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Buffalo Common Council gives Voelker’s Lanes cease and desist order after alleged sneak demolition attempt

Voelker's Lanes
Mike Desmond
Voelker's Lanes, located at the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Amherst Street. The Buffalo Common Council on Sept. 21, 2021 gave the build owners a cease and desist order against demolition, as the council is reviewing a historical landmark application.

The long struggle over whether or not to turn a now-closed bowling alley in North Buffalo into a landmark historical site is getting a little harsher.

The Buffalo Common Council on Tuesday voted for a cease and desist order against any change to Voelker’s Lanes. This comes after Councilmember Joe Golombek said there were community concerns that a sneak demolition was attempted over the weekend without the council’s permission.

“What this resolution does is it just asks for a cease and desist on that property,” Golombek said. “Basically, it says: Let's follow the law that we're looking at. I'm not saying that anybody was or was not, but I just just want to clarify that we're moving forward without the property being touched or harmed or tinkered with, unless there's an emergency.”

Voelker’s Lanes, located at Elmwood Avenue and Amherst Street, is an agglomeration of buildings, the first built in 1886 as the Hotel Elmwood. There's an application currently before the council to put historic status on the entire mass of buildings, but the owners don't want that and the bowling pin spotters shut down in May.

Over the weekend, something happened that left Golombek concerned there was a sneak demolition in the works that ultimately did not happen.

The lawyer for the building owner did not return a phone call.

After some midnight demolitions in the past, the council changed city law last year to ensure that doesn't happen.

“It did happen previously, before, but we wanted to make sure that last-minute demos don't happen in the City of Buffalo before the Council has spoken,” said Councilmember Mitch Nowakowski. “I see the language taken from that ordinance amendment and used in the resolution. So, I'm glad to see that it's working.”

Golombek said the Voelker’s demolition attempt might just be rumors, but he had a warning for any contractor who demolishes the building while its historical status is still being considered.

“If that was to happen, I would do everything in my power to make sure that whatever the demolition company that was to do that would lose their license in the City of Buffalo,” he said. “I don't think it's going to happen. I hope it's not going to happen. I think it's just idle chatter.”

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.