Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Maryland St. construction project delayed

Allentown Square, located at 295 Maryland St. at West Avenue, has postponed opening its doors this month. “The problem is funding. My guys work hard but it’s a slow game when it comes to projects like these,” Robert Neagle, construction manager of Allentown Square said. “The project is going up pretty fast but the manpower isn’t there.” In order for the complex to open this month as scheduled, twice the manpower would have been needed, according to Neagle. The 54-apartment, $7 million project will now likely be ready in March 2017. By Franklin Hagler and Matt Neidhart

Monday, November 28, 2016

Music is center of ‘note’-worthy therapy

The Community Music School of Buffalo, 415 Elmwood Ave., doesn’t only teach music; it also uses music to heal as part of its music therapy program. Music therapy is a unique mental health treatment where the participants listen to and play music. The two music therapists on staff, Brianna Miller and Sara Rogers, say they treat a wide variety of people from autistic children to elderly dementia patients. However, Miller and Rogers said that they often feel the profession is not treated seriously. “Music therapy is so much more than just someone playing therapeutic music for someone,” Rogers said. She added that practitioners must be board certified and prospective patients must be evaluated before a treatment plan can be developed. Patients can either be referred or can contact the music school directly to assess whether music therapy can benefit them. For more information visit http://communitymusicbuffalo.org/home/programs/music-therapy/  By Melissa Burrowes

‘Lost Boy’ finds his new life in Buffalo


By Dave DeLuca and Patrick Koster
Bengal News West Reporters
            The first time Kang Kerubino Guot shot an AK-47, the recoil was so powerful that it knocked him on his butt.
            He had no choice but to use the weapon when war broke out in his hometown in South Sudan. It was either hide and get killed, or run and fight back.
            It’s 1995 and Guot, a skinny, wide-smiling boy with hopes of someday studying mathematics, has an 11-pound, military-style weapon draped over his shoulder. Gunshots ring through his ears. Women are raped. Some children are abducted. When the mayhem finally ends, dozens of boys like him lie dead in the street.
            Guot, just 6 years old, is trying to survive what would become one of the worst humanitarian disasters in world history.
            “I was a lucky one,” Guot said. “I made it out alive to tell the story.”
            Twenty-one years later, the now 28-year-old Guot is a college graduate with a degree in economics from SUNY Buffalo State.
            He lives on the West Side and works at Rich Marine Sales, but his life began in Sudan, the same year a civil war broke out between Arab Muslims in the north, and black Christians in the south. More than 2 million people died, a half a million fled to other countries. Peace was finally restored in 2011.
            Guot was one of an estimated 20,000 boys, known as the Lost Boys of Sudan, who were separated from their families and fled to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
            By the time the Lost Boys arrived at the camp, their numbers were cut in half. Some died of starvation along the walk, others died of dehydration. Lions and crocodiles killed others. If Guot saw a lion, he said, he avoided eye contact at all costs.
            The boys’ survival tactics are unnerving to hear.
            To avoid dehydration, Guot drank his own urine. He and the other boys ate leaves, berries and dead animals to avoid starvation.
            “I had a lot of friends die along the walk,” Guot said. “Others died when we got to the camp from sickness.”
            For those that made it to the camp, a better life was just beginning. The camp was funded by international aid organizations as well as the United Nations. It provided food and clothes were donated by American churches.
            In 1999, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, working together with the State Department, recommended roughly 3,600 of the Lost Boys for resettlement in the U.S. Nearly 500 of the Lost Boys who were still under the age of 18, including Guot, were supposed to emigrate to the U.S. by the end of 2001. But tragedy struck America on Sept. 11, 2001.
            “All of the flights to the U.S. were blocked,” Guot said. “It took me three years longer to wait for a flight to come. I was so excited to come, but it was taken away.”
            Guot finally got on a flight to America in 2004, and was ecstatic.
            “I knew that I had to make most of the opportunity,” Guot said. “I never thought I’d have the chance.”
            Guot was sent to Syracuse and met Ann Mayes, a volunteer advisor at Onondaga County Catholic Charities. Mayes helped Guot apply to Onondaga Community College and prepared him to take the college placement test.
            It took Guot eight years just to earn his associate's degree from Onondaga Community College. He jumped around from full-time job to full-time job in between taking classes.
            “Even considering how tough it’s been here, I’ve been given an opportunity here that many of friends and family members could only dream of,” Guot said.
            Like many other Lost Boys, Guot faced an uphill battle to get immersed in American education.
            “In Kenya, his education was a small group learning under a tree,” Mayes said. “No paper, no pencils. He never used a computer before coming to America.”
            It took Guot more than a year to figure out how a computer worked.
            Unlike other refugees, Lost Boys came by themselves. Guot’s father, an army officer, died in the war. His mother and six siblings are all in Sudan.
            “They have to provide for themselves,” Mayes said. “They don’t have parents, they didn’t have wives. Kang and many others struggled to balance working full-time and going to school full-time. It was a big, big cultural change.”
            Guot sometimes worked third shift before going to morning classes.
            “The Lost Boys required a lot more maintenance than the normal refugee family that would come,” said Stephen Redding, former director of the International Rescue Committee who helped send the Lost Boys to the U.S. “Some of them had a very hard transition to America. Just doing the basic things like finding a job, going to the supermarket and laundromat were so foreign to them.”
            Guot dropped four of his classes halfway through his first semester because the workload was far too tough. The only class he kept was math, because it required just paper and pencil.
            After graduating from community college in 2012, he moved on to SUNY Buffalo State, where he earned his four-year degree in economics. Now, he’s working on obtaining a second bachelor’s degree in international relations.
            “It’s been a long journey,” Guot said. “I’m just so happy to be here and have to chance to get an education and better myself. Back home, others weren’t that lucky.”


Friday, November 25, 2016

Allentown holiday home tour set Dec. 11

            Many know the excitement of Allentown, but not the history.
            On Dec. 11, visitors will step inside the private homes of Allentown’s National Historic District for the Secrets of Allentown Holiday Tour of Homes. The self-guided tour will bring visitors into homes from the 1800s that are fully decorated for Christmas.
            Allentown Association President Jonathan White said this is the first time in several years the tour is being held.
            “We thought that it would be a perfect way to integrate the Allentown community and the Western New York community for that shared common bond that people have around their love of family and their love of things for the holiday,” White said.
            White said guests will receive a special booklet with the locations of each home. Without the booklet, guests will not know which houses are part of the tour.
            “The tour booklet will include the wonderful artwork, which is a line drawing of each property, that we’ve specially commissioned for the booklet and then a description of each house,” White said. “You learn a little bit about the house and the home owner before you get there.”
            The tour’s starting point is the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, 641 Delaware Ave., where a Victorian holiday event will be taking place. Guests can tour the first floor, including the library where Roosevelt was sworn into office.
            The tour will run from noon to 4 p.m., with start times at noon and 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 for the general public and can be purchased at allentown.org. By Patrick Koster and Dave DeLuca

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Boxes of Love project seeks gift wrappers

            Every child deserves to feel the magical moment of opening a present early Christmas morning. With the help of Buffalo Dream Center, many children can experience that pure happiness.
            The Buffalo Dream Center’s Boxes of Love project helps out families in need with a wrapped Christmas gift for each child and a bag of nonperishable food. Distribution this year will be on Dec. 10, said Eric Johns, Dream Center pastor.
            Buffalo Dream Center, an outreach Christian ministry in the inner city, is signing up volunteers to wrap gifts at its 318 Breckenridge St. headquarters. More than 1,000 volunteers have signed up in recent years.
             “The week after Thanksgiving, volunteers start to come in and help wrap the gifts for the community,” Johns said.
             Pastor Johns spends the week of Thanksgiving living with the homeless using the opportunity to spread the word among the streets.
            Its Boxes of Love project began in 1999 assisting a few families with Christmas toys and bag of groceries but over the years has assisted 3,000 families and 5,000 children. By Tiera Daughtry and Vincent Nguyen

Monday, November 21, 2016

Immigrants may be unaware of diabetes risk

             More than 29 million people in America have diabetes, including the new immigrants who might not know they have the disease or how to treat it.
            Special attention is being payed to diabetes in November because it marks American Diabetes Month.
            Jericho Road Community Health Center, 184 Barton St., is one place immigrants can get help.
            Registered dietitian Christine Fleming, who works for Jericho Road, says many people are unaware that they have the disease before coming to this country.
            “Sometimes people will think they’re becoming sick with a new diagnosis,” she said. “Sometimes when finding out they have it, they’ll realize they’ve been having these symptoms for a long time and they just didn’t know their meaning.”
            Fleming said there are two types of diabetes. Type 1 affects younger people and occurs when the body stops making insulin. They stop getting energy from the food they eat and their blood sugar spikes.
            Type 2 diabetes is linked with people’s diets. Two things can happen Fleming said. The body can stop responding to insulin or could stop making as much insulin. It can be treated with lifestyle changes such as dieting and exercise.
            Many immigrants come to America with different cultural foods that may not be healthy for them and can heighten their risk of diabetes
            “What I try to do is teach them foods in their own culture and their own diet that they’ll be able to eat to help them have a balanced diet,” Fleming said. By Tony Callens and Benjamin Joe

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Petri bucks trends at Westside Stories

Joe Petri, owner of Westside Stories Used Books, 205 Grant St., opened up his store five years ago during the rise of e-readers despite decreasing sales of hardcover books nationwide. He remains optimistic for lovers of traditional books. “I have so many hardcover books I can make furniture out of them,” says Petri. In the mid-2000s the rise of e-books shocked the world of printed books leading to the slow decrease sales of traditional print materials.  According to the Association of American Publishers, throughout 2015 hardcover book sales dropped almost 19 percent. However, sales are on the rise for paperback and hardcover books for the first time this year in four years. The sales of paperback books rose 7.2 percent and hardcover books rose 17.4 percent. Petri continues to believe there is room for print books in the book industry. “I have a physical copy of Leonard Cohen’s original poetry, that can be considered a piece of art, something that can’t be considered a collectable if it was an e-book,” said Petri. “I don’t think digital books are bad. They certainly have a place, especially for a college student. I just can’t imagine something other than a physical book.” By Tiera Daughtry and Vincent Nguyen

Friday, November 18, 2016

Paradise Wine gives tips for Thanksgiving

Paula Paradise, owner of Paradise Wine, gives her suggestions for pairing wines with your favorite Thanksgiving foods. The self-acclaimed specialist in pairing wine with food offers over 450 all-organic wines at her location on 435 Rhode Island St. Paradise and her business partner Lauren Kostek offer classes in wine tasting every week. By Franklin Hagler and Matt Neidhart

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Print still alive at Buffalo Zine Fair

Max Weiss of Niagara Street holds up a copy of his first graphic novel, “Papa Time,” at the Buffalo Zine Fair on Nov. 12. The novel was published recently by Hypnotic Dog Press, a local independent publisher. With the rise of digital media, the event aimed to promote old-fashioned publishing, using the slogan, “Print media is not dead.” The event drew more than 25 independent publishers from Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. Publishers brought their “zines,” which are self-published, non-commercial booklets or magazines made for small-scale circulation. Some publishers are self-funding their zines, others use crowd-sourcing. Buffalo Zine Fair lasted seven hours and was held at Sugar City at 1239 Niagara St. It was presented by Sugar City and West Side comic book store Gutter Pop Comics. By Dave DeLuca and Patrick Koster

‘Full Circle’ swings into West Side lot

Buffalo’s CEPA Art gallery teamed with director of CSL Curatorial Projects, Claire Schneider, to bring to life an interactive art piece on the West Side. The art structure, called “Full Circle,” is part of CEPA’s West Side Lots Project that takes empty lots across the West Side and transforms them into spaces for temporary art work. “Full Circle” is a swing-set, designed in a circular steel frame allowing occupants to swing towards or away from each other. It creates a personable and entertaining experience. The debut of the art piece was on Oct. 25, across from P.S. 45 International School on the corner of Auburn Avenue and Hoyt Street. It gathered dozens of community members and children together for an exciting and fun experience. By Jack T. Gerard

‘Friends’ prepping Thanksgiving dinner

Friends of Night People, 394 Hudson St., is preparing for its annual Thanksgiving dinner. Executive Director, Joseph Heary, says the organization is planning a full Thanksgiving meal with traditional turkey and stuffing to pumpkin pie on extra large plates. Its main priority is offering a comforting meal to people in need. Additionally, Friends of Night People serves hot meals daily, provides warm clothing in the fall and winter and offers medical help year-round. All services are provided free of charge to men, women and children of all ages. By Tiera Daughtry and Vincent Nguyen

Monday, November 14, 2016

Small Business Saturday set for Nov. 26

The TreeHouse Toy Store is one of many Elmwood Village businesses preparing for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26. Co-owner Gaetana Schueckler has run the business at 793 Elmwood Ave. with her husband David for 20 years. The store offers complimentary gift wrap, asks fun trivia questions and gives  free locally made caramel corn on that day, all special things the store does on that Saturday to get customers in the holiday spirit. The store continues to offer its range of playthings from the selection of $4.99 items to the unusual, difficult-to-find toys that are available year-round, Schueckler says. “We don’t want our customers to have to jump through hoops to come in on a special day or a special time to get a different price,” she said. “We try to help them pick the right toy, be the toy expert. We do the heavy lifting so they don’t have to wrack their brains trying to find the perfect toy. That’s our job.” By Anthony Callens and Benjamin Joe

Lafayette changes welcome diverse students

Buffalo Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Fatima Morrell and Lafayette High School Principal John Starkey

By Franklin Hagler and Matthew Neidhart
Bengal News West Reporters
Try walking through the hallways at Lafayette High School and finding the bathroom.
You don’t see the traditional sign marking the room; it even lacks the symbol that would normally be seen as male or female.
At Lafayette every room is labeled with a sign that shows what that room is in six different languages. The multi-linguistic paper signs can be deceiving in appearance.
“Half of our population is African, from Central or East Africa, we have Arabic kids, a big population of the Burmese speaking and Korean community. The other 50 percent are from Puerto Rico and speak Spanish,” Lafayette Principal John Starkey said.
Buffalo is the most linguistically diverse place in New York State according to Buffalo Public Schools officials. Over 84 languages are represented in local communities, and with the influx of refugees on the West Side that can grow. This is causing a change in the way that teachers and the Department of Education are approaching education and Lafayette High School has become ground zero for this experiment.
Working with Dr. Fatima Morrell, assistant superintendent for curriculum and Mrs. Nadia Nashir, assistant superintendent for multilingual education, Principal Starkey has helped install changes in the way teachers speak to students from different cultures, create a Parent Center for everyone in the community and make tangible changes to the textbooks and resources available to all students.
“Students learn better when they see themselves and their history and culture represented in the curriculum,” Dr. Morrell said. “We want to create a warm and welcoming environment for our parents and students and make them feel appreciated.”
Lafayette High is not set up as a traditional school, as there are three distinct schools housed in this one building. Lafayette Proper School 204 has an 11th and 12th grade class. “Phase-Out” is what it is being called as the junior class will be the last set of students under that school.
Lafayette Phase-In School 207 is a new program that was started by Starkey. This school has just a ninth grade, 100 of the new freshmen have been in the country for four years or less.  
The last school is Newcomers Academy that has grades 7-12 and nearly 300 students. This academy is mostly made up of Students with Interrupted Formal Education or SIFE students.
“We have students coming from war torn countries or impoverished conditions so they are coming with a lot of socio-emotional needs and so we can’t just look at the academic support for them but look at the comprehensive support for them,” Starkey said.
            Eighty percent of the students in Buffalo public schools come from poverty,  which is why community schooling and building relationships with the families has become so important.  
            “If we truly want to improve student learning we have to improve adult learning, ” Mrs. Nashir said.
Her department has hired six cultural research specialists that are holding workshops for teachers and parents. This month they plan on training 150 teachers and by June they want all teachers to be trained.

            “In the multilingual department we understand that many of our teachers have not had an English language learner in front of them,” Nashir said. “ The ecology has to speak to our students.”

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ru's Pierogi fills Polish void on W. S.

Pierogi-making runs in the family for Andy Ruszczyk, who is now bringing a few of his grandmother’s recipes to the West Side. Ru’s Pierogi, a restaurant at 295 Niagara St., opened last month, complete with a bar and a food truck. Ruszczyk plans on using the restaurant's large-scale kitchen in the back to produce pierogi and distribute along the East Coast. The restaurant, managed by Rob Rush, is one of the only places on the West Side specializing in pierogi and other Polish favorites. Customers enter a laid-back atmosphere where they can dine in or take their orders to go. While waiting for orders, customers can watch their food being made. Ru’s is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. By Dave DeLuca and Patrick Koster

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Airbnb law not coming to Buffalo - yet

By Patrick Koster and Dave DeLuca
Bengal News Reporters
            Artwork adorns the walls. Comfortable furnishings fill each room. The kitchens come fully stocked with pots, pans and other utensils.
            Does it come with a washer and dryer, too?
            Sure does, but this isn’t an apartment for you to move into. It’s an Airbnb.
            Airbnb is an online peer marketplace for listing and renting residential properties for a temporary period of time. Airbnb has grown in popularity so much over the past few years that legislation has been implemented to control its use.
            Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill on Oct. 21 banning the advertising of New York Airbnb rentals of less than 30 days in multi-unit buildings if the tenant isn’t present. Hosts can be fined up to $7,500. A 2010 law involving renting a property in a multi-use building for less than 30 days only pertains to New York City and will not affect Buffalo properties.
            Joe Galvin, who owns an Airbnb property at 49 19th St., thinks the 2010 law will spread throughout the state of New York.
            “I don’t think that it’ll affect us now, but in the future, when the politicians revisit this issue and see what’s going on, I’m sure they’re going to want to do it for the rest of New York,” Galvin said.

            A majority of Galvin’s tenants stay for less than 30 days.
            "We'll rent them out to people that want to come to Buffalo for the weekend. Maybe that weekend is two, three, four days. I've had some long-term tenants. I've had some tenants that have stayed four months, three months, a month and a half," Galvin said.
            One sponsor of the new bill is State Sen. Liz Krueger, D- Manhattan. Justin Flagg, Krueger’s communications director, said Airbnb hosts have been providing cheaper housing of entire apartments in multi-unit buildings, which is devaluing the housing market in New York City.
            Previously, tenants would list their apartments on Airbnb without their landlords’ knowledge. When the tenants/Airbnb hosts would illegally rent out their apartments, their landlords would be held accountable. With this new bill, Flagg said landlords have the ability to hold their tenants accountable.
            “So this new law basically does two things,” Flagg said. “It allows you to use the actual posting on a web platform as evidence of breaking the law and it allows the city to issue the fine directly to the person who is responsible for the listing, as opposed to the landlord.”
            But Airbnb is fighting back. It recently filed a lawsuit against the City of New York for alleged violation of Airbnb’s free-speech rights.
            “In typical fashion, Albany back-room dealing rewarded a special interest—the price-gouging hotel industry—and ignored the voices of tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” Josh Meltzer, Airbnb’s head of public policy for New York said in a statement. “We will continue to fight for a smart policy solution that works for the people, not the powerful.”
            Flagg said Airbnb has moved past its professed intention of having a sharing economy, such as renting out a bed, couch or room. He said Airbnb is now monetizing the affordable housing stock for profit.
            “We get calls from our constituents, older people who their neighbor is renting out an apartment on Airbnb and somebody comes in and has a big, loud party, and they’re afraid to confront them because it’s not the neighbor they know,” Flagg said. “The landlord doesn’t like it because they’re causing problems in their building. We have hotels that are equipped to deal with those sorts of things.”
            While New York City Airbnbs are coming under scrutiny, back in Buffalo, Galvin has has had just one bad experience when he rented his property to a college student who threw an unauthorized party. only seen one problem with Airbnb tenants.
            Overall, Galvin thinks Airbnb provides guests with unique opportunities.
            "The classic theory about hotels are when you fly into a city, you stay out by the airport and stay in a concrete box," Galvin said. "Here, we try to give the experience of being in a home away from home."

Betty’s proves to be gluten-free friendly

Betty’s Restaurant employee Benjamin Perrello serves up scrambled tofu hash, which is tofu sautéed with caramelized onions, sweet potatoes, roasted red peppers and black beans. It is one of the many gluten-free offerings on the menu. At Betty’s, 370 Virginia St., any item on the menu can be customized to fit a gluten-free diet, such as barbecued “pulled” veggie sandwich. November is Gluten-free Diet Awareness Month, and Betty’s was ranked first in a Foursquare list of “The 15 Best Places with Gluten-Free Food in Buffalo.” Foursquare is a location-based search-and-discovery mobile app, where users can rate and review local businesses and restaurants. Betty’s serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. By Clifton Robinson and Brittany Schmidle