Vandalism. Graffiti. Break-ins. Dumping.
Some people give Buffalo's Central Terminal the wrong kind of attention.
"It just breaks your heart," said Michelle Morloch of Cheektowaga, who volunteers to give the retired train station some tender loving care. Morloch, whose grandfather was an engineer on the New York Central Railroad, said she was doing some gardening on the grounds one day when a neighbor dropped a bag of household garbage nearby.
They exchanged pointed words. Still, the neighbor left his trash behind.
The disrespect for Buffalo's iconic landmark didn't pop up overnight. In 2007, well-known graffiti artist Christopher Fargo was arrested inside the terminal along with a group of other graffiti suspects. He was sentenced to up to nine months in jail.
"It's an ongoing battle," said Paul Lang, vice chairman of the nonprofit Central Terminal Restoration Corp. Some graffiti can be attributed to gang-related tags left on the building, he said.
But there are signs a new day has dawned.
The Central Terminal now has some two dozen security cameras, and the cameras helped Buffalo police officers from the Ferry District station make an arrest in a recent rash of dumping, Lang said. The police, Lang added, are interested in the gang tags and want to know whenever they are left.
While the Central Terminal suffers from some mistreatment, the directors of the restoration corp. had a more upbeat story for the approximately 60 people attending their open meeting Sunday, held in the grand but unheated concourse. Since 1997, the corporation has endeavored to stabilize the terminal and give it new life.
With grant money, big steps were completed this year. The building now has commercial-grade electrical service. Solar panels placed on the roof should begin operating this month. LED lighting shines atop the tower as well as the five-story baggage building. More than 30 events were held there this year, including the Association for Preservation Technology international conference and the annual Oktoberfest party on Sept. 29.
The corporation will soon draw on $5 million from Empire State Development as part of the Buffalo Billion initiative. Among the projects being planned are reglazing arched windows and making two large spaces flanking the concourse – the restaurant and the waiting room – weather tight. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning will be installed in the former restaurant, so it can be used in all seasons. The corporation hopes to hire professional help to plan and stage more events.
Meanwhile, the restoration corporation wants to do more to reach out to the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, a recommendation included in a study by the Urban Land Institute. Some of the terminal's neighbors wanted to see it torn down, Lang said. Then the organization realized those neighbors had no relationship with the building and had never been inside it. Once invited in, they took a different view, he said.
Some 10,000 passengers a day moved through the Central Terminal after it opened in 1929, when rail travel was common. At the close of the restoration corporation's meeting Sunday, the directors and their guests discussed a new golden age for the Central Terminal, though no one knows exactly how that will look. Will it be a regular venue for weddings, conferences, concerts? Will business rent space? What about condos?
"It's a wonderful question," said one of the directors, Yuri Hreshchyshyn, "that no one has an answer to yet."