Sunday, April 29, 2012

Summer programs set at community centers

The school year is quickly coming to an end, but there’s still plenty of time to turn in applications for one of the many West Side summer youth programs. 
After late June, The Belle Center, Boys and Girls Clubs, and West Side Community Services among a few will be offering summer youth programming to students from ages 5 to 18 until school resumes. 
 The Boys and Girls Clubs of Buffalo  will offer activities such as, sports, arts, educational services that are intended on keeping West Side youth occupied, and off the streets, said Jennifer Mickens, Executive Assistant and Human Resource Administrator for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo.
 The West Side Community Services located at 161 Vermont St. has had over 100 students attend their summer program in the past. Offering separate hours for age groups, 6 to 12 and 13 to 18, said Danette Porto, Human Services Coordinator of West Side Community Services. 
“Eighty five percent of our children are right here on the West Side,” said James McNeil, K-5th grade program director of The Belle Center. “Our main focus is getting each child to the next level of higher learning; we want every child to reach their full potential.”
 The Belle Center located at 104 Maryland St. had over 150 registered students at their summer camp last year, ages 5 to 12, and offers some full or reduced cost scholarships for parents of low income households, said McNeil. “The most important thing is providing an enriching and secure environment, promote tolerance and recognize diversity,” said Porto. By Mackenzie Clarke, Stepahnie Delaunay and Cheri St. Croix

OLMSTED CLEAN UP -  Abi Echevarria, near zone gardener for Olmsted Parks, gives insight on spring clean up for West Side fparks and traffic circles. Video by Katie Anderson and Danielle Wayne

Greenhouse owner rents plots for gardens

  A little over a century after being built, the oldest surviving commercial greenhouse in Buffalo is now being revitalized thanks to its new owners.
  Vincent Kuntz, who bought the greenhouse back in 2004, is now remodeling it for personal use.  He originally purchased it to keep it out of landfill.  However, with the abundance of space behind the greenhouse, he has been able to rent out plots to members of the community.  
  Kuntz also collaborates with businesses in the area, like Sweetness 7, collecting compost for the greenhouse and the plots behind it.
  Connected to the greenhouse is West Side Stories, a used bookstore owned by Joe Petri.  Petri looks forward to this time of year when he gets to see the excitement that goes on behind his business.
  “It’s slowly, but surely coming along,” says Petri. 
  The greenhouse is now in its eighth year of being open.  Many renters take advantage of this space. 
  “We moved in the neighborhood about four years ago, and Vincent was renting the plots even then.  I think they are actually almost all filled,” Petri said. By Ann Hendricks and Miranda Ruckdeschel


Rich gives scraps to MAP farm for composting

 Rich Products lending a big hand to small farms on the West Side.
  For the past year, Rich Products has donated food waste to the Massachusetts Avenue Project for use as compost on its Growing Green Urban Farm. This currently consists of 13 lots.
  “Rich's has been a great partner,” said Diane Picard, MAP executive director. “We will continue to pick up food scraps for the composting efforts at our farm over the next year, twice a week.”
  MAP’s affiliation with Rich Products highlights a recent trend in urban farming. Since many residents have limited access to fresh produce, MAP has been working to bridge that gap.  Along with donating compost for MAP’s farm, Rich Products also provides secure parking for MAP’s Mobile Market vehicle. This Mobile Market offers fresh, locally-grown, organic produce at affordable prices for the community. By Jacob Becker and Edward Mazzu

IN DEPTH: Somali community questions surveillance

 It’s been two months since a leaked document emerged detailing the NYPD’s surveillance of the Somali community in Buffalo, and members of that community are still wondering why they were being watched. Full story by Michael Canfield and Jacob Tierney

DESPITE THE WEATHER - Students from Leonardo da Vinci High School, from left, Zach Howard, Charbel Mansour nd Brian Trinh, practice at Front Park on Monday, April 16, despite irregular spring showers and high winds that swept the region. The Dragons have yet to lose and will travel to Burgard High School for their next match. Photo by Jacob Becker & Ed Mazzu

STORYTELLING TIME - Kathy Goodrich of the Niagara-Branch Library, 280 Porter Ave., takes part in a storytelling event for young children.  The event uses props as well as books to entertain the children as part of a weekly program in which any children are welcome. Photo by Richard Cumpston and Mike Tellier

PUSH wants ideas for Club Utica building

People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) has confirmed its   purchase of the old Club Utica building at 527 W. Utica St.
 PUSH has been an integral part of the revitalization effort in the W. - AP Utica Street-Massachusetts Avenue area. 
  Plans for the Club Utica building are not yet finalized. Currently, the organization is  reaching out to residents and local businesses to ascertain what the community would like the building to be used for.
 “Our plans are rooted in the community’s desires,” said Jennifer Mecozzi, Director of Community Organizing for PUSH.
 The people of PUSH have been going door-to-door taking surveys on residents’ opinions on what sort of commercial space they would like to see in their neighborhood. So far they have collected over 300 surveys.
 A community meeting was held on April 18, at 370 Massachusetts Ave., to further discuss the options for the Club Utica building.
 Amongst the ideas that surfaced during the meeting were health clinics, senior centers, temporary art installations and retail of any sort.
 Business owners and community activists were very keen on the idea of getting more retail into the space.
 “There has to be a corner store within two blocks of every house,” said Kevin Gardner, co-owner of Five Points Bakery, which is located across the street from Club Utica.
 PUSH is still very much in the planning process and will be holding more meetings concerning how to move forward with their commercial real estate.  By Michael Hargrave and Shayna McKie          

Take care when housecleaning for spring

 Spring has sprung early this year and as temperatures start to rise, many are getting the urge to scrub their homes from top to bottom.
  The West Side is home to many historical buildings and old Victorian houses. Although beautiful, remnants of lead based paint can make cleaning potentially dangerous.
  Joanne Chase, owner of WNY Home Cleaning, says that there is a simple way to cut your risk when cleaning painted windowsills.
 “I would recommend definitely using gloves and no harsh and chemicals. Maybe a light l detergent at the most,” Chase said.
  She also recommended not scrubbing the windowsills too rigorously.  Chase said that the same goes for cleaning old radiators. She also mentioned that if you are thinking about painting your radiators to give them a fresh look, you might want to do some research.
  “You’re really not supposed to be painting them. And if you do, you have to buy special paint for it,” Chase said.
 Marcus Moses, owner of Top of the Line Cleaning, shares his secret to success for cleaning on a budget. He says that micro fiber rags are inexpensive and can be reused.
 “We use them on glass, wood, dusting, any kind of cleaning. They attract the dirt, and the dirt stays in the rag instead of spreading it around the surface,” Moses said. By Kristina Ferris and Megan Kreps

Belle Center plans children's summer camp

The Belle Center, 104 Maryland St., is now accepting registration for its  annual children’s summer camp.
 The official name of the camp is The Young Achievers Program. The Belle Center has the goal in mind to get children interested in furthering their education after high school.
 “We want every child to have the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Program Director James McNeil.
 The camp runs all summer, Monday through Friday, from June 25 to Aug. 31  There are two separate sessions available depending on grade level and all students from Kindergarten through 12th grade are welcome.  Some classes the camp offers include dance, math, reading and swimming.
  They also offer field trips every Friday. McNeil said that this exposure will get the children to want to pursue further education whether it be college, military or some type of trade school. There is a fee for the camp but there are also full and reduced cost scholarships for families. By Pasquale Maggiore and Alexa Myers

IN DEPTH: Bicycling's popularity grows on the West Side

 What if there was a way to save money, save the environment and keep in shape all at the same time? West Side residents have found the answer to this riddle and it involves strapping on a helmet and taking a ride down their neighborhood streets. Join the bicycling movement and find out where to find affordable bike shops and learn how to repair and maintain your ride.
Full story by Elaundress Ballard and Christie Jok

Project Alert to expand to high schools

 West Side Community Services', Project Alert, on alcohol, drug, and cigarette smoking prevention program, will be expanding this fall beyond the elementary level to high schools.
   “We focus on those three aspects because they are considered gateway drugs,” said Prevention Specialist Jorge Navaro.   It is an 11-week program that provides a pre-test to assess the students’ knowledge of alcohol and drug awareness and ends with a post-test to evaluate how much information the students retained.
   Project Alert offers free meals, recreational activities, arts and crafts, and boxing as well as dance shows.
   The program began in January after the West Side Community Services’ Second Step Program was cut due to a lack of federal funding.   In addition to hosting fundraisers, Navaro contributes his own money and asks family and friends for donations to help keep the program afloat.
   He teaches three classes at PS 76, working with 5th and 6th graders, and eight classes at School 3, the D’Youville Porter Campus School.
   “I don’t lecture the kids. I try to get them interactive by doing fun games that can get them interested,” Navaro said.  “Project Alert presented themselves to us and we felt like this was a good opportunity for students,” said Donna J. Jackson, principal of PS 76.
   The program reaches out to the community by setting up interviews with parents and children in distress. By Cortney Drakeford and Alana Ransom

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

FARE HIKES - Riders react to the prospect of paying more for riding a Metro bus when fare hikes go into place in May. Video by Ann Hendricks and Miranda Ruckdeschel

Sunday, April 22, 2012

IN DEPTH: Men's stories cast light on W. S. homeless

 The homeless on the West Side struggle to find things most take for granted such as food and shelter. Many organizations, including Friends of  Night People, provide a hot meal and clothing to support men and women living on the streets.  Those living homeless are often times not afraid to speak about their past and have hopes of one day living a better life; such is the case with Jaye Perry and Jose Calderon.  These two homeless men have formed an inseparable bond in a fight to survive. Full story by Jacob Becker and Edward Mazzu

Lucy Ethiopian serves up unique coffee

A tradition passed down through generations based upon love and respect can be found in a cup of coffee and served by the only Ethiopian restaurant in Buffalo.
Lucy Ethiopian Cuisine and Variety Store at the corner of Grant and Amherst streets  takes pride in being able to serve its traditional coffee, bunna, to its customers in a time honored Ethiopian tradition of friendship.   
“It’s a big deal in my country, because they make coffee for someone they like, especially the traditional way, it’s a way of expressing love and respect” said Naima Tesfu, co-owner of Lucy Ethiopian.
To serve the most authentic and tasty Ethiopian coffee to customers, special preparations were taken months in advance to order the coffee beans directly from a farm in Ethiopia.
“Making the coffee is time consuming; we shell, roast and grind the coffee here,” said Tesfu.
            On Saturdays the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony takes place from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The preparations for the coffee must all been done in house, and the coffee must be served in a special black pot for the truest of Ethiopian brew.
            Lucy Ethiopian will be offering private coffee ceremonies   in the future, waiting to acquire smaller sets that can be used at individual tables, said Tesfu.
            Throughout the week a mix of American/Ethiopian coffee is available for customers but if Saturdays aren’t busy,  Lucy Ethiopian isn’t opposed to impromptu coffee ceremonies for their beloved customers,  said Tesfu.
            Customers are frequently asking about the coffee service, and have been enjoying its unique flavor, said Abba Biya, an employee.
            “Some people come in and ask about the coffee, even though it’s not Saturday, instead of saying no, we try our best if it’s not too crowded in here, we want to make our customers happy,” said Tesfu. By Mackenzie Clarke, Stephanie Delaunay and Cheri St. Croix

City has rules for holding garage sales

With the spring season underway, West Side residents may consider having garage or yard sales to get rid of their junk during spring cleaning.  
Residents can have up to three garage or yard sales before being required to purchase a permit for any further yard sale, said Noemi Santiago, representative for David Rivera, Niagara District Common Council Member.
Each permit will cost around $10 to $15.  There also are restrictions on signs for garage sales, said Brad Hamm, representative for Michael Locurto, Delaware District Common Council Member.
“Garage sale signs can go up no more than two days prior to the sale and they have to be taken down at the close of the sale,” Hamm said.
Hamm also said that no more than six signs per sale are allowed to be put up.
    Santiago said that if a neighborhood inspector notices a resident hosting more than three sales without a permit, that resident could be forced to pay a fine. By Katie Anderson and Danielle Wayne

DYNGUS DAY - Polish residents and non-Polish alike grab their pussy willows and celebrate Dyngus Day at the Polish Cadets hall on Grant Street. Video by Mackenzie Clarke, Stephanie Delaunay and Cheri St. Croix.

State funds won't save school programs

The recently passed state budget has given an additional $11.3 million to the Buffalo Public School District’s operating budget, but the district may still be forced to consider cutting music and athletic programs at schools across the city.
School districts all over the state have had their budgets cut by the state multiple times in recent years, even as employee salaries and benefits have continued to increase. The additional aid this year is appreciated, said Barb Smith, chief financial officer of the Buffalo Public School District, but much more will need to be done to help struggling districts.
“It doesn’t fix the structural deficit problems that we had,” Smith said.
The Buffalo Public School District is currently working to reduce an estimated $42 million deficit.
“It’s a very tight balance every year, this year more than ever,” Smith said.
Popular programs may be on the chopping block as part of the effort to control the deficit. The district’s budget office is trying to avoiding cutting music or athletic programs, but there are no guarantees, Smith said. Many costs are mandated by state or union contracts, which leave the district with limited options when it’s time to decide where to cut.
The main focus is making sure students’ core educational experience does not suffer.
“Our entire objective is to not impact the classroom,” Smith said.
 By Michael Canfield and Jacob Tierney

YOGA TO A BEAT - Buffalo residents gather for the opportunity to connect at Shakti Yoga at 133 Grant St. Drums, yoga and stillness bring people together during these yoga sessions. Photo by Anna Dinger and Kevin Freiheit

West Side Housing Fair slated for April 28

        The Fair Housing Act is celebrating its 44th anniversary during the Fair Housing Month of April and Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc is contributing in various ways.
         The act  was passed around the time of civil rights and was used to try and eliminate discrimination according to But there are even more aspects to the law that favor society and Heart of the City Neighborhoods, celebrates people being able to afford good housing.
          “A huge part of fair housing to our organization is affordable housing,” said Heart of the City Executive Director Stephanie Simeon. “It’s something that is often overlooked.” 
         Currently, Heart of the City is operating two successful affordable housing programs on the Lower West Side. The Home Ownership Provides Equity (HOPE) Program is one. HOPE rehabs vacant homes and resells them to first-time homebuyers.
         The Planning to Stay program is another housing program run by Heart of the City. This organization provides home repair grants to elderly and disabled homeowners with modest means.
         On Saturday, April 28, there will be a West Side Housing Fair sponsored by the West Side Ministries at 301 14th St. 
         “The truth is there are a lot of programs and policies that can ensure that we aren’t paying excessive costs for a safe and healthy home,” said Simeon. “Something everyone has the right to.” By  Richard Cumpston and Mike Tellier

Crunch Time: Bathing suit season is just around the corner.  Fitness expert, West Side resident, and Body Blocks employee, Pat Blackford, demonstrates a core exercise that when combined with diet and exercise can help get you where you want to be. Video by Kristina Ferris and Megan Kreps

IN DEPTH: Upcoming charter school boasts big plans

 The building located on 113 Lafayette Ave. will be renovated soon to become the new West Buffalo Charter School in August 2012 Full story by Cortney Drakeford and Alana Ransom.

Friday, April 20, 2012

West Side podcast puts seniors in the know

 The Concerned Ecumenical Ministry continues to keep West Side senior citizens involved in the community and up-to-date with a web-based podcast on controversial environmental and health topics.

 “On the Road Again” an online podcast hosted by Joni Russ, is celebrating it’s fifth year on the air, said Russ, the Concerned Ecumenical Ministry activity coordinator.

 The show, often posted at 7 p.m. during weekdays, has featured over 50 senior citizens ranging in ages from 60 to 90, Russ said. The podcast can be found at

 The podcast, which is privately funded, features topics including, but not limited to global warming, factory farms, puppy mills and veganism, Russ said.  

 “I’m trying to create an awareness about food issues to help the seniors. Quality of life matters, and our job is to improve their quality of life and give them as much information about nutrition as we can and to teach them how to improve their eating habits,” Russ said. By Elaundress Ballard and Christie Jok

Thursday, April 19, 2012

DOG DAYS - The dogs at the Barkyard, inside Lasalle Park, are enjoying the spring-like weather a little earlier than usual. Buffalo’s first and only off-leash area opened in August 2007. The park is open 24/7 and there is even a separate side for small dogs. Photo by Kristina Ferris and Megan Kreps

MORE THAN COFFEE - Sweetness_7 is more than just a coffee shop. It is a solid member of the West Side Community. Video by Pasquale Maggiore and Alexa Myers

BUFFALO STATE COMPLEX - Steve Shaffer, part of the facilities planning department at Buffalo State College, explains how the new Science and Mathematics Complex is coming along. The building should be done by August of this year and will bring about many benefits to faculty and students alike. Video by Richard Cumpston and Mike Tellier

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Refugees challenge mental-health providers

 With Buffalo’s refugee community growing, offering mental health care in a variety of languages and for a number of ailments has become a challenge for service providers.
 Mental health issues can arise from trauma suffered in the refugee’s home country, as well as the stress of coming to a new country, said Jessica Pirro, associate director at Crisis Services.
 “Even though they may be coming from a deplorable and challenging situation, it’s still a change when they get here,” she said. “Even if it’s better, it’s still a change, and sometimes that can be as overwhelming as the trauma they experienced in their home country.”
 Crisis Services provides emergency mental health care to Erie County, and is working on ways to deal with the issues involved with serving the refugee community. They’ve set up an account with Language Line, a service providing interpreters for non-English speakers and have partnered with area resettlement agencies who have interpreters on staff, Pirro said.
 “We do have that accessibility to the refugee community,” she said. “We also may have to set-up an interpreter if we have to go out and see someone face-to-face.”
 Some of the languages they’ve dealt with include Somali, Russian, Farsi, Urdu, Mandarin and Dari, she said.
 While most refugees transition well, those that need assistance have options, said Eva Hassett, executive director at the International Institute of Buffalo.
 “In the event that a client has mental health issues there are plenty of places in Western New York for them to go,” she said. By Michael Canfield and Jacob Tierney
PURPOSEFUL ART - Painting for Preservation hosted an “art in” on Saturday, March 31 at the historic Wilkeson Mansion at 771 Busti Ave. Local artists gathered on the sidewalk across the street to sketch the mansion as a means to both preserve its image and protest its demolition by the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority. Video by Jacob Becker and Edward Mazzu

Mass. Ave. park ready for second phase

 Massachusetts Avenue Park will be open in time for summer, and further improvements will begin this fall.
 The improvements in the second phase of the project are expected to cost $350,000.
 As part of the plan, the playground will be relocated to the back of the park. The main entrance will be reconstructed with an archway, a pavilion and a multi-purpose sports field. Additional landscaping and park benches are also included the plan.
 Grass in the park has just been laid out, and once it starts to grow children can start enjoying the park through the summer.
 “Phase one is what you see now,” said Whitney Yax, community organizer at People United for Sustainable Housing. “Phase two improvements will occur this fall after the summer opening.”
 Neighbors worked hard with members of PUSH to get to this point. They developed a plan that would help give children a safe and enjoyable place close to home where they could have fun and interact with other children.
 This dedication paid off last November, when West Side residents came together to celebrate the approval of funding for the new park.
 Now, just months later, the once abandoned park on Massachusetts Avenue is already beginning to see a new light. By Ann Hendricks and Miranda Ruckdeschel

PUSH unveils Green Zone development plan

 Four years ago, People United for Sustainable Housing created the Green Development Zone, located along the Massachusetts Avenue corridor. After achieving much success and attaining international recognition, the zone is ready to blossom.
 As PUSH gets set to unveil its community development plan on April 18 at the Butler Mitchell Boys & Girls Club, 270 Massachusetts Ave., West Side residents will get a glimpse of what’s in store for the neighborhood.
 “The zone is always changing and expanding,” said Britney McClain, development director for PUSH. “Come spring, it’s really going to be something to see.”
 PUSH will work to redevelop more than 50 parcels of land the organization owns within the zone, comprised mainly of vacant buildings and empty lots, said McClain.
 “Another interesting project is our community rain garden,” McClain said. “It’s a really great trend within the green infrastructure.”
 More than 20 vacant lots have already been converted into rain gardens, pollinator lots and community gardens in the zone as PUSH continues to purchase vacant houses and lots to develop affordable green housing.
 “There’s always a good opportunity for people to come down and take the tour and see what we’re all about,” McClain said. By Jacob Becker and Edward Mazzu

IN DEPTH: Chefs showcase 'dangerous' global tastes

 Local foodies will be able to take their taste buds to new places. Dinner with Danger and Journey’s End Refugee Services will be teaming up in a six-dinner series that will show off local refugee cooking talents. Each event will allow refugees from the area to showcase their countries’ foods.Full story by Katie Anderson and Danielle Wayne

IN DEPTH: Beekeeping on Urban Roots, city agenda

 As the weather warms up, people onthe West Side are looking forward to beekeeping and bringing bees into the city. However, last July beekeeping was found to be illegal under the city charter as “insect infestation.” Now, less than a year later, beekeeping is back on City Hall’s agenda. The Common Council is in the process of figuring out a beekeeping proposal that will tie together the concerns of both city dwellers and city beekeepers. With spring just around the corner local bee keepers are getting ready to fill their hives. Full story by Michael Hargrave and Shayna McKie

Monday, April 16, 2012

IN DEPTH: Grant-Amherst abuzz with business activity

Spar's European Sausage & Meats opened in 2005

 Where’s the newest buzz? It’s not on Elmwood, and it’s not on Allen. It’s on Grant-Amherst Street. During the last decade Amherst Street, bordering the Upper West Side at the beginning of Black Rock, has had a tremendous amount of growth. The Grant-Amherst Street district is not to be underestimated, or brushed off. The Grant-Amherst Business Association goal is to revitalize Amherst Street, and keep the vibrant urban economy that is flourishing in Grant-Amherst Street business district. Full story by MacKenzie Clarke, Stephanie Delaunay and Cheri St. Croix

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Urban Roots gives local gardening tips

 Spring is upon us, and gardeners should begin taking the necessary steps towards producing a successful garden this season.
 The Urban Roots Community Gardening Center urges residents to stay away from online sources because they won't address unique aspects of gardening on the West Side, said Patti Jablonski-Dopkin, Urban Root’s General Manager..
 “You can read books or look online, but each area is unique to it’s own climate. We can set you up for success for this specific area,” Jablonski-Dopkin said.
 Urban Roots recently held its fourth annual Seed Starting Workshop for West Side residents which is meant to give gardeners of all skill levels an opportunity to learn basic and technological aspects of gardening.
 Some basic tips offered during the workshop included having healthy, non-contaminated soil, proper pest control and healthy seedlings, Jablonski-Dopkin said.
 Adrianna Zullich, an Urban Roots employee, said it’s a positive workshop to have in the community.
 “It’s a great program. We have the heirloom seedings people come in to get, we have lots of seeds to provide people, hot peppers and different things. We let people borrow carts and things they don’t have to take home,” Zullich said.
 The Educational Committee within Urban Roots along with Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo finances the yearly program, Jablonski-Dopkin said. By Elaundress Ballard and Christie Jok

Debate continues on teacher evaluations

 With the new teacher evaluation law on the minds of educators and parents, some community leaders are still weighing in on how student absences will affect the teacher assessments.
 Naomi Cerre, principal of Lafayette High School, said that she is concerned with some students not attending class, which should not have an impact on the teacher.
 “In my opinion, teachers should not be evaluated by students who don’t attend class,” she said.
 Cerre said Lafayette is actively trying to reduce student absences. With an attendance intervention team consisting of parents, students, teachers, administrators, social workers and counselors, Cerre said the school is involved with bringing absent students back to class.
 “It needs to be a partnership among students, parents and the school,” she said.
 Sam Radford, president of District Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo, concurred.
 “The number one key to a child’s educational success is parent involvement,” he said.
New legislation will make Buffalo schools better for the student, Radford said, adding that he hopes it will also improve the graduation rate. By Katie Anderson and Danielle Wayne

PUSHING HEALTH - People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) provided health screenings and healthy eating options on March 15 at 161 Vermont St. Above, Cecelia Barron, a student at Buffalo State College, above, gets her blood pressure checked by Independent Health nurses.Below, Independent Health volunteers provide healthy eating options to the West Side community. Photos by Mackenzie Clarke, Stephanie Delaunay and Cheri St. Croix

PUSH continues campaign for heating aid

 The People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) continued the “Turn Up the Heat” campaign at its Monthly Member Moment on March 24, encouraging West Side residents to sign a petition letter aimed at lowering heating bills in low-income households.
 PUSH, located at 271 Grant St., needs to reach a goal of 1,000 signed letters by West Side residents for the campaign to succeed.
 Buffalo has some of the highest heating bills in America, with low-income homes getting less than 30 percent of National Fuel Gas Co.’s Conservation Incentive Program aid, said Brenda Miller, PUSH member.
 Buffalo’s poorest residents make tough decisions that force them to make a choice between heating and daily needs, said Whitney Yax, PUSH member. PUSH would like National Fuel Gas Co. CEO David Smith to put an end to that choice.
 “We know what we want, where we live,” Yax said.
 Smith, however, refuses to talk to PUSH about the ways the company can lower heating bills in low income homes, said Jennifer Mecozzi, a member of PUSH.
 PUSH members are also selling tickets for a fundraising dinner to help defray the costs of a trip to Washington, D.C. with National People’s Action from May 19 to May 21. The dinner will be held on April 27 at 6 p.m.
 PUSH hopes more West Side residents will turn out this year, said Lonnie Barlow, PUSH member.
 Anyone interested in going should contact PUSH at 884-0356. The trip is $150.
By Mackenzie Clarke, Stephanie Delaunay and Cheri St. Croix

IN DEPTH: Youth police event teaches life skills

 Nearly 70 middle school students spent the afternoon at Buffalo Police Headquarters for the 17th annual Youth Police Academy, held on Saturday, March 24. The event played host to students from all over the region, many of whom are from the West Side, in an effort to build a positive relationship between youth and local law enforcement. The Youth Police Academy has helped hundreds of kids over the years make better choices in life and is looking to increase its presence in the community. Full story by Jacob Becker and Edward Mazzu

Breakfast series makes homes healthier

 While many people on the West Side live in older homes, they may not be aware of the health hazards that are commonly associated with them.
 The “No Place Like Home” breakfast series looks to inform residents on housing issues in the area. The series began on March 14 and continues through May 9.
 The first breakfast in the series focused on health issues in the home and how to prevent and correct them. Stephanie Simeon, director at Heart of the City, coordinated the event. Her goal is to make everyone aware of the solutions to issues some people on the West Side face on a daily basis.
 “This series is about us looking at the community as a whole,” Simeon said. “Where we live is important and we need to be concerned about the quality of life.”
 The speaker at the first event, Kate Grimm from the University at Buffalo, focused on healthy homes, and how an unhealthy home can have a major effect on the health of children.
  “Home is where we first learn health,” she said.
  Stephanie Kellner of Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, ended the lecture by providing the audience with tools and resources for making the homes in their community healthier and safer places.
 Upcoming topics include “There Goes The Neighborhood: Misconceptions of Affordable Housing” and “Boarding Up Our Burdens: How Vacant Houses Are Draining Our Neighborhoods.” Lectures include breakfast and are free of cost, but pre-registration is required.
By Ann Hendricks and Miranda Ruckdeschel

Thursday, April 12, 2012

DOING BUSINESS - Kevin Gardner talks about running a business on the West Side. Gardner co-owns the Five Points Bakery on 426 Rhode Island St. which has been open since March 2009. Five Points specializes in locally sourced organic food and whole grain breads.   Video by  Michael Hargrave and Shayna McKie

Sunday, April 8, 2012

PUSH PROJECT  - Contractors for PUSH, Danny Smith and Kevin Zigler, take a break from working on PUSH’s 129 Chenango St. house.  Photo by Mike Hargrave and Shayna McKie

Volunteers prepare for shoreline clean up

 With springlike weather occurring earlier than normal, the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper organization is gearing up for a busy season of activities.
  Located on Niagara Street, the group consists of 23 paid employees and volunteers from around Western New York who have similar goals of keeping the region's natural resources neat and clean.
nbsp;The organization is gearing up for its big Shoreline Clean-Up, which is taking place on April 21. The event focuses on cleaning up 40 areas throughout Western New York. Three areas in particular that are close to home that will be helped by the clean up are Scajaquada Creek, Buffalo River and stretches of the Niagara River.
 "The organization's backbone is its v0lunteers," said Elizabeth Lamont, who is a representative at Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. "The group gets volunteers from aroudn Western New York through press releases and spreading the word through the local college campuses.
  Lamont said even though they are expecting a huge turnout of helpers on April 21, more volunteers are always welcome.
nbsp;In an area where natural water sources are very plentiful and financial aid is limited for upkeep, the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper organization plays a role in keeping several Western New York waterways as beautiful and clean as possible. Since 1989, the goal hasn't changed and the group continues to protect the region's most valuable natural resources.
By Pasquale Maggiore and Alexa Myers
DYNGUS DAY - Organizers expect big crowds at the Polish Cadets hall at Grant and Amherst streets for the annual post-Easter celebration, April 9. Video by Katie Anderson and Danielle Wayne

IN DEPTH: Jericho Road focuses on helping refugees

 While it may be no surprise that West Side residents are always willing to lend a hand when one is in need, one area foundation takes the extra step to help refugees new to America. Jericho Road Ministries focuses on teaching refugees how to adapt to their new surroundings while providing free medical advice and transportation to local destinations in an effort to assist them in getting proper care. Full story by Kristina Ferris and Megan Kreps

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Homefront: Making homes more affordable

 Homefront, Inc. has purchased 10 homes on 19th Street for a major home and community rebuilding effort.
 The homes have been purchased and rebuilt using city and state grant money.
Two of the homes have already been fully rebuilt and currently have people living in them. Another three have been sold and are waiting to be finished. Three others are in various stages of renovation while two others are scheduled for demolition and a ground up rebuild.
 “We will have everything done on 19th Street by the end of this year,” said Joe Bologna, project manager for Homefront.
 To keep the neighborhood from becoming gentrified, Homefront is selling the homes at a price far below the cost of the renovations. For example, 38 19th St. is listed for $84,000. Joe Bologna estimates each house costs around $180,000 to renovate.
 By using another portion of the grant money, Homefront is able to help prospective buyers by offering a purchase subsidy on top of the houses’ reduced cost.
 “Our target buyer income is 80 percent of the area median, that’s $36,100 for a single person,” said Jean Berry the program director for Homefront. “To have somebody who makes that kind of money buy one of our homes for more than $60,000 would be us putting them in an unaffordable home.”
 Affordable and long lasting housing is Homefront’s way to improve the neighborhood and keep housing prices from pushing others out. By Michael Hargrave and Shayna McKie

Tip line extends helping hand to youth

  A youth behavior tip line is transitioning from Buffalo Police Headquarters to the Westside Community Services this summer.
   Jonathan Lindner, who is the coalition’s coordinator, said the tip line, sponsored by the West Side Youth Development Coalition, is making a major metamorphosis in July.
   The tip line was initially created to provide an outlet for citizens to alert authorities about underage drinking on the West Side, but it’s transitioning into a more focused project for area youths, Lindner said.
   “The main goal is to provide an opportunity for students and youth to actually talk about issues, problems and concerns,” Lindner said. “ There isn’t really anything out there for that and what it does is provide an anonymous way for them to get their message across and it allows for us to really focus on other issues besides alcohol.”
   The tip line is primarily directed to youths in the 14213 vicinity and could extend to 14222, and as of now, the project will have one primary phone number and five phone lines.
   “The tip line is currently being funded by the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant allocated by the Department of Justice,” Linder said.  “The West Side Youth Coalition recently applied for a larger grant with more financial benefits called the Drug-Free Communities Grant which would be able to provide long term support.”
   According to the West Side Youth Coalition’s website, they’re hoping to not only improve the youth’s behavior on the West Side, but the community as a whole.
 By Elaundress Ballard and Christie Jok

Sunday, April 1, 2012

CITY CHICKENS - Jesse Meeder leads a workshop on urban chicken farming as part of the Massachusetts Avenue Project recent urban agriculture training session. Eight people from as far away as Rochester attended the training. Participants were taught how to raise chickens in the city, from feeding them to building chicken coops that are in line with city regulations. Photo by Michael Canfield and Jacob Tierney

Clothes stores have surplus of winter gear

 Spring is creeping upon us a little earlier than past years, making an impact on some small businesses along Grant Street. While many aren’t complaining about the lack of winter weather, some storeowners are noticing a bit more winter apparel in their stores than usual.
 One Stop Mart, located on 302 Grant St., already has some spring clothing items out for customers, but in the back you can still find winter coats and sweaters.
 “Since it wasn’t a bad winter we still have some stuff left, but if we still have anything at the end of the month we put it on clearance to try to get rid of it,” said Stahl Fidel, store manager. “And if it still doesn’t sell we give it away to charity.”
 New To You Shop, a second hand store also located on 289 Grant Street,- AP still has a variety of winter apparel available to customers.
  “We do have more winter clothes than summer, but we offer bag sales to people which helps sell clothing items at a cheaper cost for customers,” said Kim DeFlyer, a manager at New To You Shop.
 The weather has increased walking traffic in and out of stores on Grant Street, but we all know how unpredictable Buffalo weather can be. DeFlyer also said that most customers come by foot, so if the weather changes drastically, people tend come in for last minute gear, which helps the store to sell a lot of what may be leftover. By Ann Hendricks and Miranda Ruckdeschel

Ryan wants DEC to monitor air quality

 Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, recently sent a letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation, requesting equipment be put in place to monitor the air quality along the neighborhoods of the West Side. In the letter, Ryan cites a recent study that highlights the instance of chronic respiratory illness affecting the West Side.
 The study found that nearly 45 percent  of West Side households reported at least one case of chronic respiratory illness or asthma, according to the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York’s website.
  “It’s time for the DEC to take action and put air monitors in place so we can find a solution to this problem,” said Ryan.
   As a result of similar testing on the Tonawanda Coke Corp.  plant, measures such as installing new filters on smoke stacks have been put in place that have decreased the harmful levels of toxic waste, according to Cody Myers, community liaison to Ryan.
 “Really good benefits have resulted from actions taken in Tonawanda to reduce benzene levels coming from the coke factory,” said Myers. “Levels have now been reduced by approximately 80 percent.”
  Ryan is concerned that the amount of traffic that passes through the West Side is a hindrance to air quality levels, similar to those in Tonawanda.
  “The health and safety of West Side residents is one of my top priorities,” said Ryan. By Jacob Becker and Ed Mazzu

IN DEPTH: Program teaches refugee kids about school

Pre-k student Binisha learns about school at Buffalo Beginnings

 Buffalo State College and Journey’s End Refugee Services have come together to put a program together that will do more than just give young refugee youth something to do. Buffalo Beginnings is a program that works with school age refugees and helps them overcome their anxiety and nerves of entering the American public school system. Full story by Katie Anderson and Danielle Wayne