City's Oldest Synagogue - DEMOLITION ALERT

The former Jefferson Street Shul (407 Jefferson Avenue - google map) is wide open and a new demolition notice (dated today) was found this morning affixed to the building.

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In February 2012 I convened a series of meetings with local preservationists, architects and local historians. I met with Housing Court Judge Carney and local preservation attorney Richard Berger to help save this local landmark and special access was provided to help determine the Shul's interior and overall structural condition. Buffalo architect Ted Lownie from HHL and local preservation contractor Vince Kuntz accompanied me on at least one interior inspection. It was found to be stable. The Shul's owner -Reverend Ferrell in Phoenix AZ - wanted nothing more to do with the building and was prepared to deed his former church to a court approved qualified buyer for $1. No buyers were found.

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Elliot Dalfin purchased the Shul at the city's tax foreclosure auction in October 2012 for $600 (six hundred dollars). He was the only bidder. Elliot splits his time between Buffalo and Brooklyn and controls a large number of rental properties in the city's Broadway Fillmore neighborhood using various LLC's. Currently one of his LLC's owns the Shul.

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I met with Elliot several times over the past year. His plans included creating a vibrant cultural center that would honor and respect traditions and history long associated with the Shul. Calls this afternoon were not returned.

The future of the former Jefferson Street Shul is very uncertain. Tomorrow, Buffalo's Young Preservationists have committed to assisting in re-boarding and securing the Shul - Saturday 9/20 at 11am. All are welcome.

More information as it becomes available.

For additional background information about this historic landmark please read - City's Oldest Synagogue from February 2012.

fixBuffalo interior/exterior image archive


City-owned 1363 Sycamore Street - Gone

City-owned 1363 Sycamore Street (google map) was demolished yesterday afternoon. It was stable and didn't present any health or safety issues.

September 15, 2014

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I wrote about 1363 Sycamore Street a few months ago, here (must see). It was located next door to the Happy Swallow, the last remaining tavern in this neighborhood. Steps away there are dozens of city-owned and privately owned residential properties near the recently renovated Harvey Austin School at 1405 Sycamore. Many of these houses are wide open (for years), heavily water damaged and need to be demolished.

May 12, 2014

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This demolition was NOT reviewed by the city's Preservation Board. 1363 Sycamore was NOT listed for sale by the Division of Real Estate. Currently there is no plan for this block of Sycamore. This is an(other) egregious example of the City's lack of coordinated and strategic planning when it comes to city-owned property. Shame.

Really, is a for sale sign that expensive?


Building Buffalo Back: a night at Wythe Hotel

I received this announcement earlier today:

Building Buffalo Back: Developing Buffalo's Urban Core & Creating Sustainable Solutions an evening at Brooklyn's new (must see) - Wyeth Hotel.

Buffalo - Wythe Hotel 1 Buffalo - Wythe Hotel 2
click image to enlarge

I'm not going. If you are and can make an audio recording of the event, please let me know. I'd like to make this gentrifying conversation available to a larger audience.

PS: I just checked, there still a few rooms available at Wythe Hotel for Wednesday evening with Manhattan views for $525/night.


Homesteading the city with Fox News: final cut

Fox News contacted me after Alana Semuels LA Times story - As an alternative to demoltion, Buffalo offers homes for a dollar - ran last month about the city's homestead program. I spoke with Ron Ralston, Fox News producer and invited his crew to Buffalo last week. We spent the day talking with homesteaders and neighborhood residents about alternatives to demolition and neighborhood stabilization.

This segment features  Deyron TabbMike Puma and Matt Newton who've successfully purchased former city-owned houses in the city's Hamlin Park Historic District for $1.

This is the final cut that airs on Fox News over the weekend.

Fox News also interviewed Brendan Mehaffy, Executive Director of the City's Office of Strategic Planning. Brendan continues to be a strong supporter of the city's homestead program.
Knocking a house downs costs about $20,000 on the average in the City of Buffalo.
If we can sell a house for $1 we can save $20,000 and we can invest it in something else. We can get a property on the tax rolls and improve it with private money, not public money. 
Kudos to all involved in helping to spread the word about the urban homesteading program in the beautiful and resilient city of Buffalo NY.


Photo of the Day: 144

Memorial Drive and William Street (google map).

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The wrong location for chicken wings.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 143

Grider Street and Delevan Avenue (google map).

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The McDonald's parking lot across the street is always full.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 136

Exchange Street and Washington Street (google map).

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New York State's second largest city has one passenger railroad track.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Larkin Power House - Demolition or Preservation, Part III

The Common Council unanimously approved the application for the Larkin Historic District this afternoon. Read the approved application here: Larkin Historic District

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Howard Zemsky, the developer whose brainchild is the revitalization of the Larkin District, likely shared the most eloquent remarks at last Tuesday's public hearing before the Common Council. Here's an excerpt:
The extraordinarily rich architectural, economic, and cultural history of the proposed Larkin Historic District has been thoroughly outlined in the application and I won’t attempt to recount it here. What I can add with a strong sense of pride is that my partners and I reclaimed many key elements of this district twelve years ago, complete with all of the blight, abandonment, and deterioration of the buildings, which was only matched by the neglect of the public infrastructure particularly along Seneca Street. Without any customers or prospects at the time, without any public subsidy, and frankly without anyone else thinking that what we were doing made any sense, we set out to rehabilitate a building, then buildings and then a district. Today, there are more people working in the former Larkin Company buildings than were working at the peak of employment of the Larkin Company itself. 
We have watched one tenant after another be drawn to the unique character of these historic buildings and to the unique history that they represent. Every one of these buildings without exception contribute to the rich history and to the compelling and inspiring aesthetic that you feel when you are standing among them. Don’t ever underestimate the pride that people feel in actively participating in the renaissance of the Larkin District and by extension the city of Buffalo, by virtue of working there. The rapidly increasing popularity of the district as a place to work, as a place to live, and as a place for entertainment speaks volumes for the benefit of these historic buildings and for the environment that they help create. 
We all stand on the shoulders of others who came before us and dared to pursue their dreams. These buildings and the people therein represent an extraordinarily significant time in our city and region and the country. The Larkin District is at the epicenter of Wright’s works in Buffalo, of the genius of Larkin, Martin, and Hubbard, and the innovations they brought to American Industry, including lasting changes for the better in the relationship between employer and employee. Let’s not turn a blind eye to the countless untold stories of the people who built the Larkin Company, and who played such a significant role in building Buffalo. 
Sadly, not everyone sees these buildings in a historic context and not everyone sees themselves as stewards of the history that they represent, and not everyone feels a responsibility to the people that they represent. We lost one of Wright’s most significant works when the Larkin Administration Building was demolished in 1950. Even with the constant reminder of that tragedy literally staring us in the face on a daily basis, there are those who bring a cavalier attitude toward the buildings and their history, those who propose demolishing them. Please designate landmark status to the Larkin District which will help assure the future of this district and the future of these buildings. Please help preserve the inspirational legacy of the Larkin Company and of the many thousands of people who helped to build it.
Congrats to all involved! The Power House is saved!

Related posts: 

Photo of the day: 135

Main Street and Dodge Street (google map).

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This is the changing face of Main Street.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 134

Curtiss Street and  Dover Street (google map).

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This is a view from the Belt Line towards Broadway.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 133

Jefferson Avenue and Peckham Street (google map).

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This is where the other half worships.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Saving St. Gerard's - Part I

Are plans to dismantle and relocate St. Gerard's Church now dead? I spoke with Patricia Chivers, Communications Director for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, GA, this morning. I asked her about the rumors circulating that THE BIG MOVE is now off, and asked about the status of fundraising and long-term plans for St. Gerard's.

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She seemed unaware that the Diocese of Buffalo is currently marketing St. Gerard's to other prospective buyers. She told me that the local parish has not provided an update for at least one year regarding the status of plans for the property, and promised a statement on the issue within two days.

Chrissy Lincoln, Director of Operations at Preservation Buffalo Niagara—the only preservation group that supported the deconstruction and Atlanta move four years ago—said she recently toured St. Gerard's and has been approached by the Diocese of Buffalo to help market the property to qualified buyers.

If you haven't seen St. Gerard's magnificent interior, take a moment and scroll trough local architectural photographer Jim Cavanaugh's stunning series. He's captured the splendor of this East Side treasure.

Stay tuned.

Related posts:



Photo of the Day: 127

Bailey Avenue and Warwick Avenue (google map).

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A former used car lot on Bailey Avenue remains empty.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 126

Broadway Avenue and Dreshler Avenue (google map).


This is where the other half worships.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 125

Navel Avenue and Bailey Avenue (google map).

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There are no bike lanes on Bailey Avenue.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day