The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority (PBA) is proceeding with longstanding plans to demolish seven PBA-owned vacant homes on Busti Avenue between Vermont Avenue and Rhode Island Street. PBA wants the homes removed to expand the Peace Bridge Plaza. But before the wreckers roll, the PBA is allowing interested parties the opportunity to acquire and relocate the houses free of charge. Subject to paying all removal costs of course. 757, 765, 771, 777, 783, 791, and 793 Busti Avenue are all on the wrecking list and are being offered "as is." 771 Busti is the landmarked Wilkeson House, built in 1863 (entry image, right).
Parties interested in relocating any structure(s) are required to submit a written proposal to the Authority by 3:00 p.m., Thursday, April 26, 2012. A $10,000 refundable performance deposit for each structure is required and would be refunded upon the removal of the house and cleanup of the parcel. You also need to act quickly- homes must be removed by June 29, 2012.
"The PBA is pursuing plans to demolish an entire block of homes they intentionally allowed to rot for 17 years including a 1863 landmarked property," says Kathy Mecca, President of the Columbus Park Association. "They've offered the public the opportunity to cart away any one of the homes at their own expense including the landmarked property which is protected under City preservation law. But who's watching?"
"The PBA began purchasing private owner-occupied homes on Busti Avenue in 1995 as a real estate developer and not because there was any official project in place to use the land at that time," says Mecca. "Therefore, with respect to the property and the deplorable standards in which the PBA has kept them, the Authority should be treated like anyone else who purchases property in the City of Buffalo and held to the same housing code standards."
"Instead, the City's Corporation Counsel ruled May 26, 2009 that as a 'state entity' the City has no jurisdiction enforcing housing codes over the PBA," says Mecca. "In my opinion that ignoble decision makes the City just as culpable in bringing this crisis back to the forefront. The PBA clearly for reasons unknown to the average citizen, is treated differently by the City than every other home owner in Buffalo simply because they are a 'state' entity."
"This district's former State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt in 2009 denounced the actions of the PBA for violating the City's housing code and said 'exempting it from its responsibilities to this neighborhood is unacceptable' and condemned their arrogance as 'unaccountable authorities that act as though they are separate from the communities in which they operate."
"Now it seems Hoyt's loyalty to the constituents whom he represented for twenty years is just a faded memory," says Mecca.
Neighborhood residents aren't convinced the homes need to be removed to meet the PBA's plaza plans. Plans they haven't seen.
"The PBA is unencumbered in the execution of their own hidden agenda and unchallenged by any level of government," says Columbus Park resident Peter Joseph Certo.
Certo passed along the Authority's response from Director of Communications and Government Relations Matt Davison three months ago, to a request for a summary of plans for the bridge plaza expansion:
"Your plans request is not denied, it will just take time. U.S. CBP and GSA are still reviewing spatial considerations. Once their analysis is complete, we will be able to produce a baseline concept for widespread consumption."
Neighborhood leaders have asked for a public meeting to discuss their plans for all of the PBA-owned properties and the overall plaza project but have been put off. Residents got wind of a meeting this Friday but were told by Davison via email, "what's scheduled is an unofficial gathering of a few select groups. It is not a public meeting." He did offer to sit down with neighbors "soon though and offer the same opportunity for dialog."
"In other words, 'Go to hell, good neighbors," says Certo.
"They just don't get that as a community we have never been stronger or more determined to put an end to all of this," says Mecca. "The community is hungry to become healthier and stronger. We have no appetite for the perpetual plans floated by a relic from the Twentieth Century who does not serve the current and future economic needs of the Buffalo Niagara region."