Doing a good deed proves costly for demolition contractor


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Niagara Falls based demolition contractor could have an old cynical quote on his mind, “no good deed goes unpunished.” In this case the contractor, Metro Environmental tried to please preservationists by saving an important part of an historic East Side church, and ended up severely damaging the house next door.

A work crew from Metro Environmental, was carrying out an emergency demolition of a century old church, the former Salem Evangelical Reform Church, on Sherman Street, when heavy debris came crashing down on the house next door.

“It was pretty scary, the whole house shook. I came running downstairs,” recalled “John” the owner of the house–he preferred that we did not use his real name. He lives in the upstairs apartment of the house.

The downstairs tenant in the house, James Williams was married in the old church, “They are talking about just keeping this part (bell tower), which is what I just heard today, which would be nice, and hopefully it doesn’t fall on the house.”

But parts of the old church did fall on the house. In the contractor’s efforts to save the bell tower, debris from the demolition slammed into the house, right through a basement wall, and John said, the force of the old bricks and mortar caused parts of the structure to shift.

“I felt a big old movement in the house, bricks came tumbling down and messed up the structure of the home. It is unsafe.”

The cornerstone of the old church was laid 100 years ago for the Salem Evangelical Reformed Church, an ethnic German congregation, which in later years became the Sunrise Church of Christ.

Louis Petrucci, Assistant Director for Buffalo’s Department of Permit and Inspection Services, said community groups want to save the bell tower as a landmark.

“They were able to save the tower but unfortunately when they started to demolish the building, part of the wall ended up collapsing in the opposite direction than the operator thought was going to happen and it struck the building next door. These things are rare, but they do happen.”

Petrucci added, there are plans to redevelop the corner of Sherman and Sycamore streets, and the planners would like the bell tower to be the centerpiece.

“There is a memorandum of understanding between the former owner and Broadway Fillmore NHS. Right now they are doing their due diligence to see about redevelopment. That is part of the reason why they wanted to save the tower–to make it as kind of a center point for the redevelopment that they are planning.”

John said the owner of Metro Environmental has made a couple of offers to cover the damage, he even offered to buy his house outright, but John says he is thinking about it. If no offer is accepted, the contractor might have to turn to his insurance carrier, and John would have to file a claim for damages.

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