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Heart of downtown needs a beat Fix AM&A's building, get it to code, get some accountability for this mess

Is there a more maddening, more poignant symbol of lack of mayoral leadership in downtown Buffalo than the continuing deterioration of the former AM&A's building?

Water had to overflow from its roof recently to draw city Permit and Inspections Commissioner Raymond K. McGurn's attention to the pivotal building. He continues to avoid having his inspectors do the thorough job they are supposed to do as servants of city taxpayers.

The main building and others in its footprint, so crucial to downtown's resurgence, are slowly and inexorably falling apart. Why won't McGurn act? This is a perfect example of why city residents lost confidence in Mayor Anthony M. Masiello. Something needs to be done, but he can't, or won't, do it. McGurn is a powerful politician, with South Buffalo clout. But the buck stops with the mayor, who doesn't need McGurn's support anymore since the mayor's not seeking re-election.

If Masiello years ago had embraced national models for condemnation, razing and rebuilding, Buffalo would be a better, perhaps even more populous, place to live today. Instead, the AM&A's building is a symbol of sit back and wait; it's an MBA course in mismanagement. Why doesn't that building meet code? Why is it unsafe? Why hasn't it been reused? Why hasn't its last owner been held responsible? If a portion of it fell into the street, what excuses would city inspectors make defending a civil suit? And why does the city's continued failed policy in this area -- exemplified by McGurn -- persist?

In his defense, Masiello said he met last week with the owners and that a redevelopment plan should be in place this month. But years of "this month" have passed.

In the time since Taylor's department store flashed across the city's skyline and died, new apartments went in one block away at the former Berger's building; further up the Metro Rail line at Main and Goodell; further down the line at Michigan and Scott. All that while the city let the AM&A's building sit and stew in its own juices. There is simply no excuse.

The mayor has three-plus months left in office. He should make McGurn do his job or promote his deputy; make the building's owner patch this eyesore; find a new use plan; and show the city that even on his way out, the mayor can make things happen, not just let them happen.

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