Should building security measures be held to preservation standards?

Jul 14, 2017

The Buffalo Preservation Board is raising questions about the giant concrete balls placed in front of City Hall—and more are coming.

The concrete balls are called bollards and will eventually encircle the entire building. Currently, only a quarter of them have been installed.

Deputy Public Works Commissioner Rishawn Sonubi said they are part of a program pushed by the Homeland Security Department to provide better security in City Hall. That plan includes the new private security officers and surveillance cameras currently inside the building.

"To bring up the security measures here," Sonubi said. "This is to act as a deterrent."

Sonubi said the bollards that you see now actually are going to be replaced.

"They came in, the finish was extremely shiny and looked like plastic, so what the manufacturer eventually did was take the bollards back," he said. "He's taking the ones back there back and he's actually sandblasting them to a finish that will expose the aggregate."

Sonubi said they were the least expensive available to fit within the federal grant and there still is no decision on how to continue using the City Hall garage while maintaining the same level of security. The garage also houses garbage collection.

However, members of the Preservation Board question whether the new security measures as-built violate historic preservation rules and could be changed to be both secure and historic. Board Chairman Paul McDonnell suggested cost is a bad precedent on which to base the decision.

"So the excuse the city is using is these were affordable," McDonnell said. "If someone were to come to us on any other issue and say, 'We we don't think it's affordable, we can't afford wood windows, we want to put vinyl windows in. We can't afford to fix slate roofs, so we're going to rip it off,' that's sort of the message we're getting from the city."

Board members argued the building is a legal landmark and there is a process that should have been followed for increased security, and that process might have produced more esthetic security.

Sonubi said the bollards are the same kind surrounding Buffalo's FBI building, across the street from City Hall. That is a private building leased to the FBI by Ellicott Development.