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Council Considers Tougher Preservation Law

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Safeguards will be established in the near future to protect historic buildings from the wrecking ball in Buffalo.

The city's law department is expected to draft a new preservation ordinance. The request is in response to the recent demolition of the 134-year-old Harbor Inn located in the city's historic Cobblestone neighborhood.

Fillmore District Council Member David Franczyk says right now if a building is not in a preservation district or designated as a landmark, it can easily be demolished. He says as the city cleans up blight, it has to make sure that historic property doesn't "fall through the cracks."

"We won't have this devouring of these buildings that may not be on a registry," Franczyk said.

Buffalo developer Carl Paladino owns the Cobblestone site that once housed the historic tavern. He received a city permit earlier this month despite a declaration from Mayor Anthony Masiello that historic buildings should not be destroyed.

Paladino claims poor conditions and break-ins at the building forced him to tear it down. Franczyk is working with the city's Preservation Board and department of Permits and Inspections. Permits commissioner Ray McGurn says proposed changes call for photos of all properties scheduled to be torn down. Then the Preservation Board will conduct a review.

"At that point in time, we're putting in a ten-day review period," McGurn said. "That should give us an opportunity to do something if we do find a situation that may need some community involvement."

Photos would include adjacent properties. Signs would also be posted at the site to notify the public. The full Council must vote on the law. Franczyk hopes approval comes by early summer.

"Everyone seems to be on the same page and everyone wants to move forward," Franczyk said.

The Preservation Board says it agrees with all the reforms. Chair John Lapin also suggests a public hearing be held during the property review.

The city says it handles hundreds of demolitions each year.