Williamsville Firm Is In The Spotlight For Moving Landmark Lighthouses

I used to work for this company and was involved in several of these moves


Gay Head Light flashes a red signal in Aquinnah, MA, Oct. 13, 2013 on the island of Martha's Vineyard. The lighthouse flashes alternating red and white beams of light.

Gay Head Light House At Martha’s Vineyard

International Chimney Corp. has made a name for itself by successfully moving five historic lighthouses on the East Coast from dangerously eroding shores, including the famed Cape Hatteras Light, the country’s tallest lighthouse.

Now, the Williamsville engineering firm is embarking on its sixth relocation project with another landmark lighthouse. It was recently tapped to move the iconic and still-active Gay Head Lighthouse, which now stands on clay bluffs just 46 feet from the edge, on the westernmost tip of Martha’s Vineyard.

“We are thrilled to be part of it,” said Tyler Finkle, assistant project manager. “We’re just fortunate to be able to work on these old structures. It’s like a calling for us.”

The lighthouse, which was built in 1854 and weighs 400 tons, will be moved 140 feet back from its current location, he said. The preliminary work will involve doing engineering calculations based on the lighthouse’s center of gravity, as well as planning the path of the move. Jo Jakubik, who was involved in the company’s five previous lighthouse moving jobs, is the lead project manager.

The 56-foot lighthouse is in the Town of Aquinnah on Gay Head Cliffs, situated on a bluff that’s 130 feet above sea level.

Len Butler, a resident of the town, said the erosion of the bluff has been rapid, spurring the formation of Save the Gay Head Lighthouse Committee in 2013. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has designated the lighthouse one of country’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

“The erosion is advancing between one and two feet a year,” Butler said. At that rate, it would be unsafe to move the structure in a couple of years, he added.

Aside from being an active navigational beacon, the lighthouse needs to be saved because of its history, said Butler, who is chairman of the preservation committee, which has raised $1.5 million, half of the $3 million needed to move and restore the lighthouse.

“It’s not only the town’s history, but also the island’s maritime history,” he said. “It was the first lighthouse on the island. It was the I-95 corridor for the shipping industry. It’s the first light you see when you approach the Massachusetts coast.”

The group selected International Chimney because of its résumé, which includes moving Sankaty Head Lighthouse in Nantucket in 2007, a similar brick masonry lighthouse in a location also similar to Gay Head, Butler said.

The company is most known for relocating the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton, N.C., in 1999. The historic 200-foot, 5,000-ton lighthouse, built in 1870, was moved more than a half a mile inland over a 23-day period, away from the fast-approaching coastline.

Save the Gay Head Committee is bidding for ownership of the lighthouse from the U.S. Coast Guard, and the transfer should take place early in 2015, Butler said. The relocation project would commence in the spring.

“We love the work and being a part of it,” Flinker said. “We’re looking forward to it. It’s really an iconic part of the country.”








I’m watching a CBS news report about how the bullying that a 7th grade girl in Ohio has endured has to come light, and watching it takes me back to my high school days, because it’s so similar and familiar to me. 

I don’t talk about it a lot, although I have, but I was bullied mercilessly in school. It started in 8th grade, but escalated when I was in my freshman year. The kids in my high school class, to this day, were an anomaly to me. It seemed like they were this pack of wolves that all ran together and took no hostages. If you weren’t in, you were very out. It’s hard to describe. To this day, I can’t really describe what they were like. Vicious, cruel, arrogant. 

I think what made it so bad, and what made it elevate the way it did was that, for one, it caught me off guard. I didn’t know how to react to it, and instead of standing up, I wilted. I think most people know that wilting only makes it worse. In my case, I never saw anyone else in that school go through what I did. 

By 10th grade, I started to become afraid. I remember specifically Mr Schmidt’s science class. It got so bad in that class that I would hide down the hall until just when class was starting, and then I’d rush in, so that the teacher would be in the room, because if he wasn’t, I was helpless. During class, the people at my table, boys and girls, would hurl non-stop insults and threats my way. It was impossible to concentrate on the class. It was impossible to do anything but sit there and crawl deeper and deeper inside myself, wishing it would just stop. Understand, this wasn’t just verbal abuse. I was constantly hit, pushed, tripped… I was stabbed in the back with a pencil one time. Another time, I was stabbed in the leg. If I came to school with a cold, I would be accused of crying and made fun of. Everyone took aim at me, and the other kids that would have been targets, stayed away from me, so they wouldn’t get caught up in the abuse I was enduring. 

In 11th grade, I began to regress. I was a pretty good kid, academically, but it fell apart. I refused to go to the classes that were the worst. Eventually, I was afraid  to stay in school, because after 8 hours of being kicked around, the bus ride home would be unbearable, so I’d leave early, and walk home. I was labelled a trouble child, because of all the classes I was skipping. When I didn’t show up for detention, I was suspended. The thing is, I wasn’t a trouble child. I wasn’t a bad kid. I was scared. 

At times, I’d let on to what was happening, but it was overlooked. By my mother, by the administration, the teachers. It was a “kids will be kids” thing. Of course, you never really want to let anyone know how bad it is, because even though you’re beaten down, you still have a shred of pride you want to hold onto. Only one person ever stood up for me, and it was recently that I told his sister about how much I still admire him for that. Even my own friends, at times, would get some jabs in, just to keep the wolves off of them. 

When I was a senior, I was expelled for missing classes. I ended up at a school for kids that couldn’t adjust or were in trouble all the time, and I did graduate, with a diploma from my home high school, since each kid in the place I ended up was still sponsored by the school that they had been removed from, but the final nail was driven home. I never went to college. My transcripts were horrible. In 4 years I went from straight A’s to to failing. I’ve spent my entire adult life, maladjusted. Afraid to fight, backing down to physical confrontations. Giving up easily when faced with severe challenges that life just sends your way. My relationships have been failures and I’ve never really stuck to anything and it all goes back to what happened to me. I carried a big chip on my shoulder for many years, and even to this day, I still have a lot of resentment. I’ve always felt like the loser I was accused of being as a kid. Only during the time I was in the Army, did I finally find an escape from it. I think that, over the course of my adult life, I’ve known immense popularity at times. I’ve let myself be involved in as many things as I can, not just for the experience, but looking for acceptance, but it’s always just eluded me, and I think it’s sad, that I’m still affected by what I went through. 

When bullying became a mainstream topic in the 90′s, I found myself sympathizing with the victims that deflected what they were going through into violent acts, like Columbine. Now, as I look at my kids, so young, I constantly worry about which crowd they’ll run with in school. How they’ll handle bullying, no matter which side of it they find themselves on. 

And I think that so many people I went to school with are on my Facebook friend’s list and will see this and I wonder, I just wonder… will they remember?


From September 16, 2011

Tragedy Outside Of Buffalo, NY

I don’t know why I waited so long to post anything on this. The plane crash Thursday night, near Buffalo really hit me hard.
First, it was within a mile of my Mother’s house. Slightly further to my Brother’s.
It’s a neighborhood that I know people in, although I did not know the people in the house that was destroyed in the crash.
Perhaps, it’s the fact that it was close to home that affects me. That people there are so closely knit and that everyone will be affected on some level.
Maybe it’s because I’m not there to grieve with my fellow Buffalonians that makes me feel so empty.
Or that I have driven up and down that road, so many times, that I can picture the houses , the landscape, where that road goes to…

I know that plane only had a few hundred yards to go and it would have been in a corn field, and the irony of that makes me wonder why one house could be pinpointed to be a target for the fiery deaths of so many people, many of whom are very important to their peer groups. I mean above and beyond being family members.

The city is shaken by this, I know. The Buffalo Sabres played the following night, a game that they could have postponed, and turned in a spirited effort in defeating one of the best teams in the NHL, and for a few hours, the city was able to be together, joined by one of Buffalo’s best features: The sense of community our sports teams provides.

I’m sorry for the loss of life there, and I pray that this tragic event can be quickly put behind us as we move forward in our own lives.


From February 15, 2009

Thoughts Of Home

I find myself increasingly thinking about home, which, in case you’ve been on the moon,is Buffalo, NY.
I won’t go into why I’m not there, because that’s been talked about until it’s blue in the face, but I’m here, and this is becoming more homey, but it’s not really home. Summer in Buffalo is so amazing, and well deserved when it arrives each year after the long hard winters. There is no shortage of things to do, from the the ongoing ethnic and regional festivals to the abundant live music events, to the breezy warm days with the air blowing off of the great lakes…. It’s just so nice. Old architecture and patio bars. City streets with unmatched window shopping and everything exudes an unmatched character. The smallest big city or the largest small town, depending on your perspective, mine being the latter, Buffalo is enigmatic.

But events ongoing have brought my thoughts back to the place I was born.
Tim Russert, well known for his 18 years hosting Meet The Press, died suddenly yesterday. The news hit me hard. I met him once, at a Bills game. My friend, Kirk, had season tickets right in front of owner. Ralph Wilson’s box and we saw them both in the concourse before the game, so I ntroduced myself to Tim, and expressed my appreciation for rooting for the city in the show.
He never let go of his roots, South Buffalo, an enigma itself, inside the larger enigma that Buffalo is, and talked about or referenced the city often. He was a son of Buffalo, that every citizen there knew lived somewhere inside Tim’s heart. He cheered with and for the city, constantly, and this loss is being felt by the hundreds of thousands of people that call the city home.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the one time laughing stock of pro-football, The Buffalo Bills, became a dynastic league powerhouse, doing the unthinkable, going to 4 straight superbowls. Right in the middle of the defensive and special team corps, was linebacker Mitch Ferrotte, who’s cousin is a backup QB for the Vikings. With long blonde hair, a love of Harley Davidsons and loud music, and his signature “Alice Cooper” face paint on game day, Mitch was a large personality on that team. He was from a small town, Kittaning, PA, which is about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. At the time, I worked for International Chimney, who owned a brick factory in that town. My first trip down, during The Bill’s offseason, I noticed a house across the street that was well adorned in Bills gear and when I asked, found out that it was Mitch Ferrotte’s house. That day, he was in the yard, and I went and talked to him. Nicest guy, especially for a pro football player in an era when Athletic Ego’s were starting to run amok. He was like talking to any neighbor, or random person you’d meet.
Mitch had a heart attack yesterday and died at the age of 43.
This weekend marks the 51st anniversary of the Allentown Art Festival, an event that sees the streets of the Allentown District of Buffalo shut down so hundreds of artists can show their talents.
I never miss this event, one of the largest and oldest of it’s type in the nation. The weather seems like it’s always beautiful, and the vendors, the food, the neighborhood…
It’s just a great time and Buffalo tradition that draws hundreds of thousands from all over the country.
I found something new today on Google Maps called “Street View.” I have no idea on how they do this, but you can actually see hi res images of most places from a street view perspective!! And you can rotate around, zoom in, and move in any direction. Anyhow, I lived in North Buffalo, and I wanted to post some great pics of my old ‘hood, so here for your viewing pleasure, My Home!

Here’s my old apartment, above the store. It was huge! From the corner of the building in the center of the page, going right, those three windows were the living room, as were the three togetherto the left of that corner! You can barely make out the CB antenna is still on the roof and the DishNetwork dish is still on the front window. I miss this place so much!

This is the view of the same building on Hertel Ave itself, which is a big strip that has a ton of restaurants, art gallerys, stores, etc. A great neighborhood to live in. The canopied store front is Cafe Allegro, where they put Starbucks to shame. A great tradition was Sunday Brunch, which was always gourmet, and usually featured a string quartet from the Buffalo Acadamy of The Performing Arts. Kids playing classical music and doing it well!!

North Park Theater is a majestic old theater, with the plush velvet curtains, stage, etc and features artistic and independant releases. Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66 had it’s world premier there.

Berthas, a diner that served Breakfast and Lunch was my favorite hangout. Sitting at the counter with a cup of coffee, one of Dave’s enormous omelets, the newspaper and hours of talking about any and everything.

This is Wellington Pub, a local bar/restaurant with many good memories. The food is the bomb. My favorites were their Beef on Weck, a Buffalo tradition, that unlike chicken wings, is still exclusive to the city or “The Hertel”; A chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomatoe, mayo and cheese on a huge Keiser roll. The best was the Friday night Fish Fry, a weekly tradition for me, or clams on the patio bar! Next door is Bob & John’s, with good pizza and huge subs.

La Pizza Club, though, is the spot for the best Pizza and Wings. Of course, within walking distance, you could get Pizza and Wings at 15 different places, but this was my favorite. Next door is one of the art galleries that I used to stop in at often.Soon after I moved to Hertel, a friend of mine stopped by and we went exploring my new neighborhood. This was my favorite neighborhood bar. We walked in and the place was pretty empty, but a few things stood out. The bar tender and other three patrons were all men, there was a line of about 20 micro-brew taps at the bar and The Dirty Dozen was playing on both TV’s! I knew I found a home. John, the owner is one of the nicest people in the world and this plain, not very fancy bar is a wonderful place to stop in and try one of many Brews, that John is an expert on, and talk to good friends.

This is the hose that Bridget and I lived in, just off Hertel, where our landlord stole everything we had. We rented the entire bottom half of this house, which is typical of the housing stock that you’ll find throught the city. I love these big Victorians and WILL one day own one. It brings back memories though, of how beautiful we had it inside that house and all the precious things, a life collection that we lost there. I swear that’s our patio furniture on the porch and I know my washer and dryer are probably still in the basement, along with my work out equipment

So that’s a pretty good view of my old neighborhood, that I truly long to see again and promise to live in again. The people are very cultured and unique there, and this area represxnts “The City of Good Neighbors” in it’s finest form!
From June 14, 2008

Son’s tribute highlights memorial service for Tim Russert

Luke Russert: “I love you, Dad. And in his words, let us all ‘go get ’em!’ ”

Luke Russert borrows from ‘Big Russ & Me’ to comfort all those who mourn newsman from Buffalo

WASHINGTON — Walking to the podium at the Kennedy Center before a crowd of 2,000 that included a former president, the secretary of state and countless other “Meet the Press” guests, 22-year-old Luke Russert on Wednesday repeated the perfect words to comfort the millions who join him in mourning the loss of his father.

Luke Russert couldn’t find those words in W.B. Yeats, James Joyce or Mark Twain, but he found them in Chapter 20 of his father’s book “Big Russ & Me.”

In a chapter called “Loss,” Tim Russert wrote about his friend Michael Gartner, who lost his 17-year-old son to acute juvenile diabetes.

“After his passing, my dad phoned Michael,” Luke Russert said. “And he said to him, ‘Michael, think of it this way: What if God had come to you and said, ‘I’m going to make you an offer. I will give you a beautiful, a wonderful, happy, and lovable son for 17 years, but then it will be time for him to come home.’ You would make that deal in a second, right?’ ”

“Well, I only had 22 years, but I, too, would make that deal in a heartbeat,” the young Russert, beaming with pride, said in a strong and resolute broadcaster’s voice.

So would countless others who admired Tim Russert, the iconic “Meet the Press” host and South Buffalo native who died of a heart attack Friday.

A day after Russert fans drove from as far away as South Dakota and flew in from California for his wake, official Washington got its chance to pay tribute to the NBC newsman, first at a private funeral where Luke Russert delivered the eulogy and then at the memorial service where he shared the stage with the likes of Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams and Mario Cuomo.

Brokaw noted the extraordinary impact that Russert’s death has had on the nation.

“Since Friday, all of us have been swamped with e-mails and phone calls, strangers on the street, tears in their eyes, sharing their grief and sense of loss,” Brokaw said. “A postal worker with a heavy Spanish accent stopped me on the streets of New York sobbing, saying that he was sick — sick when he heard the news of Mr. Russert. A construction foreman stopped me and said he was so, so smart, and he seemed to be one of us.”

Like several of the speakers, Brokaw made special mention of Russert’s father and inspiration, “Big Russ”— Timothy J. Russert Sr. — who recently moved into an assisted-living facility in Orchard Park and could not attend the services.

“Big Russ, you may remember about a dozen years ago, you sent me this,” Brokaw said, showing off a mug from American Legion Post 721 in South Buffalo. “And for every morning since that time, it has been my first companion as I brush my teeth.” But no more.

“I’m going to set this mug aside. I’m going to save it for election night. I’m going to fill it with this Rolling Rock that I pilfered just today from Tim’s cooler, here in Washington,” Brokaw said. “And so on election night, Big Russ, I will raise this glass to you. For your gift to us of Tim and to your favorite saying, it was his and mine as well: ‘What a country.’ ”

Brokaw’s successor as anchor of NBC News, Brian Williams, noted that Russert’s last words before he collapsed, spoken to an editor at the network’s Washington Bureau, where Russert was chief, were words he spoke all the time: “What’s happening?”

“And he never made another sound,” Williams said. “[It’s] fitting probably because Tim was all about what’s happening, what’s happening with everybody and everything, especially along his power corridor, Buffalo to the Beltway.”

Although only one person from Buffalo shared the stage Wednesday, the city was as present throughout the memorial service as it was in Russert’s life.

One of his seventh-grade teachers, Sister Lucille Socciarelli of Buffalo, recalled how the 13-year-old Russert urged her to join the pupils on the athletic fields outside St. Bonaventure Elementary School.

“ ‘Go, sister!’ he’d say. ‘Run!’ Tim would shout, urging me on — rosary beads flying, veil flying,” she said. “Not only did Tim choose me for his team, he always picked the kids that he thought might not be chosen at all.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo recalled a visit to Buffalo with Russert, who served as an aide to the governor at the time, shortly after the state enacted its then-controversial seat belt law.

The governor’s car got struck from behind — and the governor, who sat in the front but forgot to buckle his seat belt, flew forward toward the dashboard. That prompted the governor’s car to come to a halt and the press to swarm around it, shouting: “How’s the governor?”

Russert, emerging from the car, replied: “Thank God for the seat belt!”

That was just one of the countless stories told at the service that showed both Russert’s wit and his warmth.

Former NBC reporter Maria Shriver — now California’s first lady — recalled Russert’s comforting calls when her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was going in and out of intensive care this past year.

“He talked with me about losing his own mother,” who died several years ago,” she said. “He talked to me about how it felt, how hard it was for him. He talked to me about where he found support, about the role of his faith in that struggle. He shared his struggle with me so that mine would be a little bit easier.”

And in a surprise appearance via video from Europe, where he is touring, Rust Belt rock poet Bruce Springsteen recalled performing at the “Today” show and seeing Russert beaming in the front row.

Springsteen and his band played a song called “The Promised Land” at the time. “It’s funny that we were playing that song,” Springsteen said. “I think Tim had a real belief in that promised land and in the American idea. And that was the passion that you heard behind all those tough questions on Sunday morning and — and in that big smile.”

Springsteen closed the memorial service with an acoustic version of “Thunder Road.”

Earlier in the day, the presumptive presidential nominees, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, sat next to each other during the private funeral Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and New York Gov. David A. Paterson also attended.

The afternoon memorial service was no less star-studded. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N. Y., made her first public appearance here since suspending her presidential campaign 11 days earlier. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, accompanied her.

But all the while, the focus was on the stage, and especially on Luke Russert, who eulogized his father with a mix of humor and honor that would have done his father proud.

“I ask you, this Sunday, in your hearts and in your mind, to imagine a ‘Meet the Press’ special edition, live from inside St. Peter’s gate,” Luke said. “Maybe Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr will be on for the full hour debating.”

Calling his father “a force of nature,” he added: “Now his own cycle in nature is complete. But his spirit lives on in everybody who loves their country, loves their family, loves their faith and loves those Buffalo Bills.

“I love you, Dad. And, in his words, let us all ‘go get ’em!’ ”


From June 19, 2008