Dec 30, 2014

Neighborhood Activists Believe Demolition Work Imminent at Thornton Hall

I was just tipped off by Kathy Mecca of the Columbus Parkway Association regarding what appears to be staging for an imminent demolition beginning at Thonrton Hall in the shadow of the Peace Bridge. The Episcopal Church Home property is threatened with wholesale demolition for the expansion of the plaza and a larger Duty Free Store to benefit private interests at the costs of the health and viability of the adjacent neighborhood. Plans for the Hutchinson Chapel previously called for its relocation, but ESDC has been silent on the issue as of late and has not produced any plans for its fate. Here's what Kathy had to say, spread the word.

Image courtesy of Kathy Mecca, taken this afternoon
Construction trailers are parked outside of Thornton Hall at the Episcopal Church Home. ESDC announced in November that Total Wrecking Company would begin asbestos removal. It figures they would start with the most historic building first which may jeopardize the stability of the adjacent historic Chapel.

As you know, Thornton Hall is a land marked icon inside of historic Prospect Hill-Columbus Park.  I am appealing to Preservation groups not to miss the opportunity to lodge a formal complaint against state and city officials who have decided to operate above the laws protecting historic buildings. It's a disgrace that government officials can blatantly dismiss the significance of land marking status and violate the City's Preservation Board's decision to deny a demolition permit for Thornton Hall.

Despite intervention from the National Trust, Preservation League of NYS, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, Campaign for Greater Buffalo and the City's Preservation Board, demolition of historic properties inside of Prospect Hill-Columbus Park has continued at an alarming rate - greater than any other district in the city.  We are the only major historic district in the City of Buffalo whose historic legacy is destroyed to appease the self-perpetuation of a public corporation (Public Bridge Authority) and the skewed political will of elected officials.

The Columbus Park neighborhood has done everything in its power including funding several lawsuits to stop the further destruction of our historic community.

Most recently in October we filed suit against ESDC and the City of Buffalo to prevent the demolition of ECH and to stop the Gateway Ramp project from moving forward. NYS State Supreme Court Justice O'Donnell rescinded the TRO allowing ESDC to move forward on demolition, but has not made a decision on the environmental impact portion of the lawsuit which if favorable, would halt both projects.

However, the court's ruling may come too late to save historic Thornton Hall. ESDC has the authority to start asbestos removal of the remaining campus of non-historic buildings first and leave Thornton Hall alone until Justice O'Donnell issues his ruling.

Your collective voices could convince ESDC officials to leave Thornton Hall intact until at least the court issues a decision.  The state has no plans to build on the sight so why should they rush to compromise the structural integrity of an iconic structure first? 

I truly hope you will give serious consideration to my appeal. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Kathy Mecca, President
Columbus Parkway Association

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