Court gives wins to state in ongoing Canalside lawsuit

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A state appeals court Friday gave wins to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation in its protracted legal battle with DiPizio Construction over a Canalside project.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court overturned three lower court decisions that had sided with DiPizio. The court said that the contract did not allow DiPizio to substitute a granite type or change how it disposed of contaminated waste at the site.

The court also reversed a decision by Acting Supreme Court Justice Timothy J. Walker that effectively halted negotiations between ECHDC and Travelers Insurance Company, which had insured the job.

DiPizio was kicked off the $20 million project in July 2013 by the state after the project fell behind schedule. DiPizio claims that design errors were at fault. The family-owned company has also filed a defamation lawsuit against state officials claiming that their public comments about the company has hurt its ability to get other construction work.

Robert Gioia, Chairman of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., issued this statement: “Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation is pleased the court found in favor of us in its decision regarding the Aud Block Construction Site. It has always been our goal to deliver a world class waterfront attraction to the people of Western New York. ECHDC is limiting comments on the case until all litigation has been completed.”

Michael E, Ferdman, attorney for DiPizio, said they were considering an appeal. He said the decisions “don’t change the big picture, which was that we were wrongfully terminated and the delays were due to major design errors and changes which have nothing to do with granite or soil.”

The project is under construction on the site of the old Memorial Auditorium. DiPizio was replaced by The Pike Company, of Rochester.

The project, considered the jewel of Canalside, includes replicas of the old Erie Canal Bridges and an ice rink for winter skating. It originally was supposed to be finished in November 2012.

State officials have said that skating will happen there by November even if finishing work continues into 2015.

The state Tuesday won an order that keeps DiPizio from disclosing to the media or any third party all testimony and any other information it obtains during pre-trial discovery. Three officials have already been interviewed by DiPizio including Sam Hoyt, regional president of the state Empire State Development Corporation. State attorneys claimed that DiPizio planned to release the testimony to gain an unfair advantage in the lawsuit and to embarrass state officials during an election year. A trial would be held sometime next year.

While his name was not mentioned, the reference was to the ongoing re-election campaign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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