172 families currently reside in American architect Paul Rudolph’s brutalist Shoreline Apartments housing complex in Buffalo, New York. Now, however, owners Norstar Development U.S.A., LLC have told tenants that they must leave by November 1 so demolition can continue. This is despite past promises that demolition would be phased over several years.
Plans for the demolition and the site’s redevelopment are still to be approved by the Buffalo Planning Board, which could give the go ahead as early as June at the next Planning Board’s meeting.
Completed in 1974, the complex was bought by Norstar Development who planned a $14 million overhaul of the site, replacing the former 426 units with eight new buildings, accommodating 48 apartments. According to news agency WIVB, current tenants are now panicking as they scramble to find low-cost housing alternatives.
“I think we are being scammed,” said one, “I think we are being railroaded.” Roy Gilbert, who resides in the complex on Niagara Street with his two daughters said, “They are trying to bring the higher people from the outskirts of the City of Buffalo down here, and take the lower income people and move them out.”
“I think they are trying to get the fixed income people out—the minorities, the disabled—out of here, and get the people that have those jobs in here,” another tenant added. Meanwhile, Linda Goodman, Vice President of Norstar Development replied saying that “Although we could not give them anything definitive, we are working on a plan to help with assistance financially.”
Rudolph’s buildings are no stranger to being the subject of scorn. Last year, his Orange County Government Center was in line to be demolished, dubbed an “eyesore and financial drain.” That same year however, the late Zaha Hadid came to Rudolph’s rescue penning a letter in the New York Times. “Rudolph’s work is pure, but the beauty is in its austerity. There are no additions to make it polite or cute. It is what it is,” she said.
On the subject of social housing, the Robin Hood Gardens Estate in East London by the Smithson’s is currently enduring a similar fate to Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments. Likewise, support for its conservation has come from another esteemed British architect, in this case Richard Rogers who, incidentally was a student of Rudolph’s at Yale University.
Back in Buffalo, Goodman told WIVB that Norstar will be sending out updates plans to residents.