Mar 26


Buffalo hostel pushes back against vacate order

Hostel Buffalo-Niagara plans to fight an order to relocate by April 15 – the date a city agency ordered it out to accommodate construction to an adjacent building.

Representatives of Hostel Buffalo-Niagara say they’re planning to fight the city’s order for them to vacate their Main Street building.

The hostel has no plans to shut down April 15 — the date it’s been ordered to close shop for construction at an adjacent building. As of now, its long-range plan is to remain open, and to eventually buy the hostel building from the city, Hostel Buffalo-Niagara president Alexander Burgos said Tuesday.

“We have an engineer that doesn’t feel that closing our business is necessary and that we can continue to operate while they perform construction,” Burgos told Investigative Post.

The Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency initially ordered the hostel to vacate March 1, then the 25th, in anticipation of work planned for an adjacent city-owned building on Washington Street. BURA says the condition of the adjacent building threatens the safety of the hostel — which BURA also owns.

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While the hostel appreciated the most recent extension,  its leadership is now saying the city hasn’t justified a need for the hostel to close.

“I can prove that they’ve been unwilling to show me the opposite,” Burgos said, referring to BURA.

“They responded only to some of the items, but not the core items that need to be discussed.”

Those items, Burgos said, include a timeline of construction to stabilize the 664 Washington St. building, an estimated date of completion, and an explanation as to why evacuating the hostel is necessary when construction begins on the adjacent Washington Street building.

664 Washington Street, to the rear of the hostel.

BURA has maintained since November that engineering reports show the deteriorating building and planned construction to stabilize it could be a safety hazard to staff and patrons of the hostel. 

Burgos said the hostel has commissioned its own engineering report, which is expected to be finalized this week. According to Burgos, the hostel’s report will show the construction will cause no imminent danger to the hostel.

“It isn’t unsafe to remain and operate there, and we’re just asking them to stick to what they said — that if it was necessary, based on construction, and recommendation from engineers, we would be asked to close our business,” Burgos said.

BURA officials did not respond to Investigative Post’s request for comment.

But its engineering report, from DiDonato Associates, stated: “Our professional opinion is that the property should vacate any occupants directly adjacent to [664] Washington during the construction due to the unknowns and risks associated.”

“I was at the board meetings when the BURA board did tell the hostel people, this is a very serious problem,” said Joseph Golombek, North District Common Council member and BURA board member.

“The last thing in the world I want is for there to be some sort of an accident there. Somebody gets hurt, the city gets sued, and it’s a mess all the way around,” he recently said.

In addition to what the hostel board calls insufficient proof of a need to evacuate the 667 Main St. location they’ve called home for nearly three decades, Burgos said he fears the indefinite closure of the hostel may be something the establishment can’t come back from, especially at such a pivotal time for the business.

Not only is the hostel fully booked for the April 8 solar eclipse, but the spring/summer season is when the hostel attracts the most visitors, Burgos said. It’s also when the business would remain closed if BURA stands firm on its mid-April vacate order.

“At the heart of this, we’re being asked to close our business, and this could kill us,” Burgos said. “This is the tourist season. Spring bookings are picking back up. Summer’s our busiest time of the year. And as a business, we’re being asked to shut down — to no fault of our own — because they let a building fall apart that’s next to ours.”

BURA previously said the construction project will include a new electrical panel along the Main Street portion of the building, a new roof, updated plumbing and sprinkler system, and a new firewall.

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Burgos said the hostel has been long aware of the Washington Street structure’s condition. He said the hostel board has tried to purchase it from BURA on numerous occasions, but that their requests were never granted.

“I have letters from three or four years ago that I sent to BURA that went unanswered, explaining the situation in the back, the condition of the building, and how the potential collapse of it could impact our business because of the utilities that come in from the Washington side,” Burgos said.

He sees the order to vacate as a “soft eviction,” because he doesn’t believe the agency has made it clear if or when the hostel will return after the construction project is completed.

“If you live somewhere or you own a business, and the landlord said their building that was next to yours is falling apart and you have to leave, it’s reasonable to say, ‘When can I come back home’ or ‘Can I continue operating my business? What’s going on?’ And we’re not getting any of those answers. 

“So yes, it’s a real fear that this will be the end of our business,” Burgos said.

Investigative Post

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