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Demolition campaign intensifying

The city's campaign to tear down decaying buildings will intensify as Buffalo earmarks an additional $10 million in state aid for demolitions.

Mayor Byron W. Brown's finance and inspections chiefs met Tuesday with seven of nine Common Council members, and they stressed the importance of approving the plan.

"This will fund approximately 680 additional demolitions during the current fiscal year," said Finance Commissioner Janet Penksa.

"We're targeting the worst of the worst," added Inspections Chief James Comerford. "These [structures] have to come down."

Council members attending the Finance Committee meeting endorsed plans to earmark $10 million in state aid that the city is scheduled to receive as an accelerated payment. The Council is expected to give its final approval next week.

With the 680 new demolitions, Comerford said, the city will have torn down about 2,200 blighted properties since 2006. Still, the inspections chief said there are probably 5,000 additional structures that need to be razed. He said some areas are a "mess."

"You feel like you're not even making a dent in it. You are, but it's tough," said Comerford.

Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera said that while he's a firm supporter of rehabilitating some empty buildings, many structures are in such deplorable condition that they must be demolished. He said one decaying building can cause problems for an entire neighborhood.

University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell agreed, noting that conditions on some streets in her district have dramatically improved since blighted buildings were torn down.

Penksa credited the ongoing demolition blitz for a major decline in arsons. Vacant homes are frequent targets of firebugs.

While Council members and administration officials agree on the need to accelerate demolitions, there's mounting concern over what should be done with the ever-increasing number of vacant lots.

Lawmakers want to see new efforts to try to find owners for parcels.