New US Courthouse officially opens

Nov 28, 2011

The new, ten story federal courthouse officially opens for business Monday.  As WBFO's Mark Scott reports, federal officials are hailing the new building's design.  But not everyone is enamored by it.

The new courthouse in Niagara Square across from City Hall is finally finished.  Its opening was delayed for many months when a moisture problem was discovered.  Federal court staffers have spent the past several weeks moving in.  And Monday morning, a ceremonial flag raising was held to mark the first day of business. 

It's an imposing structure with a glass front overlooking Niagara Square.  There are nine courtrooms, plus spacious chambers and offices.  During a tour of the new courthouse earlier this month, US Senator Charles Schumer was impressed.

"Sometimes, we have to think grandly," Schumer said.  "This does that.  I'm so proud that such an amazing, beautiful courthouse is in Buffalo.  It's breathtaking."

But not everyone is praising Buffalo's newest landmark.  Tim Tielman of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo agrees this courthouse is a clear improvement over the bunker-like city court building that was built in the 1970s at the opposite end of Niagara Square.  But Tielman, an ardent preservationist, is disappointed by what was lost to make way for this new building.

"It's problematic from an urban standpoint.  They demolished the old Erlanger Theatre that had been converted into an office building," Tielman said.  "You had over 300 people working in it it.  You had a much more vibrant thing.  There were three restaurants on the block.  Now there are none." 

Still, Tielman says he's heartened that the ongoing Statler Building project across the street from the new federal courthouse will bring back restaurants and retailers to that first block of Delaware Avenue.

A spokeswoman for the General Services Administration tells WBFO News the old building at Court Street and Niagara Square -- known as the Michael J. Dillon US Courthouse -- will live on and house US Bankruptcy and other courts. 

The new courthouse is opening without a name.  Congressman Brian Higgins says he wants it named after the late Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, a native of Western New York.