AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – A work crew started taking down the first of the balconies at the Brewster Mews Apartments, in Amherst, on Thursday afternoon. Eventually all of the aging wood structures–about 100 of them–will be removed.
Tenants worried the 40-year-old balconies had become unsafe, and back in April, the owner of the complex, MJ Peterson, started closing off the terraces–dozens of them. One of the balconies collapsed.
Last month, Carol Buchla contacted Call 4 Action because, although she lives on the first floor and doesn’t have a balcony, the sliding glass door leading to her patio was boarded up.
Buchla was concerned because if a fire blocked her other door, she would be trapped. Now that the balconies are coming down, Carol likes the change.
“It has been a little hard sleeping at night. Every night thinking, hoping there is no fire, I have to negotiate that in my brain. So I am relieved–very, very relieved.))
A spokesman for MJ Peterson said they have presented several plans to the Town of Amherst to shore up the aging balconies, or replace them, and so far, every one of those plans has been rejected.
With the issue of tenants’ safety looming larger each day, the company has decided to take the terraces down–even the ones that did not get condemned.
In a notice to the tenants, Peterson wrote, “after a great deal of consideration to resident safety, project timeliness and property aesthetics, we have made the decision to remove all 2nd floor balconies.”
Tenant Kathleen Schultz is pleased the balconies are coming down, and is sharing the news with many of the tenants who have trouble understanding English.
She printed bulletins in 5 languages, which she translated using a computer, because Peterson apparently only printed their notice to the tenants in English.
“I call it a United Nations here,” said Schultz. “We have Spanish-speaking, Arabic-speaking, and Russian-speaking people here.” Schultz included Korean on the notices, “I thought it would be nice to have some sort of notification to them, in their language, so they can understand.”
Tenants would like to know if the balconies will be eventually replaced. If not, many of the tenants would like to get a corresponding reduction in their rent. A spokesman for MJ Peterson was unavailable for comment.
But the notice Peterson distributed did say, “We are reviewing various alternatives for the ultimate solution for the balcony issue. We will keep you advised of those plans.”
The demolition of the terraces is expected to take about a month to complete.