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Buffalo's new federal courthouse finally ready to open

Buffalo's new federal courthouse in downtown Buffalo
WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Buffalo's new federal courthouse in downtown Buffalo

Federal and local leaders got the first view inside Buffalo’s new U.S. Courthouse Friday afternoon.

The building stands on Delaware Avenue, Niagara Street & Mohawk across front Niagara Square in downtown Buffalo.   A public opening is planned for November 28th.

Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) attended Friday’s viewing.

“This is one of the single, largest federal projects completed in Western New York in recent years, supporting hundreds of construction jobs and hundreds more as the site opens,” said Congressman Higgins.  “This striking structure, standing at the center of Buffalo’s business district, is symbolic of Buffalo’s rising opportunities in connection to our unique, architectural and historical past.”

Congressman Higgins fought for federal dollars to help fund the $137 million project in Buffalo. 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer also toured the new federal courthouse Friday.  Schumer championed the project for nearly a decade, helping to secure Congress’ support for the project, as well as approximately $83 million for its construction.

Mold problems discovered in the building delayed the opening. But Senator Schumer ensured that the contractors quickly remedied the problem without any additional taxpayer expense.

Other problems also pushed backed the opening. There was trouble with the installation of glass windows. The building was initially to open in July of 2010. Opening date was pushed back three times during the construction process.

“For almost a decade, we’ve been pushing and pushing to get this courthouse built and opened,” said Schumer. “Today, we stand here on the cusp, ready to open up a new pillar of the Buffalo community that will serve up jobs and justice throughout Western New York. It has been a long and at times difficult road, but all of the hard work is about to pay off. After the groundbreaking several years ago, we waited with anticipation for the day we could swing open the doors and get a look inside. Now we don’t have to wait any longer. In just a few short weeks, employees will be bustling in and out of the courthouse every day, bringing new life to downtown Buffalo.”

Congressman Higgins is also planning a key role in the naming of the new courthouse.  He is planning to work with House and Senate colleagues to reach consensus on naming the building on behalf of a person who dedicated his career to the federal judicary.

Higgins believes that a compelling case can be made for the late Associate Justice of the United States, Robert H. Jackson, who was raised in Western New York and practiced law in Buffalo and Jamestown.  He was a U.S. Attorney General, a distinguished member of the U.S. Supreme Court who presided over some of the most important cases of his time, and was appointed by President Truman to prosecute Nazi war criminals in the Nuremburg Trials. 

Construction on the 10-story, 261,000-square-foot federal courthouse began in 2007.  The building, which sits on a 1 3/4 acre parcel at Niagara Square, will be home to the U.S. District Court, Court of Appeals, U.S. Probation, U.S. Marshals, U.S. Attorney and GSA. 

It features fie courtrooms and chambers for District Court and the Magistrate with four courtrooms and chambers.  The Court of Appeals with a judge’s chamber and a library and provide preparatory space for the U.S. Attorney and Federal Public Defender.

The glass covered structure features a curved south wall, 690 punched window openings and triangular shaped element featuring the United States Constitution etched into glass. 

The building was designed with the goal of Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification under the U.S. Green Building Council standards.  It recently won the 2011 Award for Design and Manufacturing Excellence from the Architectural Precast Association.

“This has been a long time coming, but the finish line is finally in site,” continued Schumer. “The courthouse has turned out better than any of us could have imagined and will be a symbol that Buffalo can be proud of,” said Senator Schumer.