Feb 23


Downtown Buffalo hostel facing quick eviction

Adjoining building requires extensive renovations, forcing a temporary closure. Hostel officials say the city gave them little advance warning of how quickly they would have to evacuate.

Hostel Buffalo-Niagara at 667 Main Street in downtown Buffalo.

Buffalo’s downtown hostel was notified this week that it must evacuate the Main Street building its occupied for nearly 30 years so stabilization work can begin on the hostel and an adjacent structure

Initially, the hostel was given until March 1 to vacate. But by the end of  Friday, in response to concerns raised by the hostel, the city extended the deadline until March 25 – although representatives for the hostel are saying it’s still not enough time.

“We feel heard for right now, but we need more and we want to open the lines of communication because we still have yet to meet or sit with them,” hostel board member Katherine Pessecow said of city officials. “They have not called us.”

The hostel is owned by the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, which voted in November to spend up to $2 million on upgrades to the building at 667 Main St., as well as an adjacent structure at 664 Washington St., which engineers determined poses safety hazards to the hostel building.

At its November meeting, BURA estimated construction could begin on or about March 1, but the hostel leaders said that was never presented to them as a firm date.

In fact, hostel attorney Laurence Rubin Friday said he wrote to BURA on Dec. 18 asking for specifics on the timeframe. He heard back Tuesday in an emailed letter stating the hostel must evacuate the building by next Friday. 

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The initial order to vacate was a shock to the hostel when Rubin shared the news with them, Pessecow said.

“It was a gut punch,” she said. “It just knocked the wind out of us because the order to vacate was completely contradictory to everything that they’ve told us before about March 1.”

The hostel has taken reservations through May and is fully booked for the April 8 solar eclipse. Having to cancel the April 8 booking would hurt the hostel’s reputation, she said.

“Even if we do stay open, the amount of negative reviews and press we’d get online – I mean, that’s detrimental to a business,” Pessecow said.

She also said the closure will leave seven people unemployed, including the hostel manager, who lives there.

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Pessecow also said the city had not informed them that the building was an imminent danger – which was what stabilization construction would be contingent upon. However, the city’s latest communication states the newest order to vacate is for “both the safety of the public and the tenants of the hostel.”

In a letter to Rubin dated today, Hope Young-Watkins, a senior director with BURA, wrote the agency board insisted construction begin as quickly as possible. BURA considered the March 1 date reasonable, but given the hostel’s concerns, agreed to a 30- day extension.

Work being done will include a new electrical panel along the Main Street portion of the building, a new roof, updated plumbing and sprinkler system, and new fire wall, according to BURA.
Investigative Post reached out to BURA attorney Scott Billman, city spokesperson Michael DeGeorge and Fillmore Common Council Member Nowakowski, none of whom responded to requests for comment.

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