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Letter: Developers must stop knocking down history

Recently the City of Buffalo lost not only a house, but also a home to a lucky few. The house, at 184 West Utica St., designed by prominent architect Albert Schallmo, was demolished on Feb. 27.

The most recent owner-occupant, deceased artist Rodney Taylor (1966-2019), is the first Buffalo-born African American man to have his work exhibited at the Albright-Knox and the first Buffalo-born African American man to be part of the Albright’s permanent collection.

The owner of the property since 2014, Sinatra and Company, received the demolition permit roughly 24 hours earlier on Feb. 26. The house was unanimously deemed by the Buffalo Preservation Board to have historical significance only 48 hours earlier on Feb. 25. A vote for the house’s landmark status was forthcoming. The Brown administration ceded to the developer and issued the demolition permit despite the support of Councilmember David Rivera and Niagara District constituents for its landmarking status.

I ask, why not both? Why couldn’t the developers preserve this house and the one next-door and develop the vacant parking lot? A completely rehabbed, smaller and less prominent house, around the corner, recently sold for $430,000. Based on the rather quick demolition action of the developer, it is clear the goal is to maximize profits.

Some may believe these opinions are of the NIMBY mindset. However, a development project, at the Cadet Cleaners site right across West Utica, went through the Buffalo Planning Board approvals just last year with little pushback. That project has not progressed and that structure and property continue to deteriorate.

Rewarding developers with lucrative development projects for being poor stewards of these properties for years is not good policy. Poor stewardship seems to be standard operating procedure for some developers.

Matt Barnhardt


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