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Bid denied, Coppola will sue to raze Pan-Am house

The fate of a Delaware Avenue house left over from the Pan-American Exposition may be decided in court.

Alfred T. Coppola said he will sue to knock down the 2 1/2 -story clapboard structure at 950 Delaware, known as the Indian Stockade during Buffalo's 1901 world's fair, after the city Preservation Board rejected his demolition application Thursday.

The former state senator had threatened to raze the structure unless the board agreed to let Stillwater Grill, owned by a friend of his, install an awning over its Delaware Avenue entrance. That did not sit well with the board.

"It sounds like extortion to me," member Russell Pawlak fumed after Coppola repeated the warning at the group's City Hall meeting. "This is really absurd."

Coppola, who bought the Pan-Am house 25 years ago, blasted the board's "my way or the highway" stance toward owners whom he said simply want to improve their properties.

He said he has repaired the 1901 Pan-Am house as needed and paid all taxes, but because of the board he no longer wants "to be associated with the preservation of the city." Coppola never occupied the building, the only exposition structure besides the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society still in its original location. He lives in a home erected behind it in 2003.

Coppola lobbied the Preservation Board on behalf of Stillwater Grill owner William Goodhue before the canopy application was rejected in July. He continues to maintain that an awning over the Stillwater front steps at 481-483 Delaware would improve safety by keeping off snow and ice. Goodhue never attended the meetings.

But earlier Thursday, Goodhue's Stillwater Holdings, which bought a string of row houses including the restaurant in 2006, distanced itself from Coppola's threat to raze the Pan-American House.

Lawyer Joseph E. Zdarsky said the company "totally disavows any connection to those comments by Mr. Coppola. He was not authorized to make these remarks, we were not aware that he was going to make them and we never authorized him to act for Stillwater Holdings in this manner."

Zdarsky added, "We respect the authority of the Preservation Board, and are not looking for a dispute with them. Anything we do with the Preservation Board will be handled appropriately and in accordance with the proper procedures of the board."

Zdarsky repeated Stillwater's disavowal during a board executive session prior to the public hearing.

News Staff Reporter Mark Sommer contributed to this report.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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