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Community Invited to Medical Campus Forum

The Fruit Belt/McCarley Gardens Housing Task force have announced a public forum concerning the Medical Campus Community Benefits Agreement. Panelists will include former city councilman George K. Arthur, Duane Diggs of Voice Buffalo, Micaela Shapiro Shellaby of Coalition for Economic Justice, and Josh Cerretti, UB Graduate Student Global Gender Studies.  

The event takes place on Thursday, March 20, 6:30pm at the Moot Center (292 High Street).

Click here for more information.

Public Comments…Anyone? Anyone?

A-dog-and-pony-show-was-just-one-of-the-many-actsSo you’ve heard about the new UB medical school, which is planned to rise nearly 200 feet into the sky at the southwest corner of Main and High streets? Did you know you’ve missed the public comment period by a month? Did you know there was a public scoping meeting on October 22, 2012 held “to provide an opportunity for the public to identify specific issues and environmental impacts that should be addressed in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Phase 1 of the School of Medical and Biological Sciences”?

Here at Artvoice, we never receive notices about these kinds of meetings. Wonder why. We’re a newspaper and stuff.

Anyway, this October 22 event appears to have been one of the most pathetically under-attended meetings in the vast annals of dog and pony shows. Only one person signed in. And she didn’t have any questions to ask, according to this court reporter’s account of the meeting.

The event lasted a grand total of 22 minutes, including scintillating banter among Christopher Marcella, director of design for the State University Construction Fund; Christopher McGrath, project manager for the State University Construction Fund; and Pat Heaton and Ben Brazzell from EDR Companies, an environmental consulting firm based in Syracuse and Rochester that was working on the SEQR for the project.

The meeting was held at—where else?—St. John Baptist Church.

Click here if you are interested in looking at the piles of literature that have been generated around this secretive “Project 30B08.”


UB Responds to Fruit Belt, McCarley Residents

UB Foundation Receptionist: "Who is this man?"

UB Foundation Receptionist: “Who is this man?”

As we reported in this week’s print edition, representatives of the Fruit Belt and McCarley Gardens apartments sent a letter to UB Foundation chairman Francis M. Letro on January 15, requesting access to a contract signed between the foundation and Oak-Michigan Housing Development Fund Company, Inc.—a development arm of St. John’s Baptist Church in April, 2010. Back then, the foundation agreed to pay $15 million for the moderate-income housing development—with the intent to relocate residents and knock it down.

In the letter, Fruit Belt and McCarley representatives Veronica Hemphill-Nichols and Lorraine Chambley also requested the dissolution of the current “economic opportunity panel” that met with disgruntled residents on December 13. That panel is comprised of Dennis Black, vice president of University Life and Services at UB; June Hoeflich, a UB Council member and former CEO of the now-defunct Sheehan Hospital; Paul A. Tesluk,  the Donald S. Carmichael Professor of Organizational Behavior at the UB School of Management; Colleen B. Cummings, former executive director for the Buffalo Employment and Training Center; Brenda W. McDuffie,  president and CEO of Buffalo Urban League, Inc.; and Judge James A. W. McLeod. Assisting the panel are Marsha Henderson, former UB vice president for external affairs, and current “consultant” to the UB president; and Dr. Bradshaw Hovey, Senior Fellow, UB Urban Design Project and UB Regional Institute.

The panel was named by UB and St. John’s, but residents are calling for a new panel to be to be convened—one that would consist of actual Fruit Belt residents, in a ratio of 2:1.

Finally, residents demanded that all meetings be open to the general public, and to the press in particular.

Chairman Letro did not respond to the letter. Instead, the private UB Foundation—which is putting up $15 million for the sale—tasked UB Assistant Vice President for Government and Community Relations Michael Pietkiewicz with sending a response to Hemphill-Nichols on behalf of foundation chairman Letro. The response was copied to Letro, Mayor Byron Brown, Councilmember Darius Pridgen, Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus President and CEO Matthew Enstice, UB President Satish Tripathi, UB Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator Linwood Roberts, St. John’s Baptist Church Reverend Michael Chapman, and McCarley Gardens tenant Lorraine Chambley.

Pietkiewicz’s response does not address the call to dissolve the current panel and reconstitute it to include Fruit Belt residents (strike one). Nor does it mention the call that meetings be made open to the public and press (strike two). It also avoids answering the residents’ request for access to the actual contract signed between the UB Foundation and St. John’s on April 5, 2010 (strike three).

Instead, a link is offered to the “contingencies” included in the contract. Click here to read them, as they are described in a press release issued by UB spokesperson John Della Contrada, back when the contract was signed.

The first contingency states:

• Within three years, Oak-Michigan Housing Development Corporation will develop a plan to relocate the residents of McCarley Gardens into new and improved housing. The plan must be approved by HUD.

To date, no such plan has been approved by HUD. Looking at the calendar, it appears that the UB Foundation and St. John’s now have just 67 days left to secure HUD approval of a plan before this three-year deadline expires. It is also true that Reverend Chapman signed this 20-year renewal contract for McCarley Gardens with HUD on December 1, 2005—which should run until 2025 unless it can somehow be broken. Artvoice received that contract a couple years ago as the result of a Freedom of Information request to HUD.

Pietkewicz—who is on vacation in Florida until next Tuesday—explained via email that even though he is a New York State employee, he wrote the letter for the private UB Foundation. “In this case, a response to Ms. Hemphill-Nichols was more appropriate coming from UB’s Office of Government and Community Relations because our staff is actively engaged with community members who reside near the medical campus, including Ms. Hemphill-Nichols.”

Letro could not be contacted at the UB Foundation. The receptionist there did not know who he was. When it was explained that he is the UB Foundation chairman, his name still did not ring a bell. Instead, we were given the voicemail of Ed Schneider, Executive Director of the UB Foundation. Schneider has not returned the call.






Public Meetings on Plans to Move Children’s Hospital Tonight, Tomorrow!

Kaleida Health and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus would like you to know the following:

As required by the City of Buffalo Planning Board, we have scheduled a meeting to update any surrounding resident or business person interested in an update on Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo’s plans for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Innovation Center, 640 Ellicott Street, Buffalo, New York.

Please invite anyone who is interested in attending to receive an update on these plans in person from the physician and administrative leadership for this project.

We thank you for your time and hope to see you there.

Click here to download the notice. You might not have gotten the heads up, since the invite wasn’t very widely circulated. Artvoice didn’t even receive the notice, and our office is across the street from the medical campus. Somebody leaked it to us.

Then, the medical journal Business First posted this story a couple hours ago, saying there’s also a meeting tonight.

From the story:

Kaleida has issued monthly updates on progress for the new hospital. Among the updates for June:

  • The hospital’s physician strategic planning committee and its architect, Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott of Boston, are continuing to explore clinical planning and program design for the new inpatient tower. Along with the physician committee, 26 user groups are now engaged in producing a plan for the new ambulatory space and a new hospital.
  • Ciminelli Real Estate is moving toward final site approval for its new 500,000-square-foot medical office building at Main and High streets, which will house an 85,000-square-foot ambulatory care center. Ciminelli is working with both Kaleida and the University at Buffalo    on the design, with plans to begin site work in August, with completion in about 18 months. Ciminelli is also coordinating architectural and engineering plans with the two adjacent projects, the new Women and Children’s Hospital as well as the new medical school for UB.
  • The Buffalo Planning Board has approved the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo environmental impact statement (EIS). At its May meeting, the board also discussed initial building massing, floor plates and hospital access for the new building. Site plan approval for the inpatient tower project is the next milestone.

Looks like the folks around Elmwood and Hodge will be getting a taste of what the neighborhood around Gates Circle is still adjusting to—life in the shadow of a huge vacant building thanks to the good corporate citizens at Kaleida Health.


Wednesday War ‘n Politics

1. Congratulations to Mitt Romney, who won a couple of states in last night’s Super Tuesday. He appears to have become, at long last, the Republican’s nominee to take on Barack Obama in November. Santorum won a handful of states, and Gingrich won Georgia, which is enough to keep them around and just demolishing Romney day in and day out, but they don’t really have anywhere to go.

2. Incidentally, did you know that the Paladinoist / Palinist wing of the tea party club here in WNY held a Presidential straw poll of its own? Although Romney is very likely to win the New York primary, our plucky band of angry local wingnuts picked Rick Santorum.

3. The debate over what is to become with the Trico building is going to be the big development/preservation fight for the first half of this year. It’s already getting going, as an earlier post will attest. What’s unique about this particular battle is that most people agree that the Trico building is an historically significant landmark, and also that the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is something that’s great for the community and the source of a great many good jobs, and of a knowledge-based future Buffalo industry. It’s going to be a tough battle because it’ll be particularly hard for anyone to demonize or belittle anyone else. It’s also yet another ad hoc battle that we’re so used to, which pits people against each other, creates loads of rancor, and is generally sad and discouraging, regardless of who wins. While I recognize the historic importance of Trico, and the importance of its former factory, I also recognize that Trico is long gone, headquartered in Michigan, and making blades in Brownsville and Matamoros. The building is, to me, subjectively hideous – an eyesore, and refurbishing a former factory – regardless of how historically important – into a medical research facility is impractical, and something the BNMC simply doesn’t want to do. They want a 21st century facility, not a 19th century facility. This is before we even get to the environmental cleanup that any adaptive reuse would entail. My sympathies default to people, jobs, and the future.

4. The Valenti/Brocuglio dynamic duo is back in / still in WNY, depending on whom we’re talking about, and their residential landlord got shafted at Eden court in her eviction effort. The former owners of Valenti’s restaurant have until the end of March to move out of their home, and Judge Zittel did not order a judgment for back rent dating to December.

5. I remember watching the Little Rascals after school when I was a kid, those little unsupervised, depression-era scamps were often tussling with the truant officer. Perhaps it’s time that school districts with big absentee problems revisit this idea.

6. There was a lot of hubbub yesterday about a map released by a special master appointed by a federal judge to try and resolve the ongoing fight over congressional redistricting in New York. Locally, the issue was the fact that both Brian Higgins and Kathy Hochul reside within the redrawn 27th district. Suffice it to say, the court’s map is not in any way final, but it will be the default map should the parties be unable to come to a separate agreement. It happens every time, and acts as a catalyst to move negotiations forward. What does seem likely, however, is that Louise Slaughter’s district will be re-drawn to return her influence to the Rochester area only, and out of the Buffalo metro. NYS Judicial Redistricting Map

7. Ron Paul has won a whopping 47 delegates during this primary season. The margin of Romney’s lead over Santorum in the delegate race is more than 200 delegates. Why the hell is he still in the Presidential race?

8. In response to news that the government is looking to get rid of over 800 jobs at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve base, Republican Congressional candidate David Bellavia tweeted this:

WNY Congress reps have surrendered on Niagara Falls Air Base. Why don't they fight for the critical 107th mission?
David Bellavia

Well, not really. I received a press release that Schumer, Gillibrand, Hochul, Slaughter, and Higgins jointly released, reading as follows:

“We call on the Air Force to reverse this decision and to identify a new mission for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. As a united delegation, along with the support of Governor Cuomo, we will continue to fight to protect this base, the positions it supports, and the thousands of Western New Yorkers that rely on its services.

“The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is an essential part of our nation’s military force, and we will not rest in the effort to find a new mission.”

Furthermore, Republicans are usually very, very opposed to things like government stimulus of the economy and government employment vs. private sector employment. Somehow, those principles get thrown out the window whenever we’re talking about military spending. The truth is, the air base has a stimulative effect on the regional economy, and losing it diminish that. Also, it’s false to suggest that the local delegation isn’t working to keep that stimulus spending here.

9. Barack Obama is going to have an easy time running on his international affairs record, and sought yesterday to calm the rhetoric coming mostly from the right, agitating for a new war in the Persian Gulf, this time against Iran. Speaking of the unemployed Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney:

The president was withering in his retort. “Those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities,” Mr. Obama said. “They’re not commander in chief. When I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war” — for those who go into combat, for national security and for the economy. “This is not a game,” he added. “And there’s nothing casual about it.”

“If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so, and they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be,” he said.

We need another war like we need another 2008 global financial meltdown. But not to be outdone, Senator John McCain suggested that we ought to bomb Syria due to the political and humanitarian crisis being created by the fascist Assad regime’s brutal crackdown on a months-long popular uprising. It may soon become time for military intervention in Syria, as we took part in in Libya. However, this would need to be a multilateral effort, with the Arab League taking the lead in demanding the intervention. Efforts to do that through the UN Security Council were unsuccessful, due to China’s and Russia’s positions as the permanent member protectors of brutal authoritarian regimes, and the veto that goes with it.

10. Jim Heaney interviews former ECHDC / Sabres guy Larry Quinn, who has some choice words for the risible “lighter, faster, cheaper” method of planning for the inner harbor.

Trico Demolition Plan (Updated)

In the last week or so, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has been showing folks this picture, which describes a phased demolition plan for Trico Plant #1, the former industrial complex it purchased in 2007:

The plan suggests that BNMC would like to begin demolition on April 15, though the issue does not yet appear on the agendas of any city planning agencies. The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture has been readying for the fight to save this building, and Preservation Buffalo Niagara released a statement this morning:

Preservation Buffalo Niagara is appreciative of the opportunity to have met with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) director regarding the National Register-listed Trico Plant #1 Building. Our part in the discussion involved the offer to assist in educating those involved as to the historic preservation opportunities regarding reuse of the building and the State and Federal regulatory processes involved with National Register Listed sites. Additionally we offered to assist in seeking funding to finance a historic preservation adaptive reuse study for the Trico Plant #1 Building.
The BNMC has declined these offers of assistance. We recognize and regret that, since the building is not protected by local landmark designation, the designated developer’s stated desire to demolish the building will likely occur without requesting permission from the city’s Preservation Board. We understand that an agreement for a phased demolition of the building has been executed and may soon be implemented. It is also our understanding that no plans have been made for the immediate reuse of the site. We are disappointed that this decision has been made without the availability of a reuse study determining the feasibility of a historic preservation rehab of the building. Preservation Buffalo Niagara feels strongly that expending the time and resources to determine ways to preserve historic buildings in our community should be a priority when deciding the future of such buildings. Furthermore, we believe that a larger community discussion regarding decisions of this nature is required given the designated developer’s standing in the community as well as the historic significance of the Trico Plant #1 Building.
We wish that we would have had the opportunity to participate earlier in the discussions so that we could have provided access to such information before the decision for demolition was made. We continue to offer our assistance to provide education to the BNMC and any other building owner regarding preservation and preservation related matters such as historic preservation reuse studies.

That statement, by the way, marks Tom Yots’s first public action as PBN’s new executive director. More on this issue tomorrow and in Thursday’s paper.

UPDATE: We’re still waiting to hear from Matt Enstice, executive director of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, but the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture has just released this statement:

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, in concert with the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, chaired by Mayor Byron Brown, is proposing a demolition schedule for the huge and iconic Trico Plant Number 1, which occupies almost two square blocks on the northern edge of downtown. BUDC and the BNMC propose to start demolition in mid-April, internal documents show. Public records show the building is owned by BUDC.  The Campaign for Greater Buffalo strenuously opposes any demolition of the National Register-listed building, and will pursue all means to preserve the landmark.

Trico Plant No. 1. has a great deal of meaning for thousands of Western New Yorkers, those who worked there and their children, many of whom owe their college educations and careers to the generosity of Trico founder John Oishei. It occupies a full city block and more at a strategic location between downtown, the Fruitbelt, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, (BNMC)  and Allentown.

As such, the building could serve as a catalyst for physical and social renewal. Instead, while BUDC has been a terrible steward of the building. Rather than rehabilitate it like similar buildings across the street and across the city, BUDC and BNMC decided under the previous administration that, for their purposes, the building should be demolished and become a parking lot pending possible development. The building, where work had begun to transform it into a multi-use complex featuring condominiums, had several bidders at an auction upon the death of the previous owner. BUDC ended up with it, for the sole purpose of facilitating its demolishing . It has made no attempt to repair or maintain the building despite pre-purchase knowledge of conditions.

The proposal for demolition beginning on April 15th is absurd and illegal. No public notices have been issued, and no required communication, let alone an application for demolition, has been made to the Preservation Board, which would require a public hearing. We urge the mayor, Common Council, and all elected representatives to put a stop to this immediately and to put the building on the road to rehabilitation in a way that serves not only the BNMC, but the adjacent residential neighborhoods and downtown businesses. What the city needs is a building that integrates itself into the fabric of the community and strengthens it, not another gaping hole in that fabric.

The building is structurally sound and is in no danger of collapse.  It is a strong building that can endure.  The building could easily be converted to new uses that would benefit the community and the owners. Many similar factory buildings in Buffalo, and elsewhere, have been adapted for other purposes, like the Trico plant on Main Street that is now the Tri-Main Center, the Larkin at Exchange building, 79 Perry Street in the Cobblestone District, and, indeed, the M. Wile Building directly across Washington Street.

In addition, as the building is on the National Register and meets many criteria for local listing as well, any project the adversely effects the building would require a full Environmental Impact Statement under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. Similarly, if there is any Federal funding or regulatory action involved, a demolition project would require review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. It would also have to be in compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act. Finally, if any state funding is involved, or any action by a state agency, a review by the State historic preservation officer, under the New York State Historic Preservation Act, is necessary.


Parking Ramp at Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus: We Want to Take You Higher

On the agenda of Buffalo’s planning board: The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus wants to add a ninth floor to its planned eight-story parking ramp at the corner of Michigan Avenue and High Street.

Last year, BNMC sought and received a zoning variance for the ramp, because its proposed 82-foot height exceeded the maximum allowable 66 feet. From Virginia Street all the way to Goodrich Street, the ramp will present pedestrians and other passersby with nearly 1,700 linear feet of blank walls—no ground-floor commercial or retail space—punctuated by crossings at Carlton and High and by a service entry door.

BNMC’s planners insist on calling this 1,800-car (and counting) parking ramp a “multi-modal transportation center” because it includes a bench for shuttle riders and a bike rack.

Undoubtedly, the request for approval of a ninth floor will be granted as quickly as the variance to build this monstrosity was approved last year around this time. (It was primary day, to be precise.) You can keep track of the ramp’s construction at this webcam.

BNMC Open Meeting Tonight

Tonight at 6:30pm in the auditorium of the downtown library, everyone is invited to attend a public hearing on the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus—North End Projects. Among the projects planned are a 300,000 square foot Medical Office Building to be owned and operated by Ciminelli Development Company, Inc., which will lease medical office space to a variety of tenants. Also planned is a 200,000 square foot skilled nursing facility, and a “multi-modal transportation structure that can accommodate 1,200 to 1,600 cars”—not to be confused with a parking garage.

The most ballyhooed project is the 500,000-600,000 square foot Global Vascular Institute, which, according to the report sponsored by BNMC, Kaleida Health, Ciminelli Development Compan, Inc, and the University at Buffalo, will be a “first-of-its-kind, multi-dimensional medical institute focused on the full spectrum of vascular health care, and will bring together physicians, researchers and educators to address heart and vascular diseases.” The report states that the Institute will be operated by Kaleida Health and the University at Buffalo.

The plans call for the removal of six residential structures, the closure of Goodrich Street, the demolition of the Community Mental Health Facility, and would require the removal of two properties eligible for recognition by the National Register of Historic Places.

The lead agency holding tonight’s meeting is the City of Buffalo Planning Board. The report, and relevant maps can be downloaded at the links below.



The deadline for written comments regarding the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement is November 18, 2008. Written comments should be sent to:

William P. Grillo

c/o City of Buffalo Planning Board

901 City Hall

Buffalo, NY 14202