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Bigger Fish To Fry

More to worry about at the CPO Club

The future of the quaint waterfront club and restaurant called the Chief Petty Officer’s Club continues to be muddled, a fact that hasn’t been helped by its board’s continued silence. Here’s a rundown of developments:

The CPO Club

As of last Friday night’s fish fry, the Club was no longer serving alcohol to the public. The Club’s liquor license lapsed on March 31 (a fact this writer’s been aware of, but chose to withhold to keep the CPO from digging itself a deeper hole), and after three weeks of illegally selling alcohol, management apparently decided it was too risky to continue.

Arguments regarding a parking lot on the waterfront might be premature. According to the CPO Club’s landlord, the NYS Division of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA), they have no intention of building a parking lot in place of the building. When pressed on where the parking lot rumor started, DMNA’s Eric Durr said, “We have no plans for that.” Assemblyman Sam Hoyt said that he first heard it from an officer at the Navy Operational Support Center, who said it was his understanding that DMNA would demolish the CPO Club and pave over the location for Navy use. Further, he said the Navy didn’t require any additional parking there. Nobody from that office has returned calls from this publication.

To be historic or not to be? That, indeed, is the question. Right now, the answer depends on which branch of state government you’re asking. Durr, the Public Relations Director for DMNA, told Artvoice that it wasn’t historic, and he had a letter from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)—the same folks Hoyt approached for a determination—proving it. The letter, written by SHPO Director Ruth Pierpont to the NYS Office of General Services (OGS), seems to refer to the CPO Club demolition when it says, “it is the SHPO’s opinion that your project will have No Effect upon cultural resources in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.” There’s a catch, though. The project referred to at the top of the letter (posted online at AV Daily) is the “Buffalo Yacht Club & Garage Demolition” at “3 Porter Ave.” The CPO Club (5 Porter Avenue) is next door to the Buffalo Yacht Club (1 Porter Avenue), and no 3 Porter Avenue exists. When I pointed out these inconsistencies to Durr, he replied that DMNA’s Engineering department had affirmed that the letter referenced the CPO Club. “The Parks and Rec guys called it the wrong thing in their letter,” Durr said. When I asked SHPO’s head of the regional National Register & Survey Unit, Daniel McEneny, he made it clear that the letter does not reference the CPO Club. “We’re reevaluating the building, so we have 30 days to comment on that.”

In the meantime, the board and membership of the CPO Club have remained tight-lipped. Phone calls to the board President Charles Poremba, manager Bill Bulger, and attorney Jim Carlo were not returned. When contacted, consultant and attorney Gordon Gannon said that the club had “about 27 irons in the fire” and “we can’t comment.” That’s too bad given the groundswell of support that’s recently developed in the larger community. The CPO Club’s membership has an awesome challenge ahead of itself in convincing the state that it should remain open, one that can’t be helped until they open ranks and reach out to the community that supports them.

—peter koch

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