Campaign Urges Mayor Brown to Block Colvin Church Demo

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History Architecture and Culture has sent a letter, quoted in full below, to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown urging that he direct Commissioner of Permit and Inspection Services James Comerford to rescind his issuance of a demolition permit, effective Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, to the owners of the former North park Baptist Church (later Temple Emanu-El) at Colvin and Tacoma avenues in North Buffalo.

 

Hon. Byron Brown
City Hall
Buffalo, NY 14202
VIA HAND DELIVERY AND EMAIL

Re: Former North Park Baptist Church-Temple Emanu-El, 375 Colvin Avenue.
 
Dear Mayor Brown,

At its meeting yesterday, the Buffalo Preservation Board found that the threatened former North Park Baptist Church at 375 Colvin Avenue qualified for designation as a city landmark. Only one of nine criteria need be met for designation; the board found that this building met five of the criteria. The board voted unanimously to designate the building as a landmark and scheduled a public hearing for January 10. The building is best known as the former Temple Emanu-El, the seat of the most significant rabbi within Conservative Judaism in the United States, Isaac Klein, from 1953 to 1968. The former Baptist congregation overextended itself on the grand building, and sold it in 1934 to congregation Emanu-El, led by Rabbi Joseph Gitin (upon his death in 2010 at age 104, Rabbi Gitin was believed to have been oldest Reform rabbi in the world).
 
Commissioner Jim Comerford has indicated he is “releasing” the historic building for demolition and issuing a demolition permit effective Monday, December 31 on a non-emergency basis. Such action would be taken with full knowledge and directly contrary to the Preservation Board.

This is an iconic building in North Buffalo, the demolition of which, the Preservation Board was informed, is opposed by many in the community. Councilmember Michael LoCurto informed the board that he is opposed to demolition and supports the formal designation of the building as a landmark. In addition, The Campaign for Greater Buffalo opposes the demolition and supports the desgnation of the site as a landmark.
 
That this should be happening during the holidays and after the owners cancelled an inspection of the building by the Preservation Board just hours before it was to take place (and, it seems, after Commissioner Comerford made the decision to issue the demolition permit), is of utmost concern. As indicated by the non-emergency status of the demolition permit, no health or safety reason exists for the building to be torn down.
 
You have in the past intervened to forestall demolitions of significant buildings and we must urge you once again to take immediate action and direct that this demolition permit be rescinded or delayed at least until the full Common Council has acted on the nomination.
 
Sincerely

[signed]

Tim Tielman
Executive Director

Photo by Steel

About the author  ⁄ buffalorising

37 comments
buffalorr
buffalorr

Now that the Korean Methodist Church is no longer standing, we can look at the bright side.

Once the ground starts to shift, we'll have our very own leaning Tower of Pisa right here in the "Dear Old Town" as John Otto would say.

Yes, the Korean Methodist's, what a swell bunch of folks!

North Park
North Park

They have let it deteriorate for years, I have no sympathy for them whatsoever. Presumably, the insurance money will cover the repairs, therefore they should fix it, at the least it would leave them were they were before the fire.

They weren't ever really trying to sell it, no for sale sign on it or anything. I don't feel bad for them at all. They didn't even mow the grass, neighbors mowed it. They couldn't care less about the building. As a religious building they weren't even paying taxes on it, so they probably hadn't put a penny into it in years. Screw them.

whatever
whatever

It's an unpopular truth apparently, but another report today that the taxpayers aren't paying for this demo, despite a few people assuming the contrary...

http://www.buffalonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130103/CITYANDREGION/130109827/1003

The above also explains how the reason demo isn't being blocked so far is indeed about property rights:

"… Brown said, the city has to follow the law if the property owner is requesting to demolish it and has met the requirements.

The city could have issued a permit already, because the application was received Nov. 26, and the city must wait only 30 days to issue one.

City officials predicted a permit could be issued by the end of the week, as long as the application is in order.

Permits cannot be unreasonably withheld, said Peter J. Savage III, deputy corporation counsel. …"

whatever
whatever

NP>"they could use the insurance money to repair it and then sell it"

That's easy to say when other people's money and risks are involved, but what's any good reason that they should assume anyone would buy it from them after they repaired it?

And if there is a good reason to assume there's that kind of market demand for it - then why doesn't anyone else offer to buy it from them now as is for the same amount of $ that the Methodist org current owners are getting with a demo approach?

Then that buyer could follow your suggestion to "repair it and then sell it", or they could long-term mothball it, or do anything they want - apply for historic registries, etc.

North Park
North Park

I blame them because they could have sold the thing years ago, or they could use the insurance money to repair it and then sell it. They don't have to knock it down.

BPS_Rising
BPS_Rising

Do you know the leadership of this church personally? Perhaps this is a church that couldn't support an aging building. Perhaps membership dwindled, and it couldn't continue to support itself. Happens quite frequently - why accuse the church of blatantly trying to pull a profit in this?

pampiniform
pampiniform

While I think it might be unfair to blame preservationists for not keeping a list of every building which might be torn down, I think that there is something to be said about frequent last minute, half - hearted attempts to save buildings which ultimately turn out fruitless making the effort seem sort of pointless. There are buildings which are in serious danger of being torn down now in Buffalo that preservationists have managed to identify and put efforts in place to save, like the Richardson Complex and the Central Terminal. Those are seriously admirable efforts. But there are plenty of others that no one is doing anything about now that are going to find themselves on the verge of demolition soon. Transfiguration comes to mind, but I think St Ann's is going to be one that is going to be in serious danger once it is determined how much it's going to cost to restore the place. A huge building located in a poor neighborhood requiring millions of dollars in restoration is already a huge obstacle, but the throw in the fact that there is no longer a viable parish there and the hazard the building poses a threat to the public along Broadway and you've got a recipe for demolition. I hope that somehow I am wrong, it would be a monumental shame to see that one go.

bung
bung

Insurance Co. will only pay out 50% if you don't rebuild.

bung
bung

Demo North Park Baptist Church, demo Bethlehem Steel Administration Building, demo Colonel Samuel Wilkeson house. Burger King on Main “SAVED”

North Park
North Park

This is a blatant money grab by the Korean Methodist Church. They are getting the insurance money to fix the building and using to demolish it and keeping the profits. They did nothing with this property in the years since they moved out and now they get to cash out. Sickening.

STEEL
STEEL

Why don't you create a list? Who do you think preservationists are? They are just normal people who are tired of seeing their city ruined by shortsighted decisions like this. Why is it always a preservationists fault after years and often decades of neglect by owners? Why is it not the owner's fault?? Didn't this owner have insurance to fix the building after the fire? Isn't it their responsibility to care for the building and invest in it so that it is habitable? I never hear any criticism of owners from you tear down guys. These delinquent owners can drag down property values and lower tax receipts for years for all the surrounding properties and none of you tear down everything guys says a word about it.

whatever
whatever

Or I should say in trav's case it was implying about the funding. But the end sentence in rand's closing sentence was more than that, and wrong.

whatever
whatever

rand - you and trav are just wrong to claim the taxpayers are funding this demo.

The previous article about this recently on BR (the one linked in the 1st paragraph of this article above) says it's the owners doing the demo….

"Owner Korean United Methodist Church is seeking to demolish the circa-1926 structure located at the southeast corner of Tacoma and Colvin avenues.'

The Buffalo News says the same thing

http://www.buffalonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20121228/CITYANDREGION/121229350

"The building, at 375 Colvin Ave., is owned by the United Methodist Church, and the board of trustees is waiting for a demolition permit from the city, said Maidstone Mulenga, director of communications for the church’s Upper New York Annual Conference."

Not one word about that church organization asking the City for public funding.

whatever
whatever

"on other property owners rights!"

That retroactivity is the main thing I disagree with in Buffalo's law about landmarking & preservation districts.

If someone buys a property which is already subject to those, that seems to me less unfair that they have reduced rights because they knew (or should've known) of the implications of the designation before buying.

However, for owners like Savarino for the Freight House which the Common Council landmarked after he bought it, and possibly the owner of this church if the CC landmarks it now, it does seem those owners' rights are much more unreasonably harmed when the landmark designation is added.

How's this for a compromise?

The city's law could be changed to say for a current owner of something for which landmark (or pres district) designation is added, the owner is automatically granted a purchase offer from the City govt of say something around 3x the average of recent 3 years property value assessments?

The owner would have 60 days to decide whether to accept that amount and transfer the property's ownership to the City who can then try to sell it to someone like they did with Fairfield Library, or the owner can keep the property and accept the full consequences of landmarking (including greatly higher difficulty of demo permission, and other things).

A 60 day limit for deciding would prevent much more demo-by-neglect from happening, while the automatic purchase offer from the City balances out the impact of the property owner no longer having the same amount of property rights as when the property was first acquired.

ladyinwhite
ladyinwhite

In a growing thriving city it would be saved. Obviously nobody has any use or the money to save her. A pity, yes.

DrivethePaint
DrivethePaint

I already made my point, let me make it again: until the preservation powers that be take themselves as a serious, why should anyone else. Where's the list? This building IS being added after the fact. Typical...

[please stop posting under multiple screen names]

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

And, you missed 3. While we overlook property owners' responsibility to maintain their properties, let's focus on how it's the preservationists' job to keep track of said properties.

r-k-tekt
r-k-tekt

Good come back...Obviously you have no intelligent comments.

A miniscule amount of buildings are prevented from demolition by the Preservation Board...As for any pro active landmarking, the City of Buffalo has left vacant position of Preservation Specialist since November 2011. Until the City administration takes Preservation seriously this will continue to happen

STEEL
STEEL

Isn't it? A very very large majority of the tear downs have been for parking or for just plain empty lots. More than 3/4 of Buffalo's downtown has been removed since 1950. Saying that anyone is trying to save everything is idiotic.

DrivethePaint
DrivethePaint

Because one has to stoop to a moronic level to combat tired cliches like, "everything is parking lot."

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

Based on BRO comments over the years, I guess we have to conclude:

1. Preservationists must be clairvoyant to anticipate that a building will be neglected and scheduled for demolition; and,

2. Purchase the building decades prior to that neglect -- even if not for sale -- in order to save it.

In other words, preservationists better buy the Dun Building as soon as possible or its demolition in 20 years will be their fault.

STEEL
STEEL

Can someone point me to the alternate universe where anything like EVERYTHING is being saved. In fact very little is being saved so why do people like you continually trot out that tired out and idiotic "not everything can be saved" phrase every time a historic building is threatened.

DrivethePaint
DrivethePaint

Nobody wants to see buildings demolished, unless there is a real need. The fact of the matter is not everything cannot be saved, unless investors are lining up to do so. So you need the preservation community to work in partnership to inventory, prioritize and earmark (or lobby for earmarks) funds to designated “important” stock. The Preservation community in Buffalo is generally viewed as a fractured brooding bunch. Come to the table with a proactive plan, this bullshit of up in arms every time a building gets demolished is getting old. This crew needs to get their act together. With so much talent why is it such a joke.

"Realist"
"Realist"

Karl-Drive, In Buffalo there are two such lists. The National Register of Historic Places and a register of municipally designated landmarks.

Rand503
Rand503

IT may be be, but that doesn't justify tearing down such a buidling.

It really boggles my mind that people think that getting rid of great buildings is a terrific idea, and that nothing should be done or even explored to see if there are ways of saving it.

Rand503
Rand503

Who do you think will do it? Certainly not the property owners. They have no money for even basic maintenence. Oh sure, the city is supposed to bill the owners for the cost of demolition, but the reality is that most owners get away without paying for it.

So yes, most demos approved by the city are paid for by you and me. And since we are paying for it, I really don't want to hear about "property rights."

DrivethePaint
DrivethePaint

The preservation community is reactive. Where is the list of structures, organized as to importance. They can't even agree to put a list of buildings together which their is agreement over importance. They say it is too hard. The leadership is a fractured joke.

NorthBuf
NorthBuf

Are last minute with the excavator running cries for help exclusively a buffalo preservationist thing is it a nationwide tactic?

Lego1981
Lego1981

Does Timmy have the funding to save this?

buff_roach
buff_roach

Where does it say that taxpayer money is being used to demolish this building?

"Realist"
"Realist"

JD> "Unless you/Campaign are prepared to accept responsiblity, both legal and financial, and develop this corner..STOP infringing on other property owners rights!"

Thankfully, those of us who want to see this place saved have policy tools to do so instead of abiding by arbitrary criteria and some empty, ideology-based view of "property rights."

People have the right to seek Landmark designation, which I believe is already happening. Those who disagree are free to attend the public hearings and express their opinion.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

I would rather see our taxpayer money used to stabilize and restore the structure--keeping that corner intact--than used to needlessly demo it.

Matthew.Ricchiazzi
Matthew.Ricchiazzi

Demo contractors (with the help of ignorance like yours) have been squandering this city for decades. Enough is enough.

Matthew.Ricchiazzi
Matthew.Ricchiazzi

Let's hope that kickbacks for Demone and Stenhouse don't get in the way!

joey d
joey d

Sure Tim...as long as you and the campaign have the proven necessary funds, and provide a plan with a time table, to develop the corner into a publicly acceptable use.

Unless you/Campaign are prepared to accept responsiblity, both legal and financial, and develop this corner..STOP infringing on other property owners rights!

© 2014 Hyperlocal Media. All Rights Reserved.