Monday, November 26, 2012

Buffalo State, Wegmans promote literacy

            Buffalo State College student volunteers stop at Wegmans every Saturday not to pick up groceries, but to read to children and their families.
The college Elementary Education and Reading Department along with Wegmans sponsor the Global Book Hour promoting family literacy and global awareness at the Amherst Street location.
According to Read to Succeed Buffalo, 30 percent of adults read at or below the fifth grade level.
            To help change this, Buffalo State education students volunteer their time to read to the neighborhood children every Saturday from 10:30 a.m to noon through Dec. 8.
            “We generally get 20 to 30 children with their families to come out to this event,” said Dr. Kim Truesdell, a professor at Buffalo State College.
            The Global Book Hour not only helps to promote literacy on the West Side, but also celebrates the cultural diversity this neighborhood offers.
            “We are focusing on the immigrant experience this semester,” Truesdell said. “We do more than just reading. We explore different music, art, and even food together.”
            Buffalo State will be hosting an ‘Adopt-a-Book’ fundraiser this month to help cover the expenses of the program.
            “This is especially important because each child gets to take a book home with them,” Truesdell said.
            The Global Book Project runs through December and will start again in the spring semester. By Jessica Chetney and Chelsea Goodridge

Livery apartments expected to open in June

The White’s Livery Apartments is expected to open its doors to residents this summer.
The remains of a historical building, located 430 Jersey Street, will be turned into a housing complex by June 2013, depending on winter conditions.
The building would be turned into a more advanced living compound, which will be two stories higher, then the original building of four floors. The building is also expected to have 14 apartments with a built in parking lot. The parking lot is to be located on the first floor and be the centered right in front of the complex.
“It will bring significance to the west side by bringing in more families into the neighborhood to live in a new building with affordable rates” states Linda Chiarenza, Executive Director of West Side Neighborhood Housing.
The project idea came along two years ago when area residents feared that their safety was at risk. They complained that the building was decaying and that bricks were falling from the building. They contacted Sam Savarino, owner of Savarino companies, a construction and development company. 
“We are doing the best we can to preserve the integrity of the building while keeping it energy efficient ” said Linda Chiarenza.
“What the building brings to the West Side of Buffalo is a success story,” said Laura Sweat, deputy director of West Housing Services. “You hear about how Buffalo has a declining population and such, but when people see that historical buildings can be brought back to life, it is inspiring.”
Sam Savarino brought the historic landmark, which was built 1816.  The project was set to start October of 2011 however complications in funding set the construction date back to August of 2012. By Joshua Clegatt and Stephanie Delaunay

PUSH receives $600K weatherization grant

People United for Sustainable Housing, also known as PUSH-Buffalo, has received a grant for $600,000 to weatherize approximately 100 homes throughout the West Side and other areas around the city.
            New York State Homes and Community Renewal, a state agency partnering to improve and preserve homes and communities, funded the grant. The funds will support PUSH Green, a non-profit weatherization and energy efficiency program, founded by PUSH Buffalo this year.
            PUSH Green plans on beginning the weatherization projects next summer in collaboration with New Buffalo Impact, a non-profit contractor dedicated to weatherizing homes in order to produce energy savings.
            The homes that qualify for the grants are ones that have already qualified for the Home Energy Assistance Program, also known as HEAP.
            “If the people have more energy efficient homes, then their heating and gas bills will not be as high,” said Lonnie Barlow, communications assistant at PUSH Buffalo. “Our hope is that these homeowners will not need as much assistance from organizations such as HEAP.”
PUSH Green also plans on training people from high unemployment areas who are willing to weatherize the homes.
            “We not only want to create more energy efficient homes, but get the people from the community involved with the hope that they will retain certain trade skills for further employment opportunities,” Barlow said.  By Chanice Johnson and Jennine Taberski

PARK PREPARATION - Brian Dold, landscape architect for the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, discusses how the non-for-profit organization will prepare Front Park for winter. The park is home to people taking advantage of the winter months by taking part in activities like snowshoeing. Video by Lakisha Forde and Narmeen Karzoun

WIDER WALKWAYS- Kiana Webb of Buffalo strolls along Forest Avenue on a recently paved and widened path, courtesy of GO Bike Buffalo. The group is dedicated to providing safer, wider walkways on Elmwood, Forest, and Richmond Avenues, where paths will lead to LaSalle Park. GO Bike Buffalo is working to also get special traffic signals on the corner of Elmwood and Forest Avenues to increase route safety. Photo by Max Borsuk and Mariya Yankova

CELEBRATING CULTURE- Eva Hassett, exceutive director of the International Institute, explains how the new Buffalo Without Borders Map will benefit the West Side and growing businesses throughout the area. The map includes all the ethnic immigrant and refugee-run businesses throughout the city. Rwanda native Louisa Sano, owner of Global Villages at 216 Grant St., shows her joy of having her business included on the map. Video by Jennine Taberski and Chanice Johnson

CarShare to add two cars at Buffalo State

            Buffalo CarShare, a rental car organization located on Allen Street, is expanding its services to Buffalo State College beginning in January.
             Lisa Krieger, assistant vice president of finance and management of Buffalo State, said the partnership came about when she researched car-sharing options for the campus and picked Buffalo CarShare because it reminded her of the campus’ urban focus.  
 “A lot of people do not own a car or choose not to own a car, so we can provide that service for them by offering community cars,” Michael Galligano, director of operations for Buffalo CarShare, said.
             The company will have two cars stationed near the campus specifically for Buffalo State students and faculty.
Students and faculty will have to sign up as a Buffalo CarShare user through the organization's  website, which may take up to a few weeks. Rental charges start at $8. 
“Our hope is that we can provide students and faculty with much more flexibility and they can now look at an alternative mode of transportation,” Krieger said.
               Buffalo CarShare already has two cars available for use on Grant Street, and is looking to place a third car on Connecticut Street some time in the near future. By Lakisha Forde and Narmeen Karzoun


Friday, November 23, 2012

Asarese-Matters repairs nearly complete

Asarese-Matters' new gym floor
The renovation of the gymnasium at the Asarese-Matters Recreation Center is almost complete.
New rubber coated flooring, new lights, a divider and a scoreboard have been installed in the gym at the center. Once bleachers are installed, the project will be complete.
The project was funded courtesy of a $50,000 state grant through former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt. Tom Koller, associate athletics director at Buffalo State College, served as a chair for the center and sought the grant in order to modernize the gym for youth.
Michael Milovich, the program coordinator for the city of Buffalo, and a former recreation instructor of the Asarese-Matters Center, said the gym, which once had a cement floor, was long overdue for remodeling. Milovich said that the reason it took more than four years is because the city and the county were unable to assign accountability for the center.
“For example, if we had a window broken, we would call the city,” said Milovich. “They would come over, say ‘yeah, it’s broken. But it’s up to the county to fix.’ Then we’d call the county, they’d look at it, and say, ‘yeah, it’s broken. But it’s the city’s job to fix it.”
Milovich, who has worked with the center for 24 years, is glad that neighborhood youth will finally be able to benefit from a new gym.
            “It’s nice to see something new made for kids who don’t get new things a lot,” said Milovich. By  Shari Ingles and Maureen Vitali













WORK IN PROGRESS -  An industrial looking archway is being built by the Ashford Hollow Foundation at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Brayton Street.  The archway was commissioned by PUSH Buffalo and designed in part by children from the adjacent Boys & Girls Club. Photo by Jason Murphy

LIVERY TO LIVING SPACE - The White Brothers Livery and Boarding Stable on Jersey Street, above,  is being converted to a 14- apartment building following a collapse in 2008. The City of Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency contracted Savarino Cos .  Inc. for the project. The renovation process is currently focused on preserving parts of the building’s façade, including the original White Brothers sign, below. Photo by Brian Alexander and Jennifer Waters

Stephanie Berghash beautifies West Side

University at Buffalo student Nathaniel Hutchings, left, and Stephanie Berghash


Tree planting took place on Nov. 3 on Pennsylvania Street under the direction of Stephanie Berghash.
Community activist and professional gardener, Berghash performs environmental acts of kindness such as this daily.
Locally known as the sole person responsible for the restoration of Gates Circle Fountain, Berghash volunteers her time to help make the streets of Buffalo look clean and beautiful.
Freshman students in the University of Buffalo Honors Program were there to help plant the trees for their mandated community service.
The trees for this project were provided to Berghash by Re-Tree Western New York.
Berghash contacted Paul Maurer Re-Tree chairman, about what was needed to reforest the streets in her neighborhood around Kleinhans Music Hall.
“I visited her and we walked the street together noting where street trees were needed on Pennsylvania Street and Prospect Avenue,” Maurer said.
Berghash ordered 31 Honey Locust trees but received only 19 for that Saturdays planting. She is hoping to plant the remaining trees in the spring.
The trees were planted along Pennsylvania Street, Normal Avenue and West Avenue. The planting in the spring will be done on Plymouth Avenue.
Each tree that the students planted she allowed the students to name. A nametag was placed on the bottom of each tree.
“The best part about planting trees and cleaning up the streets is that it goes beyond my life,” Berghash said. By Crissie Russo and Caitlin Waters

Thursday, November 22, 2012

DONATIONS ACCEPTED - Ron Thaler, pastoral assistant of Our Lady of Hope Church, shows items from the first week of donations for Potter’s Food Pantry. Items requested include gently-used clothing, canned goods, and other non-perishable food items. Donations will be accepted throughout the end of the month at 250 Lafayette Ave., and will help families in the West Side this holiday season. Photo By Joseph Losito and Mhairi Moorhead

IN DEPTH: Say Yes to Education Buffalo brings relief

       The City of Buffalo has implemented a program called Say Yes to Education Buffalo in hopes to alleviate and reduce financial stresses for students wanting to further their education after high school. Full story by Dayna Francis and Tyeisha Prior

IN DEPTH: W.S. holiday food drives in full swing

Catholic Charities and many other local organizations are determined to assure that nobody goes hungry this holiday season. Full story by Tom Gallagher and Mike Straw

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

W.S. Bazaar opens bigger space on Nov. 27

            After months of preparatory work, the West Side Bazaar is set to open at its expanded location at 25 Grant St. on Nov. 27.
            The location houses 22 vendors, almost four times the size of its former site at 242 Grant St., including five of the six vendors from its current location.
Ben Bissell, economic development coordinator for the Westminster Economic Development Initiative, said the new location will have the space to feature a mix of local and international vendors, which he said is important to stimulate creative innovation.
Bonnie Smith, board president for WEDI, said the new location will feature a full kitchen, which is set to open in mid-December. She said there will be four vendors that will sell specialty foods from places like Africa, Peru, Burma and China.
“I don’t think you can get more all-over-the-world than that,” Smith said. “It’s very exciting.”
On Dec. 6, Smith said the Bazaar will be participating in Peace, Love and Grant, a promotional event to get residents to shop locally.
“We want the Bazaar to be a public face to build customer space and vitalize the neighborhood,” Bissell said.
Bissell said the Bazaar is a small business incubator, meant to act as a step toward independent business ownership.
“Someone might have a great idea, but they don’t have any capital,” he said. “So we give them subsidized space to get them from point A to point B.” By Brian Alexander and Jennifer Waters

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Home sales picking up on West Side

According to the Commerce Department, home sales have climbed 5.7 percent in the past few months nationwide, the fastest rate in two years.
Home sales on the West Side have seen this same jump in sales as well over the past few months.
“There has been a tremendous increase on the West Side,” said Richard Fontana, real estate agent for MJ Peterson Real Estate. “There is quite a bit of investment and local ownership moving to the West Side”
With mortgage and interest rates at record lows coupled with the many benefits the West side has to offer, more people are moving into the area.
“ We show people all the finer points of the West Side like the affordability, the closeness to downtown, the quality of homes and the good schools in the area,” said Fontana.
One area in particular that has seen an added boost in sales over the past couple of months has been around Richmond Avenue because of the reputation of the neighborhood and its affordability compared to other wealthier areas, according to Fontana.
But, a challenge to any area experiencing a housing boom is keeping the sales rates high and according to Wayne Malcomb, real estate agent at Niagara Frontier Funding and Reality, rates should continue to increase.
“ If we can keep proper houses in decent shape continually in the market, the housing market in general should do well,” said Malcomb. “With the affordability and the rates what they are, housing should continue to pick up.”  By Max Borsuk and Maria Yankova

IN DEPTH: PUSH mural to brighten Grant St. office

         PUSH and MAP believe a mural over the Grant Street entrance of their offices will help the community come in and access their programs. Full story by Sara O'Brien and James Wright

Business growth evident on the West Side

The increasing new businesses on the West Side could aid in chipping away at the high unemployment rate in the Buffalo-Niagara region.
Rebecca Ballard, administrative assistant for On the Job Ministries, says the opening of retail shops and grocery stores has helped bring a lot of positive momentum on Grant Street. This positive momentum is leading to many employment opportunities on the West Side. 
Ballard also mentioned that places like the West Side Bazaar, which is scheduled to move to a bigger space on Grant in November, are serving as incubators for many more new entrepreneurs to start their small businesses.
“It has been exciting to see more businesses open on Grant Street in the past year,” she said. “It's exciting to be a part of this new growth and investment on Grant Street, providing opportunities for employment for the West Side Community. There is still a long way to go, but it is a start in the right direction.”
Ballard believes that all this movement on the West Side can help improve the region’s overall unemployment statistics.  The New York State Department of Labor shows, unemployment rates in the Buffalo-Niagara area increasing from 7.7 percent to 8.4 percent over the last year.
“I am very hopeful that this development will continue to stabilize the West Side, provided that small businesses are allowed to thrive so the money can stay here and be reinvested,” said Ballard.
On the Job Ministries, where Ballard has worked nearly two years, jobs are provided as well as training for young adult’s ages 16 to 24 on the West Side. By Lakisha Forde and Narmeen Karzoun

Marco's celebrates 24 years in business

            The small eatery, located on the corner of Niagara Street and Fargo Avenue, has been serving fine Italian dining to the West Side community since 1988.
            Owner Marco Sciortino, who opened the restaurant at age 20, attributes his business’ success to consistency.
            “I had to be consistent. I had to put out quality,” Sciortino said. “If you put out something subpar, guests are going to know immediately, and they’re not going to come back.”
            Since he opened the restaurant, Sciortino has found joy in pleasing his customers. He said that because he enjoys what he does, he doesn’t consider it work.
            “I like making people happy when they eat, when they drink, when they’re here, when they leave and they say how good it was,” he said.
            Paul Vitaris, manager and cook at the restaurant, has worked under Sciortino for 23 years. He noted that Sciortino’s selflessness and pride in his work is always on display.
            “He just keeps giving to everyone,” Vitaris said. “He’ll always be a part of the community and do what he can to make everyone happy. He’s a great boss.”
            Born and raised on the West Side, Sciortino wishes that more people would take after him and open businesses in the area.
            “We’ve got a great area. Niagara Street is amazing. The history that’s there, the flow, the traffic pattern,” he said. “There is so much activity going on. We could be the next Main Street.” By Tom Gallagher and Mike Straw.

HOPS-Y THANKSGIVING - Try something a little out of the ordinary this holiday season by pairing food with beer. Community Beer Works has some ideas. Video by Joe Losito and Mhairi Moorhead

IN DEPTH: West Side takes action to prevent violence

 The West Side  has been an area affected by violence throughout the years and local area organizations are creating preventative measures to help ensure the reduction of violence.
Full story by Chanice Johnson and Jennine Taberski

Monday, November 12, 2012


HEARTY HARVEST - Charles Guercio, part owner of Guercio & Son’s, 250 Grant St., is unloading a shipment of fresh produce including pomegranates, which are  in season until January.  Pomegranates along with other fruit are displayed outside of this grocery store and reflect the colors of fall.  Photo by Shari Ingles and Maureen Vitali

HELPING HAND - Friends of Night People volunteers Paulette Gandel left,  and Naudine Doetterl,  right, serve dinner on a recent night at the charitable service, 394 Hudson St.  Joseph Heary, executive director, said that the organization will continue to serve meals nightly, including Thanksgiving day. Friends of Night People needs donations of winter coats, blankets and clothes, he said. By Jasmine Willis and Kristin Ritch

IN DEPTH: Community works to dispel negative image

         Several public and community organizations are working with certain neighborhoods that tend to be viewed as crime-ridden areas, such as the West Side, to improve the community’s well-being. 
 Full story by Brian Alexander and Jennifer Waters

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

HABITAT HOUSES - Rob Dutcher and Dan Gallagher, site supervisors for Habitat for Humanity Buffalo, are renovating two houses in the West Side, one at 341 Hampshire St. and the other at 351 Vermont St. Both Dutcher and Gallagher explain how these families qualify and when the construction will be completed. Video by Crissie Russo and Caitlin Waters

Young Audiences to create West Side mural

            Since securing a $75,000 grant, Buffalo State College and Young Audiences of Western New York are preparing to transform the West Side community.
            “We are still in the planning stages right now,” said Young Audiences’ Executive Director Cynnie Gaasch.
            So far, Young Audiences, along with the Buffalo State College Community Academic Center, has planned to create a mural commemorating local immigrant heritage on Grant Street and Lafayette Avenue.
The students of International School Number 45 and Lafayette High School will be involved with the project, along with their families, to show their cultural pride.
            “We want to get both schools to work together on this project,” said Clare Malachowski a representative of AmeriCorps that works in the Community Academic Center.
            The Community Academic Center opens its doors to the West Side community, bringing students together.
            “We have all different types of programs here,” Malachowski said.
            One of its programs is called Girls Inc. The program is intended for girls between the ages of 12 and 18.
            “We talk about touchy subjects such as sex Ed with them,” Malachowski said.
            The Community Academic Center also aims to get students involved in local community organizations, such as the Girl Scouts of America as well as offering academic classes.
            “This is just a one year grant with Buffalo State that we hope will continue throughout the coming years,” Gaasch said. By Chelsea Goodridge and Jessica Chetney

Survey of Fargo Estate to be conducted

The Fargo Estate neighborhood will be surveyed to aid in completing its nomination for the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
The survey entails finding out the specifics of the neighborhood’s architecture, like materials used in constructing buildings and in what year buildings were actually erected.
Research will be funded by a $6,200 grant awarded last month to the Kleinhans Music Hall Management group from the Preservation League of New York State, an organization dedicated to protecting New York State’s historic buildings and districts.
“The survey will capture on paper the history, the importance and the artistry of the neighborhood,” said Catherine Schweitzer, a board member for the Kleinhans Management group.
Kleinhans' goal is to create a historic district on the Fargo Estate. Leaders applied for the grant for three consecutive years before finally being selected by the Preservation League.
“We’re absolutely thrilled that 2012 was the year the Fargo Estate neighborhood was accepted,” Schweitzer said. “It’s been a long time waiting for the funds to finally become available.”
According to Tania Werbizky, regional director for Technical and Grant Programs for the Preservation League of New York State, the Kleinhans application stood out and as such was accepted for a variety of reasons.
“The first thing that jumped out at us was that this was a cooperative effort between Kleinhans and the Fargo Community Association,” Werbizky said. “Kleinhans really presented themselves as seeing the importance of being a good neighbor.”
Additionally, Werbizky noted that the quality of the Fargo Estate buildings was important in accepting the Kleinhan’s application.
“They’re certainly worthy of the investment and the neighborhood is worthy of any and all efforts that can really help it be as stable and attractive an area as it can possibly be,” Werbizky said. By Tom Gallagher and Mike Straw.

West Side housing renovations under way

            Using a $720,000 grant, Heart of the City Neighborhoods is in the process of completing renovations on four houses on the West Side and plans to complete an additional 26 houses as well.
The grant was issued by the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation and New York State Homes and Community Renewals. Awarded in December 2011, the grant was put into effect this past July to restore the houses within two or three years.
A total of 30 units in the 14201 and 14202 areas will be rehabilitated for developmentally disabled housing, senior housing and families with children under the age of 6. Current households must be below 80 percent of the area medium income and be approved as a structure that has health and safety violations.
 “These demographics are the primary focus groups, however, [Heart of the City Neighborhoods] will not turn down applications for other households in need within the West Side area,” said Heart of the City program director, Caitlin Godin.
According to Eric Shiffman of Belmont Housing Resources for Western New York, measures are taken to assess the safety and code violations prior to renovations of the house. Belmont will also monitor the progress of the renovations and perform final inspections to assure houses are ready for owners to move back in.
“This is beneficial to the West Side because as these homes are being rehabilitated for the current owners, they will also be approved as safe and healthy households for future home owners as well,” Godin said. By Chanice Johnson and Jennine Taberski


LENDING A HAND -  Matthew Girdner, a physical therapy major at Daemen College, paints the living room of the upstairs apartment at a house on 14th Street. West Side Ministries is teaming up with students from area colleges to rehabilitate the house. Renovations are set to be completed by the end of the month. Upon completion, the house will be used for the Jericho Road Ministries Hope Refugee FLY Program as well as housing for the AmeriCorps volunteers involved with the program. Photo by Chanice Johnson and Jennine Taberski

IN DEPTH: Cooking program helps refugees assimilate

         Journey's End sponsors a six-week cooking program that teaches refugees simple kitchen tasks such as using a knife and measuring ingredients. The vocational training class was created for members to learn essential job skills. Full story by Lakisha Forde and Narmeen Karzoun

IN DEPTH: Community Academic Center marks first year

      Since the CAC opened last November on 214 Grant St. it has molded the minds of youth and is continuing to build bonds of trust with several populations including other community organizations, neighborhood parents and children, and Buffalo State College students.  Full story by Shari Ingles and Maureen Vitali

Sweetness 7 part of food, clothing drive

More than 1,000 refugees and immigrants will receive winter clothing and blankets for the Buffalo winter from Bundle Up Buffalo, an event held by Jericho Road Ministries in October.
Bundle Up Buffalo is an event that collects clothing and monetary donations to help refugees receive the proper clothing for winter.
Many refugees arrive with only the clothes on their backs, which is not suitable for Buffalo’s weather conditions.
 Prish Moran, owner of Sweetness 7, helped participate in the cause by collecting money and clothing donations in both of her Sweetness 7 locations, on Grant Street and Parkside Avenue, for the October 20 event pick-up.
Sweetness 7 was the only location from the West Side that participated in the event.
Not knowing their plight before opening her shop on the West Side, Moran realized what great people they are. She described them as “gentle, very intelligent, and kind people.”
Moran said that her West Side location received support from customers by donating clothing, and even going as far as dry cleaning the items before they were dropped off.
            “They’re political refugees, so they just zip them out of there, and they arrive in Buffalo weather with nothing. So that’s why this is huge. It’s 100 percent for the refugees, and it’s free. It’s not like Salvation Army or AmVets where they charge. It’s 100 percent free,” Moran said.
             Moran encourages the community to volunteer their time to provide help to the refugees through Jericho Road Ministries and other organizations through the West Side.  By Tyeisha Prior and Dayna Francis

GARDENING ADVICE - Professional Gardener and Co-Secretary of Grassroots Gardens, Beaufort Wilbern, right, explains in a workshop held on Oct. 20, at Urban Roots, how to get perennials ready for the winter season. Wilbern ensures guests, Stephanie Berghash and Sarah Sutcliff, that although the preparations should have started a month ago it’s not to late. Photo by Crissie Russo and Caitlin Waters

City lines up design firm for skate park

            The City of Buffalo has contracted New Line Skateparks, a design and construction firm out of British Columbia, Canada, to design a skate plaza in La Salle Park.
            Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Andrew Rabb said this will be the first public skate park in Buffalo.
            The current design budget is $250,000. The plaza will be two acres, built on an area of the park previously used for storage.
            “We’re looking to provide a safe place for skaters to skate and people to come together,” Rabb said. “Skating is something that crosses every type of social barrier.”           
            The city held public forums on Sept. 26 and Oct. 17 to incorporate feedback from the local skate community in the design process.
            New Line Senior Design Manager Bill Gurney said New Line’s services will carry the project through the design phase.
            “We are currently in the later stages of the concept phase,” he said. “From here we will transition into the design phase where any workshop participants can substitute suggestions about the design. Then we’ll close the door and prepare the construction design.”
            Rabb said New Line will be getting the final design out next month when they begin the bidding process. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring. By Brian Alexander and Jennifer Waters