BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) Three weeks after a wind storm blew bricks off of the historic Great Northern Elevator on Ganson Street, we should find out this week whether the owners will be allowed to proceed with demolition of the building built in 1897.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Emilio Colaiacovo promised to issue a written ruling ‘quickly’ after a hearing on Monday. A temporary restraining order prevents ADM Milling from using the emergency demolition order which was granted to them by the City of Buffalo. The focus of Monday’s hearing was to help the judge determine whether or not city officials acted in a way that was arbitrary or capricious in reaching the decision to order demolition.
Attorneys for preservationists tried to argue that the city’s inspections commissioner never sought an outside independent engineer’s opinion and signed the demolition order for the Great norther Elevator based on what they called an irrational fear that another wall would fall down. “He could’ve availed himself of another expert opinion,” contends Tim Tielman, executive director of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo.
But James Comerford, commissioner of Permit and Inspections Services for the City of Buffalo, spent hours in the courtroom explaining that he was alerted to it by three of his inspectors on the scene the morning after the wind storm, he sought out the second opinion of the fire commissioner who often assesses structural safety, and finally did a drone inspection which showed structural stress on the railroad side wall, and bowing on the water side wall.
When asked why many brick buildings are able to stand for more than 400 years, Comerford had this response. “Well, I don’t know how they constructed them or what kind of mortar they used. I don’t know if the Sphinx had the type of mortar they had here. I can just tell you that that mortar in that damaged area can be taken out with your finger and I don’t feel comfortable with that.”
But Judge Colaiacovo challenged attorneys for the owners about why better maintenance work wasn’t done. “It would not have been difficult for them, over the years, to have maintained this building properly to avoid where we are today.”
“Judge, the maintenance would not avoid where we are today,” replied, Brian Melber, attorney for ADM Milling. “(The walls ) are just not built the way that they would need to be built to be safe in this location, given the passage of time and the deterioration of the mortar.”