A Sign of Things to Come...

Bishop Henry Mansell sold the Transfiguration Church for $7000.00 in 1995. Properties on the City's East Side are often sold or "flipped" to unsuspecting buyers at substantially discounted prices. Why? It's obvious. No one wants to get stuck holding the "hot potato." The church made a business decsion and passed the looming deferred maintenance and crumbling structure to some one else. It's happening again, this time abit closer to the heart-beat of New Buffalo. The Immaculate Conception was shuttered last July on Elmwood and Edward with Bishop Kmiec declaring that it was structurally unsound and in urgent need of $800K of repairs.
Transfiguration Church

Transfiguration Church Transfiguration Church Transfiguration Church
The Transfiguration Church, three miles from Elmwood, was first written for Housing Court on March 13, 1997. In the last 8 years Transfiguration has journeyed through Housing Court 61 times and the file, case # 869/97 has seen four seperate Housing Court judges. Judge Broderick passed the file to Judge Devlin who tossed it to Common Council President David Franczyk's brother and finally Judge Fiorella issued a warrant for Pauline Nowak on September 25, 2002. She's an officer of Paul Francis Associates, Inc., the party that bought the crumbling church from Bishop Mansell in October, 1995.
Transfiguration Church - Interior
Transfiguration Church - Interior
click pic to see additional images
Pauline Nowak's son, William Trezevant the (lack of) brains behind the 1995 purchase is an attorney licensed in New York State. He also owns a house here in Buffalo at 247 Georgia in the heart of the West Village. Here's that property record and a google map to help you locate both properties. According to über-West Village Activist Marilyn Rogers, 247 Georgia is in immaculate condition. Pictures soon.

In almost two years on the bench, Housing Court Judge Henry Nowak has not seen the Transfiguration Church file #869/97 in his court room. Why?

When I stopped down to City Hall last week to investigate I had the opportunity to chat with Tracy Krug, the same Buffalo Building Inspector who wrote the property for Housing Court seven years ago. He's inspected the property continously, 26 times since March of 1997, and told me about a new series of complaints, including mine, that will take him back to Transfiguration Church this week. Remember, Tracy is the same Building Inspector supporting Michele Johnson's work in the same Broadway Fillmore neighborhood, the same one where we think Common Council President David Franczyk still lives. Here's a post about their work from last April. Tracy Krug has the security fence installed around front of the property to protect pedestrians from falling debris. Who paid the bill?

It's very unlikely that Transfiguration Church will be saved. I've had numerous conversations with people in the know, who point to the obvious neglect in the larger neighborhood and more specificaly the lack of any meaningful density that might support a resurected church in the neighborhood. The question quickly becomes, who is going to pay for the demolition?

And the larger question, as that unsettled recognition continues to seep into our thinking about where Buffalo and the City's East Side is headed, just how do we manage the second phase of the Catholic Church's downsizing. How do we prevent Bishop Kmiec (don't kid yourself, the decisions have already been made) from simply walking away from buildings. The familiar question, "What is to be done?" is never asked when it comes to the Church and Church property. Possibilities include:
  • Selling 79 Oakland Place, the largest and most expensive residence in the city.
  • Taxing church property that sits vacant for more than 6 months, like they do in Mass.
"We'll have to be transparent, to make people feel
as if we're not concocting something behind their back."
- Bishop Kmiec

Should we let them engage in the Ebay like game of "flipping" their properties to unsuspecting and unqualified buyers. If, I think of 93 additional pro-active things to do with the soon to be abandaned, boarded, derelict and vacant Church properties - I may just march over to 79 Oakland Place, with my "95 things" and nail it to the Bishop's door.

Jim Ostrowski pointed out the most recent casulty of Diocesan Downsizing with his analysis of why Villa Maria High School is closing. Anybody want 75,000sf of loft space on Doat Street? Didn't think so...


Next Summer, The Transfiguration Church will be the third stop on a Preservation Coalition bicycle tour I'm leading, on what some have already called the Tour de Neglect. We will begin near Coe Place and peddle down Dodge Street to the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home - lunch in Buffalo's own MLK Park with park news from the Olmsted People and after lunch we'll head down Sycamore where a local artisan and one of Buffalo's Historians will present the early parish history of Transfiguration church.
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Anonymous said...

Ahhh if only I was younger - coolest nightclub ever!
The photo of the decaying inside of the cathedral is stunning. - Jen

RoSzki said...

I attended Transfiguration Church & went to the school for 9 years from K-8 grade.
I've long since moved out of the city.
Been thru the old neighborhood from time to time, and seen the church seem worse off each time.
I have to admit, seeing the devastated interior is pretty creepy... I mean, I've stood where all those pics were taken when the place was still part of a vital community.
Thanks for chronicling this.

Anonymous said...

The people that let this happened are nothing but non-catholic heretics!