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Juneteenth building deemed uninhabitable

In a text Thursday, officials said despite the news about its Genesee St. headquarters, the annual Juneteenth Festival will take place as scheduled.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Juneteenth officials got an update about the status of its headquarters following a partial collapse of the building Tuesday.

In a text, they said "We are sad to announce that our Headquarters has been deemed inadmissible due to a partial collapse of the facade". The text went on to say that organizers are waiting for official reports from engineers and that they will inform the community of its needs and plans after they receive those reports.

The good news, however, is that this year's Festival, scheduled for the weekend of June 17 at MLK Park in Buffalo, will go on as scheduled.

"Not the Juneteenth Building," one passerby said as they looked at the rubble on the sidewalk at the corner of Genesee and Moselle streets. 

Buffalo Fire crews and city engineers responded to the Juneteenth Building just after 12 p.m. Wednesday after part of the roof and façade collapsed. 

No one was injured. 

"We don't know exactly what happened," said Jennifer Earle-Jones, president of the Buffalo Juneteenth Festival. "We just know that there was a loud noise."

Only the office manager was in the building at the time of the collapse, according to Earle-Jones. 

"She heard it, scattered away and it was collapsing during that process," Earle-Jones said.

Buffalo firefighters used a ladder truck to get airborne in order to remove loose portions of the facade and wall. Crews from the city's departments of Public Works and Permit and Inspection Services are installing jersey barriers to secure the street and sidewalk. The intersection of Genesee and Moselle is expected to remain closed as the cleanup work continues. 

As for the Juneteenth Festival, it's still on, according to Earle-Jones. 

"It is early, but in my personal assessment, Juneteenth will go on," Earle-Jones said. "We are crying out right now to the community, we may not be able to go back into the building depending upon the engineer's assessment."

Earle-Jones is calling on local lawmakers and community organizations to help the Juneteenth team with office space and storage while they figure out what's next. The annual festival is set to take place the weekend of June 17 at MLK Park in Buffalo.

"We need the community to come together for Juneteenth, which is such a significant part of our community, and a historic building," Earle-Jones said.
"We hope to rebuild so that we can be that centerpiece in this community as we've always been."

The new Juneteenth Building is a former Marine Midland Bank branch, which was donated to festival organizers in 1998.