Vacant Houses....the Scourge of our City!

On Saturday I had the opportunity to meet with a unique collaborative community wide effort. Michelle Johnson & Kevin Hayes have assembled a group of individuals who are galvanized around "flipping" and the scourge of vacant houses here in the city. JM Reed from Polis Realty and Common Council member Joe Golombek were present, too.

I composed this as a follow-up to that meeting and would like to share it here.

I have just learned that the Buffalo Fire Dept has mapped 4010 buildings Continue reading...
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Zion Dominion moving to Amherst

In Saturday's Buffalo News we learned that Rev. Roderick L. Hennings announced that his congregation purchased The Chapel in Amherst. "Good News" for his congregation and the residents of Amherst. Here's their website.

Further down in the article we learned that before the congregation leaves Buffalo they will be selling....NOT Leaving an empty building behind ....their current place of worship at 360 Genesse Street. This is very good news for the city, especially this side of the street. When they purchased the building in the early '90's this land mark building Continue reading... See what the Catholic Church left behind, too!
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Finally...Buffalo Bloggers get it....

Seems like this story just won't go away. See what Alan over at Buffalo Pundit has to say about the JN Adam/Trathen deal.

  • Faso (Control Board Member) said that it makes no sense for lawmakers to ponder the impact of logging in Perrysburg after they recently needed to borrow money to trim city trees
  • Council President David A. Franczyk told Faso that the environmental impact is only one issue. He said that there have been estimates that the site might be worth as much as $4 million

Franzcyk promises to go to court over this.....like that's really going to help the city and neighborhood residents.


Ouch! Suicide Watch for Buffalo?

And in today's Buffalo News You gotta read this...

"Western New York's most senior state lawmaker has warned the Common Council that if it continues to stall a Perrysburg land deal, the state should reconsider helping Buffalo in its struggle to make an economic rebound."
  • Denying a legitimate sale such as this is a clear sign that the city does not desire to cooperate with the state and that the state should strongly reconsider its future investment in Buffalo's needed turnaround. NYS Senator, Dale Volker
continue reading ...You won't believe what David Franczyk wants to do

Not all Vacant Houses are Demo Candidates

I’ve been ranting and raving about vacant houses in the neighborhood for sometime. I’ve documented and photographed all the boarded and empty houses in this 25 block Masten neighborhood. I’ve even created a special list of “soon to be vacant” houses. Not all vacant houses are demo candidates. Many of these houses appear to be in reasonably good structural condition and for many reasons are worth keeping as part of the streetscape and neighborhood.

This is what the same house looked like in July, 2004 and this is what the smaller brown cottage looked like in August, 2004.

These are two of the dozens of empty and vacant continue reading...

Neighborhood “Assets” Second in a Series
The 25 block Masten neighborhood between Main/Jefferson – Ferry /Utica is full of existing cultural "assets" and quicly developing into a nascent arts and education community. The first Neighborhood “Asset” I featured is presented here. The only new library being constructed here in Erie County! This was the first Neighborhood "Asset" I featured.
African American Cultural Center
Click to enlarge

The African-American Cultural Center is located at 350 Masten Avenue, two blocks away from the recently abandoned Buffalo Traditional High School. The center is also the home of the Paul Robeson Theatre. The center was established continue reading...
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A New City Park? - Part 4

I talked with Tom Trathen at length Friday afternoon about various issues relating to “the deal,” local government and the competitiveness of our WNY economy. Did you know the Trathen Group had a booth at the Convention Center in Buffalo during the World University Games in 1993? Reasonable guy loves Buffalo….and wonders about all the “clear-cutting” that’s gone on over in the Fillmore District. I tried to explain to him how well intended HUD and BMHA have been here in Buffalo. He didn't buy it...

The is the latest installment... 3/17/05

Get the full story beginning with either of the part 1's...
...don't miss the pictures!

The current stuff... Part 1, 2 , 3 & 3+
The early Buffalo history...Part 1 & Part 2
cool pictures, too

Other JN Adam related items which happened Friday…


Neighborhood Developments - New Youth Center

The new youth center is quickly taking shape directly across the street from the Woodlawn Row Houses and in front of the recently abandonded Buffalo Traditional High School's main entrance. As you know this high school site will make an excellent permanent location for BAVPA continue reading...

I've been blogging and providing updates since October about the declining condition of the Woodlawn Row Houses. The pictures in the October archives were first taken in March, 2004. Please take a few moments to become familiar with the Woodlawn Row Houses by reviewing the posts that are in the October archive. These posts as with all blogs appear in continue reading...


Way off Topic...

The Temple of Music
Jonathan Lowy

Just returned from a snowy visit to Borders where I picked up Jonathan Lowy’s latest book, The Temple of Music. I googled Lowy continue reading...


Required Reading...for Elected Officials, too?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAs we begin to develop plans for the future preservation of the Woodlawn Row Houses many people have expressed concern about the "perceived declining" of the surrounding neighborhood. (I'm addressing this as I present an 8 part series of Neighborhood Assets.)

This afternoon, while I sat at my desk,
buses pulled away from Buffalo Traditional High School for the last time. Many of my former students continue reading...

Excellent series of interviews about urban planning you shouldn't miss!




A Match Made in Perrysburg!

While sleuthing around City Hall today, I happened to obtain a copy of the file containing supporting documents filed by various parties who are concerned about the JN Adam deal to Trathen on January 11th.

I learned that the Western New York Land Conservancy (WNYLC) met with Tom Trathen from the The Trathen Group, this past December. They were impressed with his operations and demonstrated commitment to good forestry practices, farming and wildlife habitat. I spoke with Amy Holt, the Executive Director today about continue reading...

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Sharon West -- "Legacy of Vacancy & Waste"

Did you miss the irony?

In today’s Buffalo News we learn that Sharon West, Executive Director of BMHA -- Buffalo Municipal Housing Agency and NY’s second largest municipal housing agency, is leaving for Tampa. She stayed just long enough here in Buffalo making $90,000/year to trigger a 54K retirement package! In Tampa she will be the new manager of housing and community development.

She said, "The one thing I wish I could take with me from Buffalo, is the people!" Sharon they are on the way. People are leaving Buffalo at the rate continue reading...

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Buffalo Bloggers...Pick up the ball!!!

Over at Buffalog, Craig has just added some personal reflections on the unfolding JN Adam TB Hostpital drama. Interesting points people...
  • Its closure was economically devastating for Perrysburg -- equally as destructive as the closure of Bethlehem Steel was for Buffalo.
I missed Craig's review of Jane Jacob's book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, when I first visited his blog. Craig has a few more things to say about other parts of the city, including Polonia (Fillmore District), in an older post.
Fix Buffalo's First Milestone...
for blogging the 'hood!

100 Unique hits in 24 hours!

When you google Brian Lipke new Chairman for the Buffalo Control Board....I'm #4. Ahead of Bruce Jackson from "Buffalo Report" and even the official NYS announcement from Pataki's office!!! Just wait for syndication....coming real soon!

And a new site featuring pictures and ownership and inspections reports of all the abandoned, boarded, crime infested and derelict property in this 25 block Masten neighborhood Main/Jefferson -- Ferry/Utica and of course what you can do to help! Imagine the impact we will have if just half of the daily visitors to this blog call one elected offical about one house and send one e-mail to the Chief Building Inspector complaining about the conditions at a specific property.

Check back soon or simply subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail and the subscription box on the right....

Unique and proven strategies for getting results in the 'hood!
Killing the forest...to save a few trees, Part 3

And you thought it couldn't get any worse...

This afternoon after shoveling snow, I called Perrysburg to speak with Myrton Sprague, the town supervisor. His wife told me that he wasn’t available as he was tending the grape field. I imagine we’ll speak tomorrow.

It occurred to me that the people of Perrysburg are probably much more sane about local government than we are here in the ‘hood. Myrton has been brokering a deal with Trathen as I mentioned last week to sell the 650+ acre JN Adam site in Perrysburg and finally return it to the tax roles. He’s the top politico in Perrysburg and has been doing this on a part-time basis. He grows grapes full time. When I first spoke to him last week he seemed to me the kind of guy who is not afraid to call a spade-a-spade. Reasonable and forward thinking, continue reading...

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Off the Radar?
Amazing stuff happens when you do a Technorati search for “Buffalo” or “East Side.” You find sites that people like Marty Biniasz have constructed. Check it out. Marty is documenting his Polish heritage and genealogy pursuits and has built a website that includes pictures of lost Buffalo, historic Polonia and classic pubs in our shrinking city. He's also included pictures of Buffalo's lower Main Street demolition or re-construction depending on your point of view.

Click on images to enlarge.

I pulled these pictures from Marty's site. Anyone recognize where the Aquarama is docked today? Or how about this subway stop which was never built? I spent quite awhile early this morning clicking thru Marty’s entire site. A+


Who's Running This Place, Part 2

While we slept our anointed leaders, Buffalo's Control Board, played musical chairs. We woke Tuesday morning and found that a seat was created for Brian Lipke, King of the Hill at Gibraltar Industries, as Chairman of the Control Board. He replaces Tom Baker who couldn't muster the intestinal fortitude to negotiate with the unions. Gibraltar is a publicly held company and their shares trade on the NASDAQ under the continue reading...
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Neighborhood “Assets” First in a Series

For those of you who are not familiar with this Masten neighborhood bounded by Main/Jefferson & Ferry/Utica, I would like to welcome you and introduce you to a part of Buffalo which is rapidly turning into a nascent arts and educational community. It will be stronger and more vibrant as an arts & educational community for residents and students with the completion of the new "Frank E. Merriweather Jr." library. The anticapted "permanent" move of BAVPA - Buffalo Academy for the Visual & Performing Arts to the site recently vacated by Buffalo Traditional High School and the needed preservation of the Woodlawn Row Houses will make this neighborhood that vital link between the East side and the City's West side. There are so many other Neighborhood "Assets " which will be featured here. Check back on a regular basis.

You’ll see the design work of one of our finest architects, Robert Traynham Coles, slowly emerging continue reading...

Many more picture, too...

Urban Exploration & Modern Ruins

While thinking about "Modern Ruins" this past weekend I stumbled on this site by Shaun O’Boyle. A totally cool sight displaying his work photographing old things. He calls this stuff “Modern Ruins.” If you are interested in almost any aspect of photography as a way to document the past, this guy is really good.

Awesome links and brilliant slide show “Insane Asylum” takes you through our own Asylum on Elmwood Avenue, the Buffalo Psychiatric Center aka H.H. Richardson Complex which local librarian Cynthia Van Ness describes. The slide show has a haunting sound track from Phillip Glass and closes with the disturbingly sweet poem by A.C. Swinburne (1837-1909) “From Too Much Love of Living.”

This is an example of Shaun O'Boyle's work and depicts part of our Asylum's interior.


One Flew East, One Flew West…

It seems as though the abandoned and vacant NYS asylum for the mentally ill has temporarily re-opened in a new location, Buffalo’s City Hall. The JN Adam’s TB Hospital and NYS mental health facility should have been sold to Trathen last week as part of Gov. Pataki’s various privatization initiatives to sell surplus NYS property. Examples of this are good for everyone. Check out this! And this!

’s elected and anointed thwarted the deal last Tuesday by refusing to ok a resolution which would have done at least three things: continue reading...

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Blogging from Perrysburg, NY

From the grounds of Buffalo's JN Adam TB Hospital at night, residents of Perrysburg frequently think of this view as "Oz" in the distance. The city of Buffalo is visible on a clear day, as certain "urban-explorers" discovered while talking with their un-named tour guides on a bitterly cold afternoon.

Funny, they can see us. Have we forgotten about them, the residents of Perrysburg? The story is developing...

Meanwhile, read more about John Hopper Coxhead who designed the JN Adam complex and see pictures shortly after the hospital was first built. Local Buffalo area resident Nancy Mingus writes about John HooperCoxhead and has inventoried and time-lined his work. Coxhead’s design work is also seen here at on Delaware Avenue, in Buffalo.

This story is still developing...
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40 Miles from Elmwood......J.N. Adam TB Hospital

Read about the rest of the story.

Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
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Become an Owner!*
Lexington Food Co-op(ted) involved in high level merger negotiations. Join before January 19th and be eligible to receive special bonus tickets! Hurry, supplies are limited. Contact our National Office for additional special membership programs!

*Offer not available in some places (other side of Main Street) and is made in strict compliance with George W. Bush's new "Ownership Society" rules and may be limited or enhanced depending on level of prior year's membership status and to people with certain sexual orientations, lifestyles and behaviors! Gift Certificates are now available for participating Greek restaurants in 1000 block of Elmwood Avenue!

How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis

I found the full text of this book available free online, courtesy of Yale Univesity.


David Franczyk was seen Saturday afternoon in the Gowanda Library trying to down-load the book. Realizing it was going to cost him he printed this out instead.

The City of Good Neighbors?

Not according to Perrysburg residents. A short history lesson…

At the turn of the 20th century consumption and other infectious illnesses literally plagued cities. Today we have other plagues. “Vacant Houses” are the single most defining characteristic of the urban landscape today.

Buffalo’s answer was to acquire some land and build a tuberculosis hospital in Perrysburg, NY. During the third annual address to the common council in 1908, Mayor James Noble Adam stated,” "Citizens...have brought to my attention a proposal that there be legislation at Albany and that the city appoint a commission and that a city hospital for consumption (tuberculosis) be built in the hills adjacent to Buffalo.” (Michael Rizzo, 1996)

This coincided with various national campaigns at the time to help rid cities of tuberculosis. The voluntary control movement of TB launched continue reading...


Ok, Jen(nifer) just beat me.....

I was thinking of linking buffalo area bloggers here, I mean on your right. Thinking it would be an excellent idea to have a forum to exchange ideas and thoughts on our shrinking city. Well Jen is off to a good start and I did manage to leave the first comment...

Clicking thru some of the links about Buffalo was cool. I started to think about doing an Urban/Sub-Urban thing and then it occurred to me I should start trolling Technorati for bloggers who just got up and voted with their feet and moved somewhere where it was warmer, where the political cultural is not as in-bred and the tax-burden not so onerous as to choke you. I have a friend in Columbus who pays $47/month, balanced billing, to his electric company. He runs an air conditioner full blast in the summer and heats with it during the winter. If you still love the four seasons think about New Hampshire.

Kevin Gaughan’s website is from Loserville! Totally one-way. It provides no space for dialog, comments or the exchange of ideas and alternatives we are dying for here in the ‘hood. Could have been called “One-Way Buffalo ."

The Elmwood Strip is the epitome of urban hip and social intercourse! Kevin change your site!!! Great book, but your site really sucks. So instead of linking to all the way cool and sometimes static blogs…..go right here to Technorati or over to the right and check out the Technorati search box.

Enter your favorite search words about Buffalo – “Elmwood”, “SpOT”, “Albright-Knox”, “Kevin Gaughan”…..and you’ll see search results for people blogging about Buffalo. Current up-to-the-minute posting.

Meanwhile....Kevin, fix your site!

* New*
Kevin's website still sucks...
see it here...


Additional Demo-prep Two Blocks from City School

76 East Utica, towards Mr. Simmons

The demo contractor, Al Steele, was quick to point out the obvious. The city of Buffalo has take possession of three properties just around the corner. This is an update to Sunday’s post regarding the other derelict property along the primary walking route between Buffalo Traditional High School (Soon to be BAVPA…..developing……) and the Main/Utica Metro Station.

At the city’s auction, last October, no one purchased 76 East Utica, 1464 and 1470 Michigan Avenue. These three building are just a block away from the school. The city had the opportunity to take possession of these properties and much to my chagrin, did so. Perhaps, I’m wrong and I hope that I am yet I always thought that the last owner was responsible for the demolition. I’ll check with Steve Pollowitz for some clarification on this ownership/demo rule. I though it was sort of like that game, “hot potato.” You just don’t want to get caught being continue reading...

50 Otis Place, Gone...Dust...

This morning I was awakened to the sounds of another house demo here in the neighborhood. You’ll recall that 50 Otis Place looked like this in July and had further deteriorated to this condition last Sunday before I started placing pictures on this blog and e-mailing them to the Mayor. Please take a moment to e-mail Lou Petrucci, Chief Building Inspector and thank him for dealing with this very positive solution to the number one problem defining the 21st century’s urban landscape, vacant Houses. Results in less than 100 hours. Victory in the 'hood!

You will recall on Monday continue reading...

The New 21st Century Urban Phenomenon -
The Vacant House

While enjoying the 60 degree winter night and returning from Elmwood Avenue on my bicycle, I just couldn’t get the whole “vacant house” thing out of my head.
Fires, boarded-up houses, shrinking tax base…… I read in this morning’s BN that another crime was committed in an abandoned house where a young woman was dragged and raped. I first wrote about these sorts of crimes here. Perhaps someone should start a blog about “vacant houses” as a central part of the 21st century urban landscape. Interesting things can be found on Technorati when you look for them. Bruce is blogging from Detroit and has an interesting spin on similar urban phenomena.

And then I started to think just how many houses on my block might be empty and vacant. I counted seven. That’s 50 percent of the houses! I walked around the block and

continue reading...


Righteous Relief, a Six-pack for Jimmy!

I’ve been ranting elsewhere about Ani DiFranco & Scot Fisher and the New Market Tax Credits they are using to help finance the Asbury Church on Delaware Avenue. Seems like they ran into a snag with our less than enlightened leaders downtown. The story first broke in the Buffalo News last week and was continued here in yesterday’s paper.

The tie in to this neighborhood and the possible future success of the row house restoration is simple. BAVPA is supposed to move into the site now occupied by Buffalo Traditional High School. The synergy generated by the proximity and collaborative nature of Apollo, African-American Cultural Center, Artspace and Ani’s Asbury Church…..well I think this neighborhood will once again be on the map. It used to be….Offerman Stadium - where the Bisons played and where Luke Easter loved to hit the ball over the center field fence - once occupied the space where the high school was built in 1963.

Tonight, at the monthly meeting of Partners for a Livable WNY, I sat next to Michael Clarke, Program Director for LISC. His organization is assisting with the sale of Ani & Scot's New Market Tax Credits. When I asked him about the results of today’s vote in the Common Council Meeting, he told me that the Asbury financing proposal was approved, 8-1 with south Buffalo holding out. Looks like Jimmy will be staying home with his six-pack, again.

We also learned in today’s Buffalo News article that Scot installed a geo-exchange unit at Asbury. You can learn more about that technology here and watch a slide show about it’s application in other historic spots and finally see a short movie about this technology, too. And wouldn’t you know, the installation comes with it’s own set of tax credits and incentives!

I’d like to know if more new-builds or renovations are using this technology here in Buffalo. Is it encouraged in urban planning proposals? Should it be required for new public buildings such as the new federal court house?

Make sure to check out these recent articles about Ani & Scott in Forbes, Inc. and Metropolis. Three glimpses into their creativity, hopes and plans for Buffalo. Somebody drop copies off to Jimmy!


Fire in the 'Hood - 1400 Michigan Avenue

Early Saturday morning I noticed the familiar red lights. When I heard the sirens, I looked out my office window and saw flames shooting from a vacant house one block away. The fire destroyed this two-family house at 1400 Michigan Avenue. Neighbors told me a man passed away two summers ago who had lived there from the west-nile virus. I am left wondering how a house in the middle of winter can spontaneously erupt into a ball of flames. No utilities on....Hmmm…

Sunday afternoon I was out for a walk and took these two pictures - front photo and side photo - of what was left of 1400 Michigan Avenue. Not satisfied with the view, I wanted to see the full extent of the damage. I walked thru an empty lot off East Utica. It's next to the Simmons Funeral Home. There I noticed the house at 76 East Utica which has been boarded, derelict and vacant for three years is wide open in the back. Here’s the photo of the front of the house and here’s what the back of the house looks like.

Not good, if you are student walking from the Main/Utica station down Utica and up Michigan Avenue to school at Buffalo Traditional High School, just two blocks away. This is the way most students get to school here in my neighborhood. What about your neighborhood? Send me pics or get me the addresses of boarded, derelict and vacant houses near Buffalo Schools. I’ll ask School Board Member Chris Jacobs to place this student safety issue on the next BOE meeting.

I had an opportunity to have a long talk with my neighbor Charles Simmons about houses and crime in the neighborhood. His funeral business is doing well on East Utica yet he remains very concerned about the safety of people attending services. He is livid with the condition of the property next to his funeral home - 76 East Utica - and according to Mr. Simmons promises by Councilman Antoine Thomspson, Masten Council Member, that the house would be demolished soon, remain just that promises. According to Mr. Simmons, Antoine promised to have the house down, two years ago!

Since Antoine made that promise there have been other fires. This is 50 Otis Place, one short block away from Buffalo Traditional High School. That was July. When I met with Building Inspector Mike Muscarella at the corner of Woodlawn and Otis Place Monday afternoon, I took this picture of 50 Otis Place.

My childhood is full of memories of walking and riding my bike to school. I’m wondering what sort of memories Buffalo Traditional High School students are going to have in 10-15 years of dodging charred vinyl siding and staying alert because they know there could be danger in the these houses that are abandoned, derelict and vacant. Think that these daily images might contribute to a sense of despair here in Loserville? If they are highly motivated learners, do you think they will want to return once they finish college?

Here are a few other examples of houses left to rot along the route most students from Buffalo Traditional take to get to school. The most glaring example of neglect is the city owned property 147-153 Woodlawn, which is diagonally across from the main entrance to Buffalo Traditional. Others include:

There, nine houses wide open. Now, I am not suggesting there are stockpiles of WMD’s in any of these houses. Yet wouldn’t common sense lead one to believe that these houses, in their current condition, pose an “imminent danger” to the students who attend Buffalo Traditional and to the heath and safety of neighborhood residents. The three large houses on Michigan appear to be in structurally sound condition. Based on my experience, with a decent plan, these three houses could be easily renovated and restored as two-family or large single family homes. Just some imagination...demolition is not required!

Housing inspectors have an important job to do, yet I was amazed this afternoon talking with Inspector Mike Muscarella here on the street, he was surprised to learn that there isn’t a file on the 3rd floor for 56 Otis Place.

I’ll be on the phone with Lou Petrucci in the morning. I'll contact Drew Kelley, head of the PTO at BAVPA, too. And don't forget to send me shots or tip me off about vacant, derelict and boarded houses that are located a few blocks away from a school.

Here’s a late afternoon shot of what’s left of 1400 Michigan Avenue, 36 hours after the devastating fire. Progress!!!


Chief Building Inspector, On the Job

In the past month three houses have been demoed in the 25 block Main/Jefferson – Ferry/Utica neighborhood. Please take a moment and e-mail Lou Petrucci, Chief Building Inspector and thank him for hearing our complaints and helping us with his highly effective results oriented approach to urban problem solving.

All three buildings were in very serious stages of decay and presented obvious health and safety risks to residents and students in this neighborhood. This is not to say that there is a strong case to be made for preserving existing houses that are still in reasonable condition. There are many examples of vacant and preservable houses in this neighborhood. Check back in a few days for information about a few houses that are for sale and with a very modest invesment could be the coolest urban experience ever.

One of my former students was visting her father across the street from 75 Welker for the summer. She remembered an Economics assignment where she investigated records of property ownership here in the city.

You can view pictures of the three buildings that were demoed. The pics are from July 2004.
Just a short note to Lou Petrucci would go along way in showing him that even people who don’t live in this neighborhood are concerned with the health and safety of the residents and the long term interests of the built environment.


Thank you for your Support

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with this initiative.

There is background information posted in the archive section of this blog. Some of the first posts deal with the photo documentation of the long slow process of demolition by neglect. Every month since March of 2004 I’ve taken and posted pictures of the Woodlawn Row Houses. I have also included posts that I think draw attention to and support this preservation initiative. The post that describes the recent history of the Woodlawn Row Houses is located here.

I’ve created a petition – Save the Woodlawn Row Houses – and I would very much appreciate your support. You may sign it online and send it to your friends and neighbors. I will present this to Buffalo City Court Judge Henry Nowak in the near future. There is considerable neighborhood support for this building. I have gathered my neighbors signatures on a hard copy of this petition.

If you are an attorney or know an attorney who may be sympathetic and willing to assist in this preservation matter, please contact me.