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Brown speaks up ; Buffalo mayor showing more leadership on saving the city's Statler Towers

There is good news all around in the developing plans to rescue the shuttered Statler Towers. Much of that, of course, lies in the fact that the rescue is seeming ever more likely. But also heartening is the more public role being played by Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown.

Little is more important to Buffalo right now than to ensure that the historic Statler is returned to public use. That is partly because it would verge on the sinful to allow this treasured building to deteriorate, but also because of the terrible alternative: a costly demolition succeeded by a parking lot on Niagara Square. It can't be allowed to happen, and many people are pulling in the same direction to ensure that it doesn't.

Most prominent among those, of course, is developer Mark D. Croce, who is clawing his way toward a broadly acceptable plan for him to take over the building, with initial plans for opening the bottom floors. State and city officials are also involved in the project.

An exception was Brown. He didn't seem to be taking his public role seriously enough. He needed to be more in front of the issue -- pushing, cajoling leading.

Lately, though, he has been more in the game. Earlier this week, he encouraged the Common Council to approve a plan that would see Buffalo agree not to pursue back taxes or other expenses from the Statler bankruptcy estate. It was a procedural step that did nothing to harm the city's ability to recoup those revenues, but was offered as an "inducement to get the trustee comfortable" with continuing on with a sale of the 18-story complex.

On Tuesday, the Common Council approved the plan unanimously. Was Brown's leadership responsible? It didn't hurt and it helped give the public confidence that the mayor understands the crucial task of saving this building.

The project is moving ahead, and hopes now are that Croce will be able to take possession of the Statler by late March. But as anyone who has followed the Statler's tortuous path to redemption knows, the way is strewn with obstacles. Everyone needs to remain on the job, including the mayor.

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