Tonawanda News

April 4, 2014

Judge rejects suit against Amigone

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — State Supreme Court Judge Henry Nowak has dismissed the state’s petition for a permanent injunction that would have prevented Amigone from restarting crematory operations at its Town of Tonawanda site.

The New York State Attorney General’s Office filed the lawsuit in September, arguing that the injunction would prevent the company from conducting future harm against the nearby residents, who have complained of offensive odors, soot and excessive noise for decades.

But in his decision, Nowak ruled that a six-month assurance of discontinuance agreement, which Amigone and the state signed in July 2012, is still in effect. The terms of that agreement still stand, Nowak said, so an injunction is not necessary. 

“If respondents wish to open the crematory at the current location, they must first provide two weeks’ actual written notice to the attorney general advising of any new plan to renew operation,” the decision states. 

Amigone must also hire a consulting firm to develop recommendations for changes that would ensure the crematory’s operations are compliant with the law and address residents’ concerns. And at least seven days before reopening, Amigone must submit a report of the firm’s suggestions to the Department of Environmental Conservation and the attorney general.

The Clean Air Coalition, which has led the residents’ fight against Amigone, released a statement on Thursday on the judge’s decision.

“Although we are disappointed that there wasn’t further action by the court, we are encouraged that the judge did find merit in the residents’ complaints, and that the original temporary assurance of discontinuance has been extended indefinitely,” Rebecca Newberry, of the Coalition, said. 

Newberry said she hopes that the town, attorney general’s office and the DEC remain vigilant in protecting residents.

The lawsuit, which cited the company’s alleged violations of environmental laws for the first time, included affidavits from 43 people who live in the neighborhood near Amigone. 

“The crematory created problems for me,” Mary Calleri, 97, said in her affidavit, “It made me more isolated because the odors forced me indoors. This happened too many times.”

In response, defense attorney Robert Knoer argued that his client is not attempting to reopen the crematory in its current location.

“Amigone is not asking to reopen. We are trying to move, and we would only reopen if the Department of Environmental Conservation and the attorney general’s office were satisfied,” he said in court. 

Last year, the New York State Cemetery Board denied the company’s request to move the crematory, a ruling the State Supreme Court upheld. Amigone has appealed that decision.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.