Battaglia Demolition still a problem

The business closed three years ago, but rats, concrete dust and other nuisances remain. Residents are pushing for a community takeover and cleanup of the property.

A state Supreme Court judge is preparing to decide the penalty for Peter J. Battaglia Jr., three years after his illegal concrete crushing business in South Buffalo was shut down. 

Judge Deborah Chimes has ruled Battaglia could be held personally liable for the damages requested in a lawsuit filed by the New York State Attorney General.

Diane Lemanski, a nearby resident and a leader in the grassroots decade-long campaign against Battaglia Demolition, will be among those testifying before the court on Tuesday. On Friday, she and other residents who live near the abandoned business made their case at a press conference.

Quality of life improved when the operations stopped, but neglect is now the issue, Lemanski said. The vacant property is now an eyesore accumulating graffiti. Garbage is being dumped. Rats are attracted by it. Residual concrete dust blows over the neighborhood on windy days.

Speaking of Battaglia, Lemanski said: “I haven’t heard or seen him since the day it’s been shut down.”

She and other residents, with the help of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, have asked the court to award to the community via a land trust. At the press conference Friday, residents asked for public support for obtaining control of the land. 

It’s an effort to ensure that the property doesn’t remain a nuisance, according to Linnea Brett, community organizer with Clean Air. Should they win title to the land, it will become a “carbon sink,” or a habitat with plants and terrain that helps absorb pollution.

“We’re calling on the New York State Attorney General and the New York State DEC to prioritize this neighborhood’s repair — to center their vision at next week’s penalty hearing and in any further settlement conversations,” she said.

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During its operation, the plant crushed and processed construction debris including concrete, bricks and asphalt. The work routinely shook nearby homes and kicked up large amounts of concrete dust. Diesel fumes from truck traffic polluted the air. Vermin were rampant.

After several reports by Investigative Post in 2014, state and local officials cited the business for violations and Sen. Chuck Schumer called for regulators to intervene. In 2016, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the company.