Preservation Experts Refute ADM and City of Buffalo Claims About Great Northern Grain Elevator | Local News
The then City Commissioner of Permits and Inspections who issued an emergency order to demolish the Great Northern Grain Elevator failed to understand the building’s engineering, erroneously concluding that a large hole on the north wall endangered the entire structure, a curator said in State Supreme. To research.
Paul McDonnell, president of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo, History & Architecture, which is trying to stop the demolition, said James Comerford based his sentencing order Dec. 17 on several misunderstandings about the building’s construction.
“It is important that all options are considered before making a decision that can never be undone,” the resolution reads.
Comerford, before making his decision, did not consult original Great Northern architectural drawings in his office, nor review the grain elevator’s local landmark application or a 1990 federal study available online, McDonnell said. .
The brick cladding that covers the steel bins inside “is essentially a brick curtain wall,” McDonnell said. “All the rest of the structure, including the cupola on top, which is suspended so that no steel touches the brick, is supported by the steel frame.
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“It was a failure by the commissioner to look at the structural documents and see how it was actually built. I don’t think he had enough information to come to that conclusion, and some of the information he cites is wrong. .”
An appeals court ruled Friday that a state Supreme Court judge erred in refusing to consider evidence from a preservation group during a hearing to determine whether the city of Buffalo had legally granted an emergency permit to demolish the Great Northern Grain Elevator.
The Campaign for the Greater Buffalo had the chance to present expert testimony after an appeals court on April 29 sided with the preservation organization and overturned the judge’s Jan. 5 ruling. Emilio Colaiacovo authorizing the demolition. During his hearing earlier this year, Colaiacovo did not allow expert testimony from the preservation organization.
McDonnell was the only witness before Colaiacovo on Thursday, and he was cross-examined on Friday. McDonnell said the commissioner had no rational determination to issue the emergency demolition order – the legal question to be resolved over whether the demolition can go ahead.
Lawyers representing ADM repeatedly raised concerns during cross-examination about uncertainties related to the condition of the building, pointing out that Comerford was responding to information known at the time he issued the order. The commissioner cited safety and public welfare concerns after reviewing drone footage, an engineering report and consultations with city housing inspectors and the fire marshal.
McDonnell, a former principal architect and director of facilities at Buffalo Public Schools, said he called Comerford two days after a Dec. 11 windstorm damaged the structure to offer help, but he didn’t. had never been called back.
Gwen Howard, who succeeded McDonnell as chair of the city’s Preservation Board, said Comerford informed her he had reviewed the documents and wanted to let her know he was leaning towards issuing the demolition order. . She said he didn’t ask her for advice.
“Receivership is a great idea for a city like Buffalo, where our housing stock is so old and there is so much to preserve,” Housing Court Judge Patrick M. Carney said.
“I emphasized that I thought it was not a prudent or necessary decision,” said Howard, also a New York state certified home inspector.
McDonnell refuted other Comerford claims, some cited in reports commissioned by Archer Daniels Midland which Comerford said he read before making his decision.
There were no significant bends, movements or cracks in the walls, McDonnell said.
McDonnell also rebuffed claims that the mortar had seriously eroded.
“We have no evidence, no test, or no reason to know that the walls have lost any type of mortar adhesion on the inside,” he said.
The Buffalo city landmark was built in 1897 and operated for nearly a century. Saturday’s storm tore a hole in the north wall, but the grain elevator is not in danger of collapsing.
McDonnell said the structure did not pose a fire hazard, noting that the brick wall was fireproof and there had been no active operations for decades.
William Renaldo, the city’s fire marshal and the city’s and ADM’s only witness during the two-day hearing, said he believes the building should be demolished due to “serious concerns.” he had after meeting with Comerford and reviewing drone footage.
Renaldo said he was concerned that if the entire structure collapsed it would threaten firefighting capabilities on Ganson Street and endanger the fireboat Edward Cotter and other passing vessels. He also said he didn’t know if there was any combustibles or industrial waste inside that could pose a hazard to firefighters if they entered the structure.
McDonnell and Howard said Comerford was mistaken in saying the Great Northern was unsafe in part because of the lack of control joints. Both said control joints are not appropriate for the building and were not used when the Great Northern was built in 1897.
McDonnell also said the ADM-commissioned reports that Comerford viewed lacked the documentation, construction drawings and photographs typically found in such documents, or evidence of tests carried out over the three decades the company sought to demolish the Great Northern.
The Great Northern is the last brick-encased steel-frame elevator in North America. It is also the first grain elevator in the world, along with the electric elevator, to harness electricity from Niagara Falls.
Conservatives say the demolition of the Great Northern would be one of Buffalo’s biggest architectural losses in decades.
The hearing will resume on June 9, with a decision from Colaiacovo expected to follow days or weeks later.
Mark Sommer covers preservation, development, waterfront, culture and more. He is also a former arts editor for The News.