Ever since the University at Buffalo moved to the North “swamp” Campus, there has been a battle cry by a large segment of the community for the university to reinvest in the city. In recent years that investment has started to happen, and the results are miraculous. Now the rallying effort is louder and clearer than ever.
Today, Senator Marc Panepinto (D-Buffalo) is calling upon UB to make a crucial investment into the heart of the city. Panepinto issued a statement that asks UB to relocate its Law School to the former Michael J. Dillon U.S. Courthouse. This would be a brilliant maneuver that would help to create a vibrant urban core, centrally situated in close proximity to the legal/judicial resources that the Law School could (and should) utilize with ease. The former Michael J. Dillon U.S. Courthouse boasts seven storeys and 183,000 square feet of usable space – the U.S. General Services Administration recently unloaded the massive footprint, which would best suit the Law School, according to Panepinto. The building has also undergone a series of upgrades that would help to ease the move (new roof, elevators and generator).
“The relocation of SUNY’s only law school would provide students the opportunity to live, work and learn where the action takes place,” said Senator Marc Panepinto. “This common-sense alternative would not only create a centralized and synergistic educational experience for students and potential employers, but allow UB to increase its ranking through marketing to potential students while freeing up additional space for growth on the North Campus. The success of a dedicated Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is proof enough. It’s time we invest in infrastructure that’s already been developed and offer our law students the same opportunity. I am calling on the University at Buffalo to begin to analyze moving the law school into the vacant Dillon Courthouse.”
Up until this point, UB had been looking at South Campus as appropriate placement for the Law School. Now there is pressure to not only locate the school downtown, but in a prime location that could help to transform areas surrounding Niagara Square (which could use some help). The move would also help to add vitality and interest to The Statler, which is still looking for a development partner. Statler City (with partner) could even look at converting the upper floors to apartments that would accommodate staff affiliated with the school – stranger things have happened.
“In 2008, we surveyed our classmates and found 73% of SUNY Buffalo Law Students were in favor of moving the law school downtown,” explained Rebecca Hoffman, an attorney with the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo. “As dual degree candidate, I was taking law classes on North Campus, urban planning classes on South Campus, and coming downtown for my internship at city hall, and not necessarily in that order. It was extremely inconvenient. The center of legal gravity is downtown and that is where the law school needs to be.”
Panepinto made note that SUNY Buffalo Law School was once ranked 15th in the nation. Today it is ranked 87th according to the U.S. News and World Report. Many people feel that trying to attract top notch professors (and students) to the North Campus is challenging. A move to the central core of the city would add vitality to the city and the school.
“Returning the SUNY law school to downtown Buffalo would have a tremendous impact both on the students and the economy,” said Joel Feroleto, Delaware District Council Member. “The city, state, and federal courthouses are all within walking distance to the potential new law school location. Most of the regions law firms would be within walking distance. This would give law students a great opportunity to access courts and interact with attorneys while making downtown more vibrant. With the recent improvements on Main Street including the announcement of EXPO food hall in the Market Arcade building, the growing medical campus, and Canalside, the law school would be a great asset to the revitalization of downtown and provide outstanding opportunities for future attorneys.”
There would also be a synergy between external clerkships (50-hour pro bono services hours for entrance to the New York State Bar) and pre-approved not-for-profit and government offices found near the former courthouse – City of Buffalo Law Department, Buffalo City School District, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
To add to the momentum, the General Services Administration states that the former courthouse is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and tax incentives. Plus, Mark Croce is offering the Law School 32,000 square feet of free space within Statler City, according to the Buffalo News.
“The sea-change the city has experienced in the last several years is nothing short of extraordinary,” said Statler City owner, Mark Croce. “People want to live, work and play in Downtown Buffalo. I am encouraging the University at Buffalo to take another look at this unique opportunity and help provide our students with an education steeped in Buffalo’s rich architectural history.”
“The entire nonprofit legal services community is located in downtown Buffalo, and the nonprofits provide many opportunities for law students to get involved in helping others,” said Joe Kelemen, Western New York Law Center Executive Director. “In addition, the courts and major law firms are downtown. Moving the law school into the legal community will benefit students, the courts, law firms, and the residents of Buffalo and Erie County.”
If you agree with this crucial move, consider signing this petition.