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A Sad and ‘Chaotic’ Day: The Hostel Permanently Vacates, Looks Toward the Future

(Katherine Pessecow on Thursday discusses with a Hostel worker last minute details regarding the Hostel's move — Photo Matt Smith/1120 Press)

Katherine Pessecow kept her emotions in check Thursday morning despite being pressed for time as she stood speaking to a reporter in the cold, dim performance space of the Buffalo Hostel.


“This is the last day. It’s been chaotic,” said Pessecow, a Hostel board member and

chair of its community engagement team. “It’s been 27 years of history. We need to be out by noon today and we have one hour and 58 minutes remaining.”


As time ticked down, the task seemed Herculean.

Not only was there still much to be packed and moved, but those who gathered to help were forced to spend a significant amount of time working largely in the dark and without heat since the city had cut power off to the Hostel eight days earlier and ordered it to immediately begin vacating the building at 667 Main Street.


“Thank God, again, for the community,” said Pessecow. “Thank you to our team, and thank you to the people who have had time in their work day to show up. It’s been a very painful process.”


The fate of the Hostel had been in limbo since November when it was informed that its landlord — the City of Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency headed by Mayor Brown, also known as BURA — wanted it to vacate and shut down so that stabilization work could finally begin on a Washington Street structure connected to the back of the Hostel which was reported to be crumbling.


Though that structure had been in disrepair — (and allowed to exist that way for years) — city inspectors in November then cited it for a string of violations, including water damage to the electrical panels that supply power to the Hostel. BURA initially ordered the Hostel to vacate March 1 and then pushed the closure back to March 25, before finally deciding on a final eviction date of April 15 to accommodate guests who had booked the Hostel to see the eclipse.


But five days before the April 15 closure, the city — seemingly out of nowhere — shut off the Hostel’s power, shocking staff, tenants and its supporters. The move came after a group of inspectors had come to the Hostel at 10:30 a.m. that day, telling Hostel workers it was there to conduct a “routine check,” adding they would not disrupt business. But 90 minutes later, power was shut off. The Hostel was also then ordered to vacate immediately and the building was condemned.


With the only light inside the Hostel coming in through the front windows, on which the city has taped ‘Condemned’ notices, volunteers Thursday hustled to pack while a handful of city employees sat in the Hostel’s foyer and watched.


“I have no emotions right now because we just have to move forward,” Pessecow told 1120 Press. “I’m sure I have emotions somewhere, but honestly this has been such a long tedious journey.”


But, Pessecow stressed, it is also a journey that is not over.


“The next step is to finalize the Hostel’s plan for future development. We are very excited about sitting down and looking over the old Pro Formas (financial statements) that did not pan out, or that the city turned down in the past, and working on some cool community amalgamation where we have a community center, artist spaces and hopefully this particular building in the front,” she said. “We’re still hoping the city will work with us. But our next move is getting a new Hostel.”


“I am very disappointed but I am also very hopeful,” Pessecow added. “I’m hopeful the city will pick up the phone and talk to us. We’ve seen what it’s like when they lend a helping hand to people and right now, we’re just asking for that hand of support because we are valuable to Buffalo.”





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