoonist Adam Zyglis the same day made sure people did not lose sight of Mayor Byron Brown's culpability, publishing a drawing of Brown as an attendant pushing the "down" button on the elevator. Brown had refused to rescind the emergency demolition order, falsely claiming that the city charter does not allow him to do so.

Blockade ends, ADM starts destroying, Campaign moves to halt demo

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ADM began demolition by cutting out the central bin on the north side, where wall damage occurred during a Dec. 11 windstorm

Shortly before 10:00am on Friday September 16,  ADM Milling began cutting up the exposed steel tanks of the historic Great Northern grain elevator. It was 73 days after judge Emilio Colaiacovo issued a decision against The Campaign for Greater Buffalo but, in effect, instituted a blockade against an appeal by not dismissing the case. It was only with the arrival of demolition equipment and a steady drumbeat of articles, editorials, and guest editorials in the Buffalo News and online that Colaiacovo finally acted on Thursday 15 September to dismiss—on the day city officials declared the demo could start.

By evening The Campaign and its attorneys Richard Lippes and Richard Berger, had submitted a notice of intent to appeal, and followed up with the necessary documents early the next afternoon. The Campaign is now awaiting word from the Appellate Division of the Fourth Judicial Department of New York State Supreme Court of which judge has been assigned the case and if and when a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) blocking demolition will be issued.

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The genius of the Great Northern's engineering is that each bin-and-column set is structurally independent, as this 1897 construction photo demonstrates

The Great Northern was designed and built as an immense chassis of steel columns and unique round girders in which rest dozens of the now-familar steel cylinders that stored grain. Structurally, each of these sets of columns and their bin is independent—every other bin could be removed sequentially in a feat of reverse engineering without causing the others to collapse. Similarly, the workhouse is supported by those same columns with a repetitive series of "bents," 21 in all. Those could be methodically snipped off one by one without jeopardizing the structural integrity of the remaining roof (again, think an Amish barn-raising in reverse). The issue is this: halting demolition will be worth it, because so much of the building will be intact.

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Model of the Great Northern shows the 21 steel "bents" that frame the workhouse and are supported by 3-foot square steel columns, with the immense grain bins supported by circular girders and column sets

But delay can work to ADM's nefarious ends: It wants to carve out the bins and support columns, but not the workhouse. It intends to cut out the columns supporting the workhouse until it collapses in half like the Titanic, then repeat the process with the southern half of the structure. Thus, an immediate TRO is of the essence.

It should be noted that the demolition itself revealed the City and ADM's crocodile tears about public safety to be just that—fake. Traffic was allowed to go by normally on Ganson Street, trains went by on the tracks, yachts bobbed at anchor across the City Ship Canal. The Great Northern was never in danger of "imminent collapse," the city and ADM actions over the last 10 months belied their legal ejaculations in court about public safety being their driving concern. It is contempt for the public.

You can help the Campaign save the Great Northern by making a contibution in the sidebar or use the qr code below.

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