fix buffalo today, archive

a view from recently demolished 669 Genesee Street


Kennedy's Vast Domain
The Supreme Court's reverse Robin Hoods.

Friday, June 24, 2005 12:01 a.m.

The Supreme Court's "liberal" wing has a reputation in some circles as a guardian of the little guy and a protector of civil liberties. That deserves reconsideration in light of yesterday's decision in Kelo v. City of New London. The Court's four liberals (Justices Stevens, Breyer, Souter and Ginsburg) combined with the protean Anthony Kennedy to rule that local governments have more or less unlimited authority to seize homes and businesses.

No one disputes that this power of "eminent domain" makes sense in limited circumstances; the Constitution's Fifth Amendment explicitly provides for it. But the plain reading of that Amendment's "takings clause" also appears to require that eminent domain be invoked only when land is required for genuine "public use" such as roads. It further requires that the government pay owners "just compensation" in such cases.

The founding fathers added this clause to the Fifth Amendment--which also guarantees "due process" and protects against double jeopardy and self-incrimination--because they understood that there could be no meaningful liberty in a country where the fruits of one's labor are subject to arbitrary government seizure.

That protection was immensely diminished by yesterday's 5-4 decision, which effectively erased the requirement that eminent domain be invoked for "public use." The Court said that the city of New London, Connecticut, was justified in evicting a group of plaintiffs led by homeowner Susette Kelo from their properties to make way for private development including a hotel and a Pfizer Corp. office. (Yes, the pharmaceutical Pfizer.) The properties to be seized and destroyed include Victorian homes and small businesses that have been in families for generations.

"The city has carefully formulated a development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. Justice Kennedy wrote in concurrence that this could be considered public use because the development plan was "comprehensive" and "meant to address a serious city-wide depression." In other words, local governments can do what they want as long as they can plausibly argue that any kind of public interest will be served.

In his clarifying dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas exposes this logic for the government land grab that it is. He accuses the majority of replacing the Fifth Amendment's "Public Use Clause" with a very different "public purpose" test: "This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a 'public use.'"

And in a separate dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggested that the use of this power in a reverse Robin Hood fashion--take from the poor, give to the rich--would become the norm, not the exception: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

That prospect helps explain the unusual coalition supporting the property owners in the case, ranging from the libertarian Institute for Justice (the lead lawyers) to the NAACP, AARP and the late Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The latter three groups signed an amicus brief arguing that eminent domain has often been used against politically weak communities with high concentrations of minorities and elderly. Justice Thomas's opinion cites a wealth of data to that effect.

And it's not just the "public use" requirement of the Fifth Amendment that's undermined by Kelo. So too is the guarantee of "just compensation." Why? Because there is no need to invoke eminent domain if developers are willing to pay what owners themselves consider just compensation.

Just compensation may differ substantially from so-called fair market value given the sentimental and other values many of us attach to our homes and other property. Even eager sellers will be hurt by Kelo, since developers will have every incentive to lowball their bids now that they can freely threaten to invoke eminent domain.

So, in just two weeks, the Supreme Court has rendered two major decisions on the limits of government. In Raich v. Gonzales the Court said there are effectively no limits on what the federal government can do using the Commerce Clause as a justification. In Kelo, it's now ruled that there are effectively no limits on the predations of local governments against private property. These kinds of judicial encroachments on liberty are precisely why Supreme Court nominations have become such high-stakes battles. If President Bush is truly the "strict constructionist" he professes to be, he will take note of the need to check this disturbing trend should he be presented with a High Court vacancy.

Control board layoffs take a toll on eliminating city eyesores

Inspectors have cracked down on housing violations, but clerk shortages have stopped enforcement cold

News Staff Reporter

Buffalo housing inspectors have been on a roll this year, citing more homeowners and landlords for broken windows, rotting porches, crumbling chimneys and leaky roofs.

But that's where the crackdown ended.

Instead of being sent to Housing Court, their inspection reports are piling up on tables on the third floor of City Hall. Since February, few houses cited for violations have been referred to Housing Court, where a judge could order repairs.

And it's all because of a missing clerk, city officials said.

The clerk returned to work this week, filling the job that was vacant more than four months. Still, it could take months before all of the cited property owners can be summoned to court and the backlog of 523 problem properties eliminated.

And it could be too late for many of the properties to be repaired this summer. Time is running out for the judge to order the problem properties repaired before the cold weather sets in.

"That is mind-boggling. And it's a very good example of the way City Hall works," said Harvey Garrett, a West Side housing activist and volunteer community liaison for Housing Court Judge Henry J. Nowak. "This is not something you play games with."

It didn't have to be this way.

The City Court housing judge and Garrett's West Side neighborhood organization offered to help, with interns and volunteers, in processing the paperwork.

Hoping for action

But instead, Raymond K. McGurn, the commissioner of the Department of Permit and Inspection Services, opted to wait until the control board filled the clerk's job before accepting the offers.

"He's going to get working," McGurn said of the clerk who started on Monday. "And then I will be able to accept the judge's interns and put this whole thing back together and make a practical decision on what cases are going to be brought to court."

Meanwhile, run-down houses in the city remain an eyesore.

And people like Angela Middlebrooks are forced to wait longer for the judge to order repairs or demolition for dilapidated houses near their well-maintained homes in the Fruit Belt and other neighborhoods.

"We have had our fingers crossed hoping something will happen," Middlebrooks said.

Middlebrooks and her family live in a two-story, three-bedroom home that the Crisis Services case manager bought five years ago. It's one of the new houses built to help keep middle-class families in Buffalo.

But eyesores in the neighborhood haven't been renovated or torn down as fast as Middlebrooks had hoped.

A run-down, vacant house across the street - owned by a Grand Island resident - is missing its side door. A cushion has been placed across the opening.

There are other violations: broken windows, peeling paint, deteriorated siding and roofing, and loose and crumbling foundation blocks.

In back of Middlebrooks' house, another vacant house was cited for six violations, including trash strewn about the yard, broken windows, peeling paint and deteriorating gutters.

Both houses were inspected more than two months ago; neither owner has been summoned to court yet to answer the violations.

"I like the area," said Middlebrooks, 31. "New homes are being built. But in between, you have all these vacant pieces of garbage that need to be cleaned up or demolished."

Fruit Belt hurting

And now, Nowak worries the backlog means dilapidated houses like the ones near Middlebrooks will not be brought before him until the construction season is over.

The backlog hurts the Fruit Belt more than any other city neighborhood. The Fruit Belt has 64 properties cited for code violations that have not yet been referred to Housing Court. The Broadway Fillmore neighborhood has 54 properties, the second highest number.

"A four-month backlog and its impact are not acceptable . . . to those residents that continue to suffer the effects of blighted, vacant properties adjacent to their own," Nowak said in a letter last week to Mayor Anthony M. Masiello.

"Neighbors will have to wait another year for the blighted properties next door to be repaired, or even give up and move out of the city," the judge wrote. "More importantly, these houses can continue to be havens for criminal activity and will require significant time and energy from our city police and fire departments, not to mention the increased costs for emergency demolitions."

McGurn said his hands were tied until last week, when the state control board supervising City Hall's finances approved filling the vacant clerk's job.

Since February, one clerk has been trying to do the work that three clerks did a couple of years ago, he said.

McGurn said he lost the flexibility to reassign other employees to help process the paperwork after his department lost 43 positions in two years. He did not move an inspector over to help with the clerical work because that would put the city at risk of losing the federal reimbursement for the inspector's salary, he said.

"These guys are building inspectors, they're not clerical people," McGurn said. "They're carpenters, engineers and electricians who know their fields."

The lone clerk who had remained on the job all along has been busy keeping up with existing Housing Court cases. She was able to get a handful of the most serious cases ready for court.

When Nowak's two interns showed up at the office to help, the clerk didn't have time to train and supervise them, McGurn said.

"It takes her more time during the day to do that," McGurn said of his clerk. "And she's a dedicated employee. She's fantastic. But now she's being asked to supervise someone when she has her own work? She doesn't want to get any more behind than anybody else."

"Bumping' delayed job

Problems in the department started in November when a clerk was laid off. In a process called "bumping," a laid-off police report technician exercised her right to take over the clerk's job because she had more seniority.

But she didn't stay long in the job. She returned to her previous job as a report technician. Her last day working for McGurn was Jan. 31. McGurn said he sent the paperwork seeking her replacement to city budget officials on March 11. Last week, the control board approved putting the former clerk back into his old job.

McGurn said he delayed posting the opening for three weeks in a bid to bring back the department's previous clerk, who was already trained. To get that clerk back, McGurn waited for other laid-off police report technicians to find other jobs before he posted the department's clerk position as available.

The delay couldn't have come at a worse time.

The city's 15 housing inspectors are writing more housing code violations than before. They typically write 2,000 cases a year. But from July to December, they wrote 1,644 cases. And that pace has continued this year, McGurn said.

"It's very simple to me. When you raise your bar from 2,000 cases a year to 3,300 a year, and go from having three (clerks) working to one person working, you're going to get a backlog," McGurn said. "You certainly can't blame one lady who works over there. And we do not have the staff here."

Garrett, the housing activist, doesn't blame the clerk. He blames McGurn.

"If he's a couple of weeks behind because of a staffing issue, that's understandable," Garrett said. "But to be four months behind when he's being offered interns and volunteers is unacceptable and mind-boggling."


Ex-landlords are fined $79,000, face trial

News Staff Reporter

Two former Buffalo landlords were fined more than $79,000 on Monday and told that they face trial next month on further city housing and health code violations at their former city properties.

Venere Hutchinson, 29, and his wife, Dana, 33, who were once cited as among the city's worst slumlords, received the sentence in Housing Court from Judge Henry J. Nowak. The judge told the couple that unless they pay their fines in the next 30 days, they face jail terms.

Venere Hutchinson was ordered to pay $58,300 in fines on five properties, and Dana Hutchinson was ordered to pay $21,000 in fines on five other properties in which she was the listed owner.

The Hutchinsons have been in custody since being found about two months ago in Tennessee. Police said they were using fake identifications and were wanted in Buffalo on housing and health code violations linked to their properties.

Peter J. Savage III, the city's Housing Court prosecutor, said the city has spent $115,000 to demolish Hutchinson properties and faces an additional $30,000 in estimated demolition expenses on others.

Savage and Sheila M. Burke, the Erie County Health Department's representative to Housing Court, said the Hutchinsons are due back in court July 7 to answer more housing and health code violations involving lead paint and structural problems on 11 of the couple's former properties.

The Hutchinsons face trial on multiple grand larceny and fraud charges linked to an alleged $2 million real estate swindle that defrauded at least five lending institutions.

They are accused of obtaining 40 city properties from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a few thousand dollars each and then fraudulently obtaining second mortgages for as much as $100,000 above each property's assessed value.

Main Street Sites for 14209

Here's the city's official property descrition for:
  • 1618 Main Street 177' x 194' which is the largest portion of this vacant area
    • 1616 & 1614 are two narrow parcel owned by the same person who owns 1610, the recently burned out brick building just to the north of Autozone.
  • 1653 Main Street is owned by Maier Management fka Freddies Donuts.

14209 Re-Location...
I'll place all my posts and additional information regarding the re-location of PO 14209 in one easy to find location. Please comment on individual posts and not here on this page. Thanks...and don't forget to e-mail pictures of urban post offices from anywhere that contain the sort of design elements that you think the new 14209 should possess.
Buffalo's Latest McPost Offices!
DSCN1645 DSCN1638
DSCN1626 DSCN1617
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006

Nickel & Dimed...

While political life here in Buffalo and Erie County continues to implode and plans to Revitalize Buffalo seem to be increasingly more unlikely with 15 people/day leaving the city, and where burned out and blighted images of Buffalo become more familiar than images of Beirut or war torn Baghdad, there is at least one dedicated group of local folks who really understand the deep systemic fault lines that are now exposed for all to see. Free Buffalo will challenge some of your basic assumptions about how political and economic life is organized and how Buffalo Politics has been force fed, intravenously into us for generations.
So, if you consider yourself to be "open-minded" and "tolerant", someone who "embraces diversity" and "alternative points of view" explore this, position paper from Free Buffalo.
Jim Ostrowski is not the only "libertarian" here in Buffalo, New York. Dr. Ralph Raico from the History Deptartment at Buffalo State College is an internationally recognized scholar and intellectual heavy weight when it comes to using your mind when there are no longer dots to connect and where the map you thought was going to work no longer fits the territory.

Before making anymore plans to Revitalize Buffalo...try revitalizing your mind! Still reading and open minded? Check out what Dr Raico has to say about the hair-brained political choices are being served on today's menu. Whip out your iPod and get the podcasts. It's all free for the taking, a virtual graduate level course on how to stop this ship from sinking.
Field Trip for Your Mind
Raico Essays
Raico Mp3's
35 mp3's for your iPod
Yeah...I had a two hour sit-down with Jim Ostrowski Wednesday evening and three other like minded people. Spare me the ad hominem arguments, study the issues and learn how to Free Buffalo today for tomorrow!

btw...Free Buffalo is working alongside Primary Challenge to help bring some fresh blood to the local political scene. Oh...did somebody see that Primary Challenge endorsed Judy Einach for Mayor! I wrote about Judy's endorsement awhile back!
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006

Neighborhood Preservation Collaborative

June 9, 2005 - Council Chambers

Home Owner Assistance – Harvey Garrett

The regular maintenance and repair costs associated with owning the older homes in the City of Buffalo are always expensive. However, these expenses are even more burdensome for low-income homeowners, especially those in preservation districts where architectural guidelines may prohibit certain cost-effective options. The distinctive character of windows, doors, fascia and other decorative elements is sometimes sacrificed in favor of economic functionality when the repair and replacement costs of vintage elements far exceeds that of their modern counterparts. Other homeowners in Preservation Districts who are unable to afford these additional costs may allow their homes to deteriorate to a point at which repair is no longer an option.

It is our goal to identify funding sources and cooperate with other service providers to assist low-income homeowners with historically appropriate repairs. By providing this “gap funding” it is hoped that the frequency of inappropriate alterations and demolition by neglect will diminish. In addition to financial assistance, we will provide practical advice and guidelines that will help homeowners identify cost-effective methods of preserving the historical distinction of their homes. For example, workshops on paint maintenance, landscaping and various other issues could give homeowners the sills and insight necessary to care for their architecturally significant homes without incurring additional expenses.

Neighborhood Awareness – Tim Tielman

Partnering with residents of historic neighborhoods for the promotion, identification and outreach of heritage sites is paramount to the Preservation Movement in Buffalo, NY. Through effective, open communication, we will foster partnerships that had been previously neglected.

This committee will combine the efforts and talents of our residents with existing preservation organizations and other groups to succeed. The current Preservation Districts in the City need to be promoted to their best potential. This committee will work with neighborhoods to identify the stories behind the scenes and other historic morsels to add flavor to future tourism endeavors and to allow each community to embrace its own history.

The Neighborhood Awareness Committee also will attempt to identify additional sites to be earmarked for recognition, while encouraging teams of citizens and preservationists to devise proactive solutions for their protection.

Evaluations - Scot Fisher

In order to prevent demolition by neglect, it is essential to identify structural issues with our historic buildings as quickly as possible. In all Preservation Districts, the current inspection procedure is to wait for citizen complaint based upon a simple visual inspection of the exterior of the building. By the time the building shows such obvious defects, the structural problems may be beyond repair.

It is far easier to achieve code compliance the sooner any problems are addressed. This committee will take an active role to identify historically significant properties in need of repair and the develop procedures to regularly inspect them so that any building code violations are discovered when they are far less expensive to remedy. This Committee will also establish a dialogue with each building owner and provide assistance, if necessary, to protect each building if it falls into disrepair.

This committee will also team with the adaptive reuse committee to assist building owners in finding creative solutions for properties that can no longer be used as originally intended. With the early and immediate focus the Evaluations Committee will provide, we can eliminate the notion of demolition by neglect in our City.

Comparative Research – Marilyn Rodgers

The Comparative Research Committee will communicate with successful preservation organizations and consider models throughout the United States. Research and evaluation of select and successful preservation initiatives will provide a benchmark for the future of all preservation districts throughout Buffalo.

Subjects of exploration include

  • Materials in development or recently launched that preserve the historic, as well as structural integrity of an architectural jewel for future generations

  • Funding programs form single buildings to entire neighborhoods

  • Tourism development

  • Partnering processes with other organizations, such as the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.

Comparative Research will work closely with other committees in both providing necessary information and creating reports from investigations of other initiatives. Dialogue already has opened with the Historic Charleston Foundation, Landmark Society in Rochester, NY and the Chattanooga, TN Preservation League.

Adaptive Reuse – Richard Baer

This committee will investigate the adaptive reuse of existing, vacant or underutilized historic properties into new residential, commercial and combined spaces. We have seen examples of adapting historic structures, even utilizing damaged or near-rubble walls, into ready made, rich interiors while benefiting from century old craftsmanship. Old buildings preserve local culture and identity and create a sense of belonging. In a way, through this recycling, human resource energy is embodied along with material energy. Adaptive Reuse joins the past to be a part of the future, creating important connections through time.

Therefore, this committee will serve as a think-tank to review these models and develop processes, concepts and strategies for the beneficial conversion of existing structures. By effectively shedding our habits of tearing down old buildings and starting over, we can proactively utilize architectural residue from the past as a repository of vast physical, human and cultural energy. And thus, it will provide the City of Buffalo with new residential and commercial opportunities that also preserves one of its greatest assets – its architecture.

Marketing & Development – Dennis Galucki

Marketing our City’s architecture, neighborhoods and park system is imperative to ensure pride in ownership, community and preservation. Many of our existing preservation organizations already provide service through tours, newsletters and other types of presentations. This committee will continue and enhance those efforts by communicating the activities of each group, identifying new landmarks and areas to promote and pooling resources when appropriate.

It will be important for this Committee, in particular, to work with all other committees, particularly Comparative Research and Neighborhood Awareness. This Committee can utilize the experience of successful campaigns form other cities to create a strong image to attract positive attention here. In addition, the educational outreach to those outside of Western New York can and should be provided to those residents living in and around the properties being marketed. Ultimately, this committee can improve Buffalo’s image both here and abroad by promoting both uplifting and nostalgic assets that too few people currently appreciate.

Legal & Professional Research - Richard Lippes

This Committee has been designated to take advantage of the professional and intellectual expertise of local, national and international specialists who may be called upon to assist Housing Court, the Preservation Board and even individual property on technical preservation issues. It will endeavor to identify the best people to address each issue that arises. In addition, it will critically evaluate both the substance and the best policies for our community, based on our own needs and limitations.

This committee will research and evaluate legal and professional tools for historic preservation, so that it can advise Preservation Board and other entities regarding methods and procedures that will not only protect our unique urban fabric but also promote democratic and equitable solutions. It also will work with other committees to address the legality of new programs and efforts, compare our existing legislation with that of other communities and determine whether legislative reform is necessary.

Architectural Salvage – Chris Brown

While demolition should never be the first strategy when dealing with any building in need of repair, it has become a practical reality in our City. If demolitions must take place, one of the three things can happen to the architectural elements within these structures: they are either destroyed and land-filled; salvaged by either demolition companies or completely unregulated third parties to be sold to the highest bidder; or salvaged by a local organization to be used on another property in the City of Buffalo. The aim of this committee is to avoid the first two alternatives and ensure the third.

With the current number of scheduled demolitions, for which there has been no architectural salvage, this committee merits the consideration of the Collaborative. If salvaged elements from Buffalo unique 19th Century housing stock can be reinstalled into other City homes, which require period elements for restoration, this recycling can motivate all residents to enhance their homes and property values while providing the extra lift for neighborhoods and overall housing stock.

This committee will first define its role to ensure that its goal can be attained without encouraging demolition and will then seek to create the challenging process necessary to remove significant elements safely before demolition, protect them for future reuse and ultimately transfer them to appropriate properties.

Representative Earl Blumenauer

Post Office Community Partnership Act

H.R. 1006

The Post Office Community Partnership Act outlines minimum community contact procedures for any proposed closing, consolidation, relocation, or construction of a post office. Additionally, the bill requires the Postal Service to comply with local zoning, planning, or other land use laws.

Why is the Post Office Community Partnership Act needed?

The United States Postal Service is currently exempt from all local zoning, planning, and land use laws. There have been several instances in which the Postal Service has been unwilling or unable to build new facilities or make changes to existing facilities in a way consistent with community plans. Furthermore, there are no laws requiring the Postal Service to engage local communities in proposed relocations or constructions of post offices. As a result, communities and neighborhoods across the country have been subjected to Postal Service decisions that have negatively impacted service and livability. The 26,000 federal postal facilities are not just remote outposts of federal activity – they can, often are, and always should be centers of community activity.

This bill provides communities an opportunity to be notified of Postal Service plans in advance, which will allow for interaction in the decision-making process between local government officials, the public, and the Postal Service. The Act also addresses the need for the Postal Service to abide by a community’s plans for growth management, land use, traffic management, and environmental protection.

What will the Post Office Community Partnership Act do?

H.R. 1006 amends Section 404(b) of Title 39 of the United States Code, which currently governs only post office closings and consolidations, to extend also to relocations and construction. The Act specifies notification requirements to be given to local government officials and persons who are (or would be) served by the post office.

The Act modifies the considerations that the Postal Service must currently consider when making a determination to take action on a post office. Modifications include considering:

  • the extent to which the post office is a part of a core downtown business area
  • the nature and extent of opposition in the community
  • concerns of local officials, including consistency with growth projections and land use plans
  • consistency with the size, scale, design, and general character of the surrounding community
The Act adds language to require that the Postal Service follow the local land use laws, procedures and public participation requirements to the same extent and manner as other private enterprises. All other entities and interests must follow local land use laws and the Postal Service is better equipped than most to manage this process. Therefore, it is time to ensure that the Postal Service operates within the framework and rules that a community imposes on its own citizens and businesses.

Support for the Post Office Community Partnership Act:

In the 108th Congress, the Post Office Community Partnership Act was supported by 65 bipartisan cosponsors. The Act also received national support from organizations such as the American Planning Association, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Postmasters of the United States, National Trust for Historic Preservation, American Society of Landscape Architects, National Association of Realtors, and Smart Growth America.

For more information, contact Spencer Wilson in Congressman Blumenauer’s Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-4811, or Julia Pomeroy in the Portland District office at (503) 231-2300, or check out our website at

Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006


Major restructuring planned for Catholic parishes, schools

Bishop assembling commission to guide process that may take from 18 to 30 months

News Staff Reporter

Bishop Edward U. Kmiec launched his first major initiative as head of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo on Wednesday, asking priests for their support in a sweeping effort to reconfigure the region's parishes and schools.

In an interview, the bishop acknowledged the need for an "intensive process of restructuring" and said the planning, which is expected to take 18 to 30 months, would likely result in closing some of the diocese's 265 parishes and 81 parochial schools.

"The presumption is there will be a different number," said Kmiec, adding that he couldn't be specific about the number of closings because he doesn't know at this point.

The bishop is creating a commission of clergy, religious brothers and sisters, and parishioners to guide the planning, which is being called "Journey in Faith & Grace."

Ultimately, the commission and Kmiec will accept recommendations from various subcommittees determined by geography.

"I have confidence in our people that they realize adjustments have to be made, and I think they'd be willing to join in the effort," said Kmiec, who was installed as the 13th Buffalo bishop last October. "This is a grass-roots type of endeavor."

Kmiec revealed the initiative during an annual meeting, known as a convocation, with priests at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora and in an interview with The Buffalo News.

The region's shrinking population and struggling economy, as well as a short supply of priests, are pushing the changes, Kmiec noted.

Priests and others weren't surprised by Kmiec's announcement.

"This has been on the burner for a long time," said Monsignor Thomas F. Maloney, pastor of St. Amelia parish in the Town of Tonawanda. "It's inevitable you have to do something. Some consolidation is necessary."

The parish already is feeling the effects of the priest shortage. For 48 years, it was assigned three priests to serve 10,000 Catholics connected with the church. It now has two.

Area Catholics, Kmiec said, "understand that something has to be done. There's an expectation of that."

Nonetheless, he added, "We need ownership from everybody. This will not be an easy process . . . We expect there to be tough moments."

Fred Jablonski, church historian for Precious Blood parish at 1240 Lewis St. on Buffalo's East Side, wondered if he and fellow parishioners will be celebrating the church's anniversary - its 106th - for the final time this weekend. The parish has only 100 families registered.

"There's a concern, but you've got to face reality. People have been talking about this for two to three years," he said.

The commission of 24 people will meet for the first time in late August at the seminary.

By October 2006, it will begin reviewing recommendations from parishes and subcommittees throughout the diocese.

The commission will then make recommendations to Kmiec, who will have the final say about which parishes close and which stay open.

Parish closings could happen in late 2006 or early 2007. Some school closings could come sooner.

The area's estimated 700,000 Catholics should also prepare for fewer Masses, even in parishes that remain.

Fewer priests for Masses

"We've got to revisit that very, very much," said Kmiec. "Our Mass schedules are still very much patterned after when we had a lot of priests."

"Journey in Faith & Grace" comes 11 years after Bishop Edward D. Head unveiled a similar reorganization process called "Visions 2000."

The process was put on hold when Head retired and was replaced by Bishop Henry J. Mansell, who favored keeping parishes and schools open.

Kmiec said the restructuring can be postponed no longer.

The number of active diocesan priests has declined since 1995 by 30 percent to 237, and parish membership and average weekend Mass attendance are down 12 percent and 13 percent, respectively, over that same time. Baptisms are down by a third.

By 2010, the diocese projects it will have 179 active diocesan priests, and by 2015, 149 priests.

"If we still had 274 parishes and missions, I can't imagine," said Sister Regina Murphy, director of research and planning for the diocese. "We have to be very concerned about the health and well-being of priests. And, of course, we're talking about older men."

The planning office has put together a question-and-answer document to explain the need for restructuring.

The document pays particular attention to the shift of Catholics from Buffalo to the suburbs. The city's 56 Catholic churches are only 22 percent filled during weekend Masses.

"People remember these places, but they're not necessarily in these places anymore," said Kmiec. "It can't be as it had been in the past."

The condition of parish buildings and their architectural significance will play a role in how the diocese addresses its city parishes, he added. Kmiec said a restructuring would allow parishes and schools to stay vibrant.

Schools strain finances

He noted, as an example, the financial strain faced by many parishes that run schools. Enrollment has declined 20 percent since 1995, when there were 30,563 students in 111 Catholic elementary and secondary schools. There are now 24,314 students in 97 elementary and secondary schools.

With tuition covering only half the per-pupil cost of education, some parishes spend the majority of their income on schools. That means "the other ministries suffer," said Kmiec.

Compared with other dioceses nationally, Buffalo seems to have more parishes "than our personnel and resources can handle and the number of Catholics here would need," said Murphy.

Besides, the church isn't immune to the same changes that have occurred locally in business, government and medicine, she said, citing consolidations, closings and mergers in those sectors.

"The essence of the church doesn't change, but the structure - the way it meets the needs of its people - that needs to be adapted to the time and circumstances," she said.

Difficult choices ahead

Parishes that survive a downsizing will be those that offer quality worship services and music, activities beyond Masses for their parishioners, preparatory programs for sacraments such as First Communion, confirmation and marriage, and service and charity outreach.

"We expect there to be tough moments. It's been like that in other places, and we expect the same," said Kmiec.

The diocese will keep parishioners apprised of planning efforts through church bulletins, the diocesan Web site and other diocesan media.

"We'll have to be transparent, to make people feel as if we're not concocting something behind their back," the bishop said.
related posts: "Annals of Neglect"

Thoughtful Preservation

Nowak effort could spark orderly method of dealing with architectural heritage issues

Buffalo News 6/9/2005

If it takes judicial pressure to get Buffalo's disparate preservation forces to work together in a proactive effort to save the city's historic architecture, so be it.

City Housing Court Judge Henry Nowak, a jurist who already has made his mark on city planning and preservation, is convening a new Neighborhood Preservation Collaborative to swap the typical stop-the-bulldozers reaction to demolition threats with a reasoned and coordinated effort to assess the city's treasures and figure out the best ways to deal with them. It's a voluntary effort by all concerned, but the judge is using the prestige of his office and his record to make it work.

The collaborative - and Nowak stresses that word - will hold its first meeting at 7 p.m. today in City Hall's Common Council Chambers, and everyone is invited. To start, Nowak has crafted a carefully thought-out committee structure and matched those jobs with the talents of some uniquely qualified interim chairmen.

This could be a watershed moment for a city that has suffered from the lack of an overall preservation plan and a fragmented preservation community, including at least three citywide or regional preservation groups that haven't always worked well together. Nowak's informal collaborative effort can bring them all under one tent. For too long, preservation issues largely have been dealt with either by the city Preservation Board addressing zoning and variance requests at the start of the preservation process or by Nowak's Housing Court that handles end-of-the-line issues of structural problems and demolitions.

Much of the strength in Nowak's idea lies in his comprehensive look at the preservation process, a key element in any city's effort to not only preserve its treasures but incorporate its heritage into plans for the future. It took years to develop a preservation policy, no surprise in a city still working toward a comprehensive master plan. While there has been hope for comprehensive surveys springing from pilot projects done in selected neighborhoods by local architect Clinton Brown's firm for the Preservation Board, a much wider effort is needed.

Nowak sees a set of committees dealing with issues such as adaptive reuse, finding ways to help building owners fund heritage-saving restoration, salvaging key architectural elements from homes about to be demolished and a committee to research and evaluate preservation initiatives in other cities.

Scot Fisher, who has led the effort to restore a Delaware Avenue church for singer Ani DiFranco's studio, would lead an evaluation and inspection committee. And leaders of major preservation groups - Richard Lippes of the Preservation Coalition, Dennis Galucki of the Landmark Society and Tim Tielman of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture - would lead committees for legal and professional research, tourism and educational marketing and development and neighborhood awareness.

"It's so tough to be proactive, because it really takes a lot of work if you're on your own," the judge said.

Nowak hopes the work will assist the Preservation Board, unite preservation interests, post real accomplishments and "pretty much eliminate the whole notion of demolition by neglect in this area." It's a tall order, but a good start.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Urbex...Planet wide...

This is all cut n pasted from Modern Ruins and Urban Exploration. Check back for updates...

Updated June 16, 2004

Newest Links

  • Derelict London
  • Sleepy City
  • Abandon Spaces (dead link?)

    Abandoned Asylums and Hospitals

  • Abandoned Asylums
  • Angels in the Architecture Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City, Michigan
  • Bartonville State Hospital from the Ghosts of the Prairie page.
  • Boyd's Sanitarium in Dripping Springs, New Mexico
  • Buffalo Psychiatric Center Photographs by Joe Hayden depict this former asylum in the United States designed by H.H. Richardson.
  • Byberry Mental Hospital
  • Byberry
  • The Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital in Maidenhead, Berkshire, England
  • The Castle on the Hill Danvers State Hospital
  • Clinton Valley Center abandoned asylum in Michigan, now demolished
  • Clinton Valley Center more pre-demolition photos
  • Danvers State Insane Asylum very nice site, has a video clip with some interior shots of the hospital.
  • Danvers photos from Jeremy Barnard photography
  • Dark Passage
  • Diversatech aerial photos of an abandoned mental hospital in Manteno, Illinois
  • Dixmont Insane Asylum
  • Eastern State Penitentiary As seen on MTV's Fear. The penitentiary was closed in 1971. It is listed as a historical landmark and is open for tours April through November.
  • Essex Mountain Sanatorium
  • Fairfield Hills State Hospital in Newtown Connecticut. This hospital was used on MTV's Fear.
  • Fairfield Hills photos
  • Historic Asylums
  • Historic Asylums Message Board (too many pop up ads) Of particular interest; Bartonville State Hospital (said to be haunted) and Danvers State Hospital.
  • King's Park Psychiatric Center - A Documentation
  • Kirkbride Buildings
  • Light Into Darkness scenes from an abandoned asylum (Danvers)
  • Manteno State Mental Hospital
  • Metropolitan State Hospital in Massachusetts
  • Noho's Abandoned Asylum More pictures of North Street Mental Hospital in Northhampton, MA.
  • North Street Mental Hospital Ian Herrick's photos of an abandoned asylum in Northhampton, MA.
  • Norwich State Hospital
  • Pennhurst State Mental Hospital
  • Pilgrim State Asylum
  • Project Ardmore abandoned juvenile mental institution in Livonia, MI
  • Reno or Bust Metro Times Detroit article on an abandoned mental hospital
  • Rochester Psychiatric Center
  • Rockland Psychiatric Center
  • St. Louis City Hospital
  • Sunland Hospital in Tallahassee, Florida
  • Tales of Eloise Eloise Hospital aka Wayne County Asylum in Detroit
  • Teens get big scare while ghost hunting in abandoned hospital article about a group of teens who were mugged while exploring Jefferson Davis Hospital.
  • Vintage Postcards of Hospitals in Hamilton, Ontario
  • Vintage Postcards of Hospitals in Worcester, Massachusetts

    Amusement Parks, Water Parks, and Zoos

  • Asbury Park, Then and Now
  • Defunct Amusement Parks
  • Idora Park abandoned amusement park in Ohio

    Cemeteries and Catacombs

  • Adam's Stull Page
  • Bachelor's Grove
  • Bachelor's Grove Cemetery An excellent site on what is called Chicago's most haunted cemetery. pics
  • A Fine and Sacred Place Pics from several Philadelphia cemeteries and the Pennhurst State Mental Hospital.
  • Old Bones cemetery art
  • Old Cemeteries, Arsenic, and Health Safety
  • Ossuary information on Jan Svankmajer's short film, The Ossuary.
  • Sedlec Ossuary
  • Spelunking the empire of death article on exploring the catacombs of Paris and the cataphile scene
  • Spider Gates Cemetery in Leicester, MA. 8 pics and a map.
  • Spider Gates Cemetery investigation into the rumours surrounding this cemetery. Nice pictures.
  • Stull Cemetery Background information on Stull Cemetery on Ghosts of the Prairie's Haunted Kansas page.
  • Underground Paris Photo tour of the Paris catacombs.

    Farmhouses and Other Rural Ruins

  • Deserted Farms 90 black and white photos of abandoned farmhouses in Iceland

    Ghost Towns

  • Ghost Town Index listing of ghost towns in the US
  • Ghost Towns of the West Ghost towns listed by state.
  • The Legend of Dudleytown, Connecticut
  • Mike's Ontario Ghost Towns and Abandoned Places
  • Monument Gallery pictures of ghost towns
  • NJ Pine Barrens exploring the ghost towns of southern New Jersey

    Hudson Valley Ruins

  • Bannerman Island History
  • Bannerman Castle Trust
  • Hudson Valley Network - Historic Site
  • Hudson Valley Ruins Photographs and background information on several ruins in the Hudson Valley area. There are also photos of Bannerman's castle illuminated at night.
  • Xydexx's Exploring and Modern Ruins Bannerman's Castle, Briarcliff Lodge

    Other Modern Ruins

  • Abandoned House of the Week Metro Times (Detroit)
  • (dead link?)
  • Abandoned buildings in Belgium
  • Abandoned Buildings of the Northeast photos of abandoned building and structures found in eastern New York and western Connecticut
  • Abandoned Memories Wayne County Child Development Center
  • Abandoned NJ
  • Among the Ruins pics of buildings destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871.
  • Barbados ruins
  • Blackshock photos of industrial, gothic and other dark scenes (Czech Republic and Slovakia)
  • Cincinnati's Abandoned Subway
  • Dead Malls
  • Desolation photos of abandoned buildings in Italy
  • The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit
  • Forgotten Michigan
  • Houston Buildings
  • Industrial Archaeology
  • Industrial Archeology in California
  • Kudzu Covered Houses in Georgia
  • La Fábrica destruction of a factory. (requires Flash)
  • Lost America Night photography of the abandoned roadside west
  • Military Ruins Bunkers, tunnels, cannons, arsenals... near La Coruna, the northwest coast of Spain.
  • Missile Bases for sale Have a couple of million to spare and a desire to live somewhere really unique?
  • Modern Ruins Project
  • Montreal Abandoned Buildings
  • Pacific Electric Subway abandoned subway line in Los Angeles
  • Phillip Buehler's Modern Ruins A photographic essay on the abandoned, decaying artifacts of the twentieth century.
  • Rash Reflections Photography pics of abandoned buildings in New York and New Jersey (click on Acid Kittie)
  • Roadside Art Online: Ruins 11 pics
  • Ruins page is in Japanese but there are some good pictures of abandoned buildings.
  • Ruins in Japan
  • SBNO abandoned amusement parks
  • Side O' Lamb Asbury Park in New Jersey
  • Subterranea Britannica UK Cold War defenses
  • Subterranean Fortress One man, his shovel, and 14 years of digging.
  • Tim Feresten - Photographs Michigan Central Railroad Station, industrial interiors, and an abandoned house
  • Underground Kent

    Tunnels and Drains

  • Abandoned Subway Stations in NYC
  • Abandoned Tube Stations in London
  • Cave Clan Australia
  • Closed stations in Paris' Subway
  • Dezafekt underground quarries of Paris, tunnels, subway,catacombs, pictures of the urban underground.
  • Drainage Exploration Boston, MA
  • Drains of My City urban exploration in Edmonton
  • Exploring the Twin Cities
  • Iowa State Steam Tunnels
  • Minneapolis Drains
  • Mysteries under Moscow article on a group called "Diggers of the Underground Planet"
  • New York City Underground from
  • New York Underground selected images from the book, New York Underground: Anatomy of a City
  • Notes from Underground City Pages (Twin Cities, MN) article on exploring drains and tunnels
  • Paris Souterrain catacombs and tunnels (in French)
  • Promenades souterraines [French] [English version] the forbidden French underground
  • Under OSU Ohio State University Steam Tunnels
  • Remnants of Abandoned Stations, Tunnels, and Station Entrances found on the MBTA
  • Storm Draining in Australia
  • Tunnels of Vanderbilt University
  • Under Cal Steam Tunnels at UC Berkeley
  • Undercity NYC tunnels and some useful info for would be urban explorers
  • Underground History Disused Stations on London's Underground
  • Virginia Tech Urban Exploration

    Urban Exploration

  • Action Squad Minneapolis urban adventures
  • Bangor Explorer's Guild Bangor, Maine
  • Boston Urban Exploration LiveJournal community
  • Columbus Underground urban exploration in Ohio
  • Explored New Jersey
  • Infiltration Infiltration: The zine about going places you're not supposed to go.
  • Jinx Magazine urban adventure.
  • Lost Destinations exploration in New Jersey
  • Lost Indiana
  • Newfoundland Urban Exploration Society
  • Nite Crawlers UE in Centralia, WA
  • Offkilter urban exploration in England
  • Ohio Exploration Society
  • Ohio Lost Ohio's forgotten places (turn sound down if at work)
  • Ohio Trespassers
  • Online and Underground Salon article on tunneling and exploring abandoned buildings.
  • pdXplore LiveJournal community
  • pdXplore UE in Portland, Oregon
  • Rural Ruin LiveJournal community
  • Under NY
  • Urban Adventure
  • Urban Adventures in Rotterdam
  • Urban Decay LiveJournal community
  • Urban Exploration Alberta
  • Urban Exploration Web Ring
  • Urban Explorers Network
  • Urban Exploration France
  • Urban Exploration Australia
  • Urban Exploration Front LiveJournal community
  • Urban Exploration Resource - Canada
  • Urban Lens UE in New York city
  • UE in the UK
  • urbanVenture new site. Not many pics yet but click on Transmit for a video clip of Metropolitan State Hospital.
  • DM Gallery urban exploration in Finland
  • Urban Speleology Minneapolis based.
  • Zone-Tour: Database of Urban Exploration


  • Castles for Sale
  • Castles of the United States There are over 100 castles listed on this site, most with a picture.
  • Creepy Cleveland Folklore, Myths and Monsters in Northern Ohio
  • The Devil's Tramping Ground in North Carolina.
  • East Coast Paranormal research Society
  • Forgotten NY
  • Frederick Wiseman's Titicut Follies info on Titicut Follies , a documentary filmed at the State Prison for the Criminally Insane in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. (1967)
  • GPSWNJ GPS coordinates of interesting sites in NJ, including those mentioned in Weird NJ magazine
  • House - The story of an abandoned house and its spell
  • Lithic: Unusual Sites in New England
  • The Lost Playground mainly Weird NJ type stuff, expanding to cover other states (dead link?)
  • Lovecraftian Sites in New England
  • The Midnight Society abandoned buildings, hauntings, and NJ weirdness
  • Night Photography by Larrie Thomson
  • Photographing Ruins article by Shaun O'Boyle (
  • A Record of Excursions and Adventures in Massachusetts Stone Circles, Dolmen, Chambers, Caves, and other oddities
  • Roads to Ruins guide to the medieval castles of Germany with hundreds of photographs and maps to the locations of the castles with histories and travelers information.
  • The Marsden Archive
    The Marsden Archive apparently sells prints of Simon Marsden's photographs but you have to order their brochure (free) to find out what is available and neither the brochure nor the website lists prices. A calendar and greeting cards are also available.
  • Simon Marsden
  • Weird New Jersey
  • Weird USA
  • Weird Wisconsin
  • Yahoo Weird NJ Fan Club

    Related Books

    In Association with


  • Eloise: Poorhouse, Farm, Asylum and Hospital by Patricia Ibbotson
  • Medicine and Magnificence: British Hospital and Asylum Architecture, 1660-1815 by Christine Stevenson

    Hudson River Valley Mansions

  • Phantoms of the Hudson Valley : The Glorious Estates of a Lost Era
    by Monica Randall, out of print but Amazon has used copies
  • American Castles: A Pictorial History by Amy Handy and John Burdick

    Simon Marsden
    Marsden uses infrared photography to capture the haunting qualities of the ruins he photographs.
    Unfortunately, most of Marsden's books are now out of print.

  • Beyond the Wall : The Lost World of East Germany
  • The Haunted Realm : Echoes from Beyond the Tomb
  • In Ruins: the Once Great Houses of Ireland out of print but Amazon usually has a used copy for sale
  • The Journal of a Ghosthunter
  • Venice: City of Haunting Dreams
  • Demolition by Neglect

    The following is the full text of a resolution sponsored by Buffalo Common Council President David Franczyk on April 19, 2005. The full text of this resolution was sent to me by the City Clerk's office. I've changed the formatting to make it easier to read. The resolution is currently in the Committee on Legislation.

    No. 129 Sponsor: Mr. Franczyk - "Demolition By Neglect"

    Whereas: Buffalo is blessed with a wealth of magnificent architecture and our buildings have a unique character that is one of our greatest assets and something that most other communities could only dream of; and

    Whereas: Many of these building are privately owned, and some are not being properly maintained and are deteriorating to a point where repair or rehabilitation is considered unfeasible; and

    Whereas: Often these buildings are willfully left to deteriorate so that an unscrupulous property owner justifies having the structure demolished instead of renovating or repairing the structure; and

    Whereas: This situation is commonly referred to as "demolition by neglect". Demolition by neglect should be avoided at all costs. Severe penalties should be imposed on any property owner who participates in this practice; and Penalties should be increased for any property that is located within a historic district or for a building that is declared a local, state, or national landmark; and

    Whereas: Albany and New York City have adopted ordinances which prohibit owners of historic properties from creating or maintaining a condition which significantly impairs the structural integrity of a building within a historic district; Now,

    Therefore, Be It Resolved: That the Common Council of the City of Buffalo directs the Corporation Counsel to draft an ordinance that would prevent demolition by neglect; and

    Be it Further Resolved: That the ordinance would prohibit owners of historic properties or properties within a historic district from creating or maintaining a condition which significantly impairs the structural integrity of the building and impose appropriate penalties for such violations; and

    Be It Finally Resolved: That the City Clerk of the City of Buffalo send certified copies of this resolution to the Department of Permits & Inspections, Buffalo Preservation Board, the Campaign for a Greater Buffalo, the Preservation Coalition of Erie County, the Landmark Society, and Department of Public Works for their comments and response

    about fixBuffalo

    buildings & issues
    contact & intro
    main page

    fixBuffalo delivered - enter your email address

    other places

      a daily dose
      cascadia scorecard
      city comforts
      cool town studios
      National Trust
      peter gordon's blog
      planning livable communities
      smart city

      Featured blogger at Sustainable Cities Collective

      Locations of visitors to this page
      fixbuffalo's photos More of fixbuffalo's photos

    There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask
    of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.
    - Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) from The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961.

    The views expressed here are mine and shouldn't be confused with the mission and statements made by others.
    This site is best viewed using Firefox. © 2010 fixBuffalo today