As courtroom observers expected, Erie County Court Judge Michael L. D’Amico has overturned the demolition order on the blacksmith shop located at 118 South Park Avenue. D’Amico heard arguments on May 4 and released the decision on Wednesday. The City appealed Buffalo City Court Judge Henry J. Nowak’s authorization of an emergency demolition of the building in August. Building owner Darryl Carl had wanted to demolish the 19th Century building located in the Cobblestone Historic Preservation District.
Judge D’Amico found that that the Housing Court did not have the jurisdiction to grant an emergency demolition. Demolition of structures falling within the purview of the City of Buffalo preservation laws are guided by administrative procedures set forth in City Code. A private individual seeking demolition of a structure must follow those procedures which initially require the filing of application with the Preservation Board. Preservation Board decisions can be appealed to the Buffalo Common Council.
The Court found:
A careful review of the statute empowering the Housing Court fails to demonstrate any specific authority for the Housing Court to preside over a demolition hearing requested by a private party during the defense of a prosecution for housing code violations. In the event an emergency situation develops, city enforcement agents, entrusted with the responsibility to protect and promote public safety, are required to institute immediate demolition proceedings. However, the procedure for a private party requesting demolition of private property in the City of Buffalo is specifically contained in the Buffalo City Charter and Code Chapter 337, requiring the use of the administrative procedure set forth therein.
Accordingly, the order of the court below granting authorization for demolition is hereby reversed.
It is unknown what happens next. The City can press for immediate repairs of the property in Housing Court while Carr can attempt to make a case the building is unsound and a threat to public safety and seek an emergency demolition of the structure via the process laid out in City Code. Stay tuned.