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Shuttered North Park Library gets landmark status

The red brick building tucked away at the corner of Hertel and Delaware avenues – once the home of the North Park Branch Library – is now a local landmark.

But the Crosby buildings – located at Pratt and Williams streets – are not.

The Common Council on Tuesday reversed its original decision and voted unanimously to landmark the former library at 2351 Delaware Ave. But it stuck with its initial decision not to do the same for the Crosby buildings, the site of a former manufacturing facility.

Landmark status makes it virtually impossible for a building to be demolished.

Back in January, the city's Preservation Board had recommended that both the former library and the Crosby buildings be landmarked. But the Common Council rejected the recommendations. Preservation groups then appealed in State Supreme Court, which directed the Council to reconsider its decisions because it had not provided sufficient rationale for not landmarking the sites.

Since then, an organization has expressed an interest in purchasing the long-shuttered former library to perhaps open a cultural center, said Delaware Council Member Joel P. Fereleto.

The fact that there is now a possible plan for re-using the building made the difference in deciding to grant it landmark status, he said.

"People in the neighborhood just want to see something there," Feroleto said.

The 5,592-square-foot former library branch was built in 1925 and was once a vibrant community cornerstone, but was closed and its collection moved in April 2008 because of asbestos and lead paint. It’s been vacant and boarded up since then.

Feroleto said he hopes to have an announcement in the next few weeks about plans for the building.

The court had also directed the Council to hold another public hearing on the Crosby buildings and provide a written explanation to back up its decision not to grant the site landmark status.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Council President Darius G. Pridgen read a written explanation as to why the Council stuck to its original decision.

"We’ve heard from both sides on the matter, and it is my opinion that we should not landmark this site based on several issues that were brought to light during both public hearings as well as my review of the application," Pridgen said.

Pridgen noted that the current owners have no plans to demolish the Crosby complex. Other reasons he gave for denying landmark status include:

• There was nothing to support the assertion that the Crosby Company was "one of the first and certainly among the most prominent sheet metal manufacturers in North America."

• There was no explanation of the contributions made by Theodore Kleinschmidt, who the Preservation Board identified as a successful businessman who once operated on the site.

• While William Crosby donated considerable money to the construction of Crosby Hall on the University at Buffalo's South Campus, the Council president said he was not convinced it was a significant enough contribution to warrant landmarking the business complex.

• In several instances, there was no explanation of why the site qualified as a local landmark.

The Council voted not to landmark the Crosby buildings.

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