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Owner of Buffalo debris processing facility agrees to clean up site, pay $50,000 fine

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Battaglia Demolition

Crews work to demolish and clean up the abandoned Battaglia Demolition building at 1037 Seneca St. in Buffalo on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

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A year ago, New York State asked a judge to order Battaglia Demolition to pay it $20 million in penalties for having illegally operated a construction and demolition debris processing facility in Buffalo for nine years.

This week, the Attorney General’s Office settled that lawsuit against the company's owner, Peter Battaglia Jr., after he agreed to pay a $50,000 fine and be on the hook for additional penalties of up to $1 million if he fails to clean up the property or abide by future use restrictions on the site.

While the initial goal of the state was to aim high in terms of seeking monetary penalties against the company, Alexis Richards, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, said it was more important to seek justice for the community that was negatively affected by Battaglia's illegal operation by ensuring that all the residents' complaints are mitigated under the agreement.

"The things he's agreeing to do far outweigh the benefit of just having the money," said Richards .  

For years, residents in the city's Seneca-Babcock neighborhood have complained about incessant dust, noise, odors, vermin and excessive traffic resulting from the facility's operation.

In addition to mandating the full clean up of the site, the settlement calls for Battaglia to create a buffer of new green space between the property and neighborhood. It also bars any future industrial uses for the property.

The settlement, which was negotiated last year, was finally signed by Battaglia this week. It gives Battaglia 120 days to clean up the property and until May 15, 2023, to complete construction of the buffer. 

The settlement terms were criticized by the executive director of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York. 

"Clean Air and the residents of Peabody Street we organize with are glad the settlement was signed and that the zoning changes will prevent industrial uses. However we believe the resulting punishment of a minimum of $50,000 fine, the ability to crush the remaining concrete on site, and the possibility of Battaglia Demolition being able to sell the property for a profit in the future was an unacceptable result," said Chris Murawski, the executive director. "Residents have suffered years of violations which put their health and properties at risk and destroyed their quality of life. We have to ask the question: Where is justice and restitution for them?" 

State Sen. Tim Kennedy on Thursday called the agreement a great victory for Seneca-Babcock residents .

"Most importantly, I think the clean-up of the site is imperative, getting rid of the dust and the noise and the odors," Kennedy said.

A call by The Buffalo News to Battaglia's lawyer, Jack M. Sanchez, was not returned Thursday.

The settlement did not estimate what the clean-up would cost. Battaglia is responsible for the cost of cleaning up the site under the terms of the settlement. 

Meanwhile, the city began demolition at the site on Aug. 8, anticipating that 40 truckloads of debris would be removed.

Battaglia began its construction and demolition debris processing operation at 1037 Seneca St. around 2009. The facility served as a waste transfer site that illegally operated a concrete crusher, according to the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York. The State Supreme Court ruled Battaglia Demolition operated with permit violations and operated the crusher illegally on April 2, 2018. The business was shut down after that. 

Michael J. DeGeorge, a spokesman Mayor Byron W. Brown said the city has spent about $150,000 on the demolition, for which Battaglia will eventually be billed.

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