Residents, elected officials, and community groups hope for accountability
The City of Buffalo is taking matters into its own hands, concerning the derelict state of the former Battaglia Construction Facility at 1037 Seneca Street in the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood. Councilmember Mitch Nowakowski announced that the City would proceed with a demolition order, after giving a final notice to the property owner on July 20. The property owner has been advised to remove any belongings before demolition crews tear down the “neglected, trash and rat infested, burned-out dangerous property,” which was vacated by Battaglia Demolition in 2018.
Between illegal dumping and a “mysterious fire” (after a 2021 settlement was reached with New York State Supreme Court), the building and the site has been a headache for the neighborhood, and for the City of Buffalo.
Nowakowski said, “The owner of this neglected and dilapidated facility has proven time and again that he does not care for the people who live in the neighborhood. While legal battles played out, residents continued to suffer from the blight created here, the rodents and wildlife that have made themselves at home, and the air pollution which makes it hard to breathe. As of today, it’s official: the City has put the owner on notice that demolition is imminent. The residents here deserve better. Whoever or whatever business occupies this space in the future must operate in harmony with the people who live here.”
Today’s outcome is thanks to a concerted effort between neighborhood residents and members of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York. While it was operational, Battaglia Demolition – a waste transfer site – was an even worse neighbor, as it:
- Illegally operated a concrete crusher that shook the foundations of residents’ homes
- Polluted the air with diesel particulates
- Blanketed the neighborhood in silica dust, a pollutant known to cause respiratory illnesses such as asthma, lung disease and lung cancer
“It’s a shame that it has taken the City to step in and do what Mr. Battaglia should have done a long time ago. We have paid the price and suffered for so long and it is about time that he pays his fair share. Even though the demolition will not bring my neighbors back or fix my foundation, it is a small important step forward. I just want my neighborhood back from the trauma of the past 20 years with our very bad neighbor,” Diane Lemanski, Peabody Street Resident and member of Clean Air.
The pending demolition is just the latest welcome news for anxious and desperate neighbors who have been waiting it out for all of these years, in hopes of resolving the issues at hand. Previously Battaglia reached a settlement agreement with the NYS Attorney General and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in 2021 under NYS Supreme Court Justice, the Honorable Judge Chimes. This settlement included demolition of the building, cleanup of the debris, and a $50,000 fine. This settlement has yet to be signed by Mr. Battaglia – the unsigned agreement is in lieu of a potential $14 million in fines that Mr. Battaglia was facing after years of violations.
Councilmember Brian Bollman said, “Last month I stood with residents in the Seneca Babcock Community calling for the removal of the remaining structure at 1037 Seneca Street. This eyesore has burdened neighbors for far too long and must be removed properly to protect neighbors quality of life. I am pleased to see the removal is now imminent as the owner was put on notice that the demolition will be moving forward. It is imperative that the building remains are cleared safely and the future usage of this property needs to align with the goals of community members. The Clean Air Coalition has been a valued partner in calling out this eyesore in our community”
“For too long we have exploited and abused the environment for our own personal profit,” said Assemblyman Patrick B. Burke, AD 142. “It is important to highlight those elected officials, like Councilman Nowakowski, who not only look to benefit his constituency but the land in which we are so accustomed to forgetting. I commend the councilman for his tenacity and ability to mitigate issues through the correct channels, but more importantly for being a strong voice in his community and for the environment in which it exists.”
As for the future of the site, residents and the Clean Air Coalition anticipate on working with the City and other stakeholders to come up with a plan for the site that “centers the community’s vision, wisdom and concerns.”