Judge: Shoreline Apartment Complex Can Come Down

Preservationist Fighting Demolition Plans Appeal

Dave Debo
January 26, 2018 - 6:47 am

WBEN Photo/Dave Debo

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(WBEN) Weeks after housing activists fought unsuccessfully to keep it's last tenant from being evicted, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Glowinia tossed out a preservationists claims and ruled that Norstar Development can proceed with demolition of the Shoreline Apartment complex on Niagara Street in Buffalo.

"I'm stunned," said Terrence Robinson, a Buffalo Preservation Board member who claimed that various environmental procedures leading up to Norstar's approval were flawed "with no compliance with the procedure and no compliance with the law,"

Attorneys for the developer and the Buffalo City planning board argued successfully that Robinson's claim should be dismissed.

"I support the judge's decision. " said Norstar attorney Patricia Gillen who argued that the buildings are a lost cause."This building is in terrible shape and the costs to bring it up to preservation quality? It's just not there.. The state doesn't have the money. Where are you going to find $41 million. I respect Mr. Robinson, but this is the right decision.."

Norstar Development tore down the complex's northern set of buildings, and replaced them with townhouse apartments. Today- weeks after evicting final holdout tenant John Schmidt from the remaining complex- they were  in court fighting a petition to prevent them from tearing down the remaining properties.

 Robinson, a member of the city of Buffalo's preservation board had filed a petition with the court arguing that proper environmental review of the demolition was not conducted, in part due to the city's involvement funding some of the complex's rehab over the years.   Demolition of public projects face a different level of scrutiny than private-sector ones.

Glownia dismissed Robinson's motion without comment. Robinson says he will appeal the ruling.

A timetable to demolish the complex is unknown, but some preparations are visible;  the property is ringed with fencing and other barriers restricting access.

The project is in a 1970s brutalist style made popular by famed architect Paul Rudolph, known for his unusual floor plans and use of concrete. 

HEAR ROBINSON  on why this case turns on more than just architectural significance:

On Jan. 8, several housing activists staged a rally in the building to protest Schmidt's eviction, saying that a change to the apartment complex would mean harm to their neighborhood.

"We are here to make a statement about this sort of process that has really taken over Buffalo. We are seeing it in (the adjacent) Pine Harbor, and Willert Park projects  and other areas of the city where the BMHA ( Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority) is intentionally  being collapsed so private developers can take over public housing, gentrifying and displacing people,' said John Washington. 

Norstar Development tore down a portion of the Shoreline complex three years ago and replaced it with townhomes on the corner of Niagara and Carolina streets.  Washington and others  fear that a similar change would result in the eventual displacement of an entire neighborhood.

 

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