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Preservation meeting turns into yelling match

WBFO's Mike Desmond

An offshoot of the fight over Ciminelli Real Estate's shrinking plan for developments around Elmwood and Bidwell spilled over into some shouting and screaming during Thursday's Preservation Board meeting.

Preservationists want to declare an area west of Elmwood a landmark to make it harder for the developer to tear down buildings. That plan has changed with the company's decision to cut back on its project.

Even so, the push for more landmarking came to the board when lawyer Robert Perk appeared to protest his Polomac Avenue home potentially being landmarked. Perk said paperwork shows his Potomac Avenue home included in the potential district.

That led to harsh words and some personal attacks as he argued with Board Chairman Paul McDonnell and with Board Member Richard Lippes over what was said at a recent meeting.
"It does not say you're a lawyer," said Perk. "It does not say draft and it's signed. I understand."

"It is," Lippes said. "I'm telling you it is, as a member of the board."

"And I'm telling you you weren't even there when Mr. Tielman told me my building was designed by a famous designer," Perk said. "I know you don't."

"That's an alternative fact," said Preservation Board Member Tielman.

Then Tielman and Perk argued extensively over what specifically was said during a recent meeting.

"I asked him specifically a couple times, 'Could you tell me why it's being beamed?' and he looked me in the eye and he said, finally, it was designed by a very famous designer," said Perk.

"That's not true," Tielman said. "I absolutely deny saying that. I did not say that."

"That's unfortunate, Tim," Perk replied. "Okay, when I asked you again, you could not come up with the name. But whatever. I'm telling you that's what was said and I think it's unfortunate he's taking that position."

McDonnell said there is research underway on another preservation district, but just preparing the documentation might take months, including public hearings and Common Council approval.

"Districts don't necessarily run one individual building, but it's the character of those buildings," McDonnell said. "So you could have a whole neighborhood and although one building, on its own, may not be a significant building, together they create a certain fabric in the neighborhood and so that's one of the things that we're looking at. So this is what we're talking about, is doing a district. Now, one side of Elmwood is already a national district. In fact, it consists of about 3,000 properties."

Ciminelli Real Estate has been blasting possible landmarking as a way to block the company's plans.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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