By Tony Farina
As Assemblyman Robin Schimminger wrote in a letter to the president of the state’s Empire State Development Corp. in support of DiPizio Construction Co., “redevelopment of Buffalo’s waterfront is a key component in plans to revitalize Western New York.”
We certainly agree with the veteran state lawmaker, and that’s why DiPizio Construction Co. of Cheektowaga, one of the most respected heavy contracting companies in the area, would like nothing better than to finish the work it started on the $20 million Canalside project at the old Memorial Auditorium site.
Unfortunately, officers of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. in effect “fired” DiPizio, claiming delays in the project were the contractor’s fault, a move that was not voted on by the ECHDC board even though the board had approved the original agreement.
We believe that the decision to fire DiPizio was a public relations move to cover up potentially embarrassing delays that were really caused by rampant bureaucratic bungling by the managers of the project under Empire State Development locally.
The whole matter is now the subject of multiple lawsuits resulting in further delays on the Canalside work and bad publicity for the DiPizio company, which has never in its 37-year history been terminated on a project. The family-owned business is devastated by the damage to its name and would like nothing more than to go back to work and finish the project.
Never once, in any of the testimony in the many lawsuits that have been filed in this matter, has there been any claim that the work performed by DiPizio was deficient in any way or that there were any complaints from subcontractors in coordinating with the DiPizio firm.
We have asked the state comptroller to review the entire matter, especially with regard to the use of taxpayer dollars to defend the project managers who fired DiPizio without showing any good cause and who did so without a vote by the board of directors.
We believe the managers in this case, who had been warned by the governor’s office of serious public relations consequences to any delays on the project, were simply acting to protect themselves by making DiPizio the scapegoat for their own mistakes.
This company wants the public to know it has been unfairly made the scapegoat for the delays in state funding, multiple late design changes and design errors, and other bureaucratic bungling that were really to blame for the Canalside project delays.
This firm, and its 73-year-old owner, will continue to fight to get the real story before the public and to try to repair its name in the face of the negative slant that project managers used to cover up their own deficiencies.
Tony Farina is a consultant for DiPizio Construction Co.