Press Release re: Demolition Historic Busti Avenue Properties

Contact: Tom Yots & Jason Wilson
Phone: (716) 852-3300
Email: Director@P-B-N.org
Preservation Buffalo Niagara is extremely saddened by the loss of eight historic homes along Busti Avenue on Buffalo’s West Side last weekend. The homes demolished included the 1863 Storms-Wilkeson House, the 1881 W. W. Woodworth House, the circa 1880 Bird House, and the 1881 Seymour House among others. These four properties were all determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and one, the Storms-Wilkeson House, was designated as a local historic landmark.
Each of these historic houses served as a direct link to the prominent individuals who once resided in them as well as to their specific contributions to the rich history of Western New York. Colonel Samuel Wilkeson, a Civil War hero, grain elevator owner and grandson of Buffalo founding father Samuel Wilkeson, lived in the Storms-Wilkeson house during the latter part of the 19th century. The W. W. Woodworth House was built for prominent attorney Wayland Woodworth. Civil War veteran William Bird, son of Revolutionary War veteran Colonel Bird, whom Bird Avenue is named after, and great-nephew of Black Rock founder Peter Porter, built and resided in the Bird House.

The contiguous properties, comprising half of a city block in the historic Prospect Hill neighborhood, were demolished by the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority (Authority) to make way for an expanded truck plaza and Duty Free Shop at the adjacent International Peace Bridge crossing. The demolition of the homes began Saturday morning after United States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy lifted a temporary restraining order that was previously granted to the residents in the adjacent neighborhood last June. The neighbor’s lawsuit argued that the Authority had to abide by the state environmental review laws as well as disclose their future plans for the now vacant site. The Authority has refused to do either.

Preservation Buffalo Niagara is extremely disturbed by the actions of the Authority. The Saturday morning demolition as well as the lack of concern for the surrounding neighborhood is incredibly reminiscent of the destructive Urban Renewal policies of the 1960s and 1970s. The Authority had severely neglected the properties since taking ownership of them in the 1990s. The Authority had ignored countless requests by the neighbors to maintain the homes that had been in violation of the City of Buffalo’s Building Code for decades. Ultimately, the Authority cited their own neglectful maintenance of these community landmarks as motivation to demolish them.

Regrettably, the Authority continues to neglect their obligation to work with the residents of the historic Prospect Hill neighborhood. The Authority has disregarded the community’s valid concerns of air quality issues related to the diesel truck exhaust that migrates into the neighborhood adjacent to the Peace Bridge. If the Authority moves forward with the expansion of its truck plaza as planned, even greater amounts of diesel truck exhaust will plague the residents of the entire West Side. Preservation Buffalo Niagara would like to call on everyone who is concerned about the Authority’s actions to voice their opposition to the expanded truck plaza and Duty Free Shop at the cost of our collective health and history. Please take a moment to sign this petition that will be forwarded to the Buffalo Common Council asking for their support to push for transparency of the Authority as well as it’s expansion plans.

Stay up-to-date on this issue by visiting MoveThePlaza.com