Ryan calling on city to better protect historic properties

Districts could lose historic status if too many sites are demolished

Brendan Keany
July 13, 2020 - 11:50 am
Elmwood Demo Site

[WBEN Photo - Brendan Keany]

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BUFFALO (WBEN) - On Monday morning, State Assemblyman Sean Ryan stood outside the house structure located at 878 Elmwood Avenue to discuss the importance of preserving historic buildings in the Elmwood Village.

Specifically, Ryan is calling on city leaders to rectify legislation in order to prevent demolition in historic districts.

"We're facing another demolition threat in Elmwood Village of a perfectly good house that just recently was occupied," said Ryan. "Now, you have the developer saying that they need to knock it down because it's structurally unsound, which is just patently untrue.

"It also exposes that the city's process for protecting these buildings doesn't work," he continued. "They have one policy that allows the community to have a public hearing, go through the Preservation Board and go in front of the Council before this building can be authorized to be knocked down, and that sounds fine, but there's another policy, and that is if you apply for a demolition permit, the city will grant it to you in 30 days. So, the process of protection is not even halfway over before the building is demolished."

Ryan argues that this  30-day time frame doesn’t give the Buffalo Preservation Board and City Council enough time to consider a building for landmark status, this process has led to the demolition of more than 20 historic properties in the Elmwood Village.

Proposed changes to the current city policy would allow for the Preservation Board and Common Council to hold the necessary public hearings to determine the building’s contribution to the historic district before a permit for changes that would impact the exterior of the property under consideration is issued.

Continued demolitions in the Elmwood Village Historic Districts could also lead to a loss of access to tax credits for homeowners.  

"This area is an historic district, so that means anybody who does repairs to their houses, they get a 20% tax credit back from New York State, but that historic district is premised on [buildings like these] being here," said Ryan. "The more the developers are allowed by the city to come in and chip away the neighborhood, that reduces the ability of the neighbors to rely on the tax credit program."

Ryan says he has been in touch with the Common Council and they realize that there are problems with the current system and that the "system is broken." Ryan is hoping to work with council members during the August recess to get a law on the books that will protect these houses, as well as protect everyone's ability to access the historic tax credit.

Listen to Ryan's comments below:

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