GRAND ISLAND, NY (WKBW) — New York State spent millions of dollars on a new Western New York welcome center in Grand Island, but there was a partial ceiling collapse inside the center Monday.
No one was hurt, but it was a close call for one traveler.
A section of ceiling panels crashed to the floor near a restroom area. Bob Dickie of Plattsburg confirms to 7 Eyewitness News that he stopped at the center Monday and that's when the ceiling materials tumbled down, just missing him.
Dickie first contacted the Buffalo News, but declined our request for an interview. In an email he stated quote his "only interest in contacting the news was to make sure the issue got addressed." Dickie reported the ceiling panels fell near the rest room area.
Thruway Authority spokesperson Jennifer Givner declined an interview, but issued a written state. Givner tells 7 Eyewitnesses News "following the incident, staff immediately inspected the adjacent panels and out an abundance of caution, further secured them with additional screws."
Givner noted the "panels in question were secured with nails and adhesive" and the additional hardware was installed to further secure them.
Givner also stated "the facility is safe" for visitors.
The center, one of 11 centers located across the state, features a "Prairie Style" design, inspired by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The New York State Thruway Authority opened the center in August 2018 at the cost of $25 million. The center has been under scrutiny from opponents who say the it was too costly and does not get enough. You do have to exit the Thruway in order to get into the center, money not everyone thinks was well spent.
Among them Republican State Senator Michael Ranzenhoffer. He tells 7 Eyewitness News the cost and location don’t make sense.
"I always thought it was a boondoggle. It’s a center which is really not used. It’s very poorly placed. It’s very hard to get to. I think it was a waste of money. The concept of having a welcome center is great, but to put it on Grand Island - where you have to get off the expressway to get on where only people going one way can access it is ridiculous, so it’s really unfortunate," Ranzenhoffer replied.