Demo begins on historic Busti Ave homes

February 23, 2013 Updated Feb 23, 2013 at 7:33 PM EDT

By Allen Leight

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February 23, 2013 Updated Feb 23, 2013 at 7:33 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - The legal battle between the Peace Bridge and preservationists ended Friday when a judge gave the go ahead for the demolition of eight homes on Buffalo's west side.

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo was one of the groups that filed suit last June, putting a stop to the demolition of the Busti Avenue homes because of their historical value.

The group was granted a restraining order which was lifted on Friday after Federal Judge Jeremiah McCarthy ruled in favor of the bridge authority.

"It's something that's been a longtime coming. We bought these buildings originally to knock them down so it's following through on what we told the neighborhood would be happening here along Busti Avenue," said PBA spokesperson Matt Davison.

Crews began to tear down the homes early Saturday morning, which include the property at 771Busti, which was built during the Civil War and served as the last surviving link to Samuel Wilkenson, the man credited for building the City of Buffalo.

"The citizens of Buffalo have lost a truly wonderful asset. These houses are historic. They date from the 19th Century," said Daniel Sack, Vice President of Campaign for Greater Buffalo.

Peace Bridge officials say they plan to turn the area into a green space to act as a buffer for the neighborhood to the customs plaza and to be used for the public benefit.

The bridge authority bought the properties over a decade ago, which have since fell in to disrepair and become havens for crime.

Preservationists argue, however that the land will be used for an expanded plaza and duty free shop, and that it is the bridge authority who allowed the historic homes to become dilapidated so they could be torn down.

"Who blighted it? The owners of the homes. And local and state officials turned a blind eye and they complied," said Peter Joe Certo, a neighborhood resident who has fought to save the properties.

"And now we see their destruction. Irreplaceable buildings," added Sack.

The bridge authority said last year that they offered groups or individuals the chance to have the historic homes free of charge if they would pay to have them moved.

Still, some west side residents are glad to see blighted properties removed.

"It's a great day in the neighborhood today because, like I said, we've been waiting a long time to get them knocked down and they're finally doing it," said Geno Russi.

PBA officials say they plan to have all the debris removed from the area by the end of next week, with plans to begin landscaping the area this spring.