When the gleaming new federal courthouse opened in November, it left a huge vacancy in another major downtown property just across Niagara Square.
Rep. Brian Higgins on Monday called on the federal government to re-use the Michael J. Dillon Courthouse by moving in agencies that are leasing space in non-government buildings. The courthouse is a major anchor of Niagara Square and has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Its history includes being dedicated in a 1936 ceremony by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Higgins said the government shouldn't neglect it.
"I'm simply asking to do what they say they have an obligation to do," Higgins said. The GSA operates federal buildings.
The job of building the new courthouse "isn't finished" until the old one is filled with other tenants, he said, adding that nothing has been done because of the "inertia of the federal bureaucracy."
The space is needed, because the government is paying for leased space elsewhere in the region when it could be using space it owns in the courthouse, he said.
Higgins, D-Buffalo, wrote a letter to the GSA last week as a way to exert public pressure, as there have been no signs of movement since the new courthouse opened.
“GSA is committed to utilizing the Michael J. Dillon U.S. Courthouse in a way that both maximizes efficiency and adds real value and cost savings for taxpayers and the Buffalo community," spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said.
In January, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., called for the government to budget money to renovate the courthouse, which takes up an entire block and has 113,800 square feet of usable space, to accommodate other federal agencies.
"A federally owned building that is sitting unused is wasteful and does a disservice to taxpayers," Schumer wrote to the Office of Management and Budget.
At the time, Schumer said the GSA had lined up the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee, the U.S. Tax Court and Buffalo Immigration Court as prospective tenants, though it would cost $23 million to reconfigure the building and update the heating and cooling systems.