Sunday, April 30, 2017

429 Rhode Island to house 3 businesses

Buffalo native Frits Abell stands in front of 429 Rhode Island St., which is the seventh building Abell has renovated since 2011. Some of his other buildings house restaurants, homes and businesses, but this location will host a coffee shop, Pilates studio and art studio. Abell said he decided to restore buildings on the West Side because he loves the cultural diversity and architecture of the area, and he saw opportunity there. Abell wants to make an impact on the community, restoring one building at a time. By Jillian LeBlanc and Christina Stuart

Saturday, April 29, 2017

City gets serious about filling potholes

Construction worker Bryan Kopinski and his crew recently closed two blocks on Forest Avenue to repair a large pothole on Forest Avenue and Dart Street. Kopinski, an employee of E.J. Militello Concrete, says he has repaired numerous streets on the West Side since the beginning of the season, and he is happy about the city’s attention to road damage. “Buffalo fell behind on it for decades but now they are pumping a lot of money into the streets with paving and fixing the potholes, I think in a few years Buffalo’s streets will be a lot better,” Kopinski said. In addition to the city’s commitment to repair road damage, Mayor Byron Brown issued a 48-hour pothole repair guarantee with allows Buffalo residents to call and report any pothole, and one of seven repair crews will fix the damaged street. By Gregory Garrett and Osman Shire

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Green Sun Seed Library and Bank has plans

The Green Sun Seed Library and Bank is a group based on the West Side that shares seeds, plants and gardening tips to promote organic plant culture. The group of over a hundred members held its first seed swap event in early April to exchange seeds and ideas with one another. The Green Sun Seed Library and Bank is working on becoming a non-profit organization and would like to develop a West Side refugee gardening program within the group as well. By Jillian Leblanc and Christina Stewart

Gypsy Parlor prepares patio for Summer fun

Felicia Fullmer, manager of the Gypsy Parlor on 376 Grant St., prepares the patio for its official opening on May 1. The patio will feature Saturday and Sunday brunches, reggaenights, belly dancing and DJ shows. The Gypsy Parlor serves a variety of West Side-inspired dishes to appeal to the different cultures in the area. Fullmer says Gypsy Parlor appreciates the West Side’s diverse cultures and wants to be a part of it. The Gypsy Parlor will participate in the Taste of Buffalo July 8-9.  
                                                                         By Rayven Satterfield

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Colleges weigh in on Excelsior Scholarship

           The New York state budget was passed on April 9, allocating $153.1 billion in state funds. Part of the budget was the Excelsior Scholarship.
The Excelsior Scholarship will be available Fall 2017. Students, whose family income is under $100,000, will be eligible the first year. The program will expand over the next years to include families making up to $125,000 a year.
College students who do not receive enough New York Tuition Assistance Program funds and Federal Pell Grants will be given the Excelsior Scholarship. However, the scholarship is a Last Dollar Scholarship that will not be disbursed if the student’s grants surpass the cost of tuition.
Dean J. Reinhart, Ph.D., associate director of admissions at SUNY Buffalo State –located at 1300 Elmwood Ave., described its impact at the public institution.
“Over 90 percent of our students would be eligible, potentially. They’d meet the adjusted gross income as a family. You must keep in mind that the majority of those students already acquire full TAP, full Pell and this scholarship is known as the ‘Last Dollar’ in,” he said.
Steve Smith, director of undergraduate admissions at D’Youville College, questions the effect it will have on his campus, located at 320 Porter Ave.
“We don’t know what the impact is going to be. We understand that the nature of the scholarship is a number of requirements that the students need to fill post-graduation,” he said. “We hope that our array of health care programs here at D’Youville helps us stay competitive.”
Josh Larcom is a junior health and wellness major at Canisius College, 2001 Main St. He feels the Excelsior Scholarship would not have affected his decision to attend a private institution.
“If I were able to go to a SUNY school for free, yeah, maybe I would’ve thought about it,” Larcom said. “I still think I would have chosen Canisius.” By Dan Almasi, Nick Fass and Andrew Kuczkowski

Cherry Blossom Fest set for April 29-May 6

The Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival will return once again at the Olmsted Park Conservancy’s Japanese Garden, located in Delaware Park. The festival will run from April 29 to May 6.
The annual event, hosted in front of the Buffalo History Museum, has aimed to support the upkeep of the Cherry Tree Grove planted in the Japanese Garden while allowing Buffalo to celebrate springtime.
This year’s festival includes a preview of Madame Butterfly, presented by Buffalo Opera Unlimited, an Asian food fusion party, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, and a special appearance from the Kanazawa Jazz Ensemble, among other events.  
Festival Co-Chairman Paula Hinz feels that the partnership between the Olmsted Parks Conservancy and the City of Buffalo has been valuable for both parties regarding the festival.
The effort to maintain and preserve parkland across the Olmsted system has increased the quality of life throughout Buffalo.  This makes Buffalo a desirable place to live, work, and visit, which is excellent for our city.  The city and Conservancy share a unique partnership, and we are proud and pleased that the success of the Cherry Blossom Festival is a factor, which benefits that relationship,” Hinz said. 
While maintaining Olmsted Parks has had a positive impact on the West Side and the rest of Buffalo, Hinz says there is always a need for more help, volunteers, equipment and funding.  
"Our proceeds from the festival go to support the maintenance, care, and seasonal workers in the Japanese Garden.  It’s a critical to this beautiful special place that's free for all to enjoy,” Hinz said. By Jessica Freda and Meaghan Michel

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Books for Kids drive continues to April 30

         Books for Kids is hosting its annual drive and collecting new children’s books for distribution on the West Side and throughout Western New York.
         Throughout 22 years of service, this organization has distributed 2.5 million books to disadvantaged children, schools, and community service organizations that partner with lending libraries including West Side Community Services.
         “Some kids can’t afford to buy books. They probably don’t even get the opportunity to go to the library so when we get the books here at the center, they have an opportunity to take one home,” said Danette Porto, director of operations at West Side Community Services.
         Locals looking to get involved can donate books through April 30 at the Niagara Branch Library on 280 Porter Ave.
         New children’s book also can be delivered to Books for Kids at the following locations:
                  • The Buffalo News, Washington and Scott streets
                  • Wegmans, all Erie and Niagara county locations
                  • Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries, all locations
                  • Raymour & Flanigan, all Erie County locations
                  • Mattress Firm,  all Erie County locations
                  • Dipson Movie Theaters, Erie and Niagara county locations
                  • Tom’s Restaurant,  3221 Sheridan Drive, Amherst
         Last year, the program collected over 50,000 brand new children’s books. By Dan Carapetyan and Georgina Hallowell

Climate Movement march set for April 29

WNY Peace Center Executive Director Victoria Ross

By Dan Almasi, Nick Fass and Andrew Kuczkowski
Bengal News West Reporters 
             In the wake of potential national environmental budget cuts, local environmental advocacy groups are ramping up efforts to bring such issues to light.
“We are directly lobbying our federal reps for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” said Chris Murawski, director of community engagement at Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. “We have been keeping with our supporters through social media and our email list. We basically want people to speak out to their local elected officials. It’s a bipartisan issue; everybody needs clean water.”
The Trump administration’s approach to the environment is felt on a national level, but ripples through Buffalo, which is hosting this year’s People’s Solidarity Climate Movement march at 1:30 p.m., April 29. It will begin at Niagara Square in downtown Buffalo and will head to Lower Terrace then to Canalside and back to Niagara Square.
The WNY Peace Center heads the People’s Solidarity Climate Movement to combat these government actions.
“We really want to activate people, which I know a lot of people are concerned locally and, really, everywhere,” said Vicki Ross, executive director  of the WNY Peace Center. “Because there are such really draconian measures suggested that are quite the opposite of what we need.”
Trump once tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
That translated to the administration’s budget proposal in which the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget was cut 24 percent, while its staffing was cut by 20 percent. This impacts local funding of organizations like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Reddy Bikeshare returns to the West Side

Jennifer White takes a  Reddy Bike out for a ride during the beginning days of the spring season. White, the marketing and communications executive for the organization, checked out a bike from one of the 51 racks Reddy Bikeshare on maintains on the West Side. There are 68 total throughout the city.  White reminds prospective members that there is of a half-price offer going on throughout the month of April. By Jessica Freda and Meaghan Michel

Moon Joggers prepare to run for autism

Members of the international group, Moon Joggers, are currently preparing events in Buffalo throughout April to raise money for National Autism Awareness Month.
The event is a virtual race, which means that members can pick to run their own planned out circuits. However, Moon Jogger members often choose to coordinate a group run for the event.
West Side resident  Joshua Lora, says that it can be difficult to get the word out about the event since it’s a virtual race, so he believes it’s easier to find people who want to get involved through online groups.
Lora is planning to participate in the WHO’s Ready To Race 5K and 10K event for the second year in a row. Lora’s group is planning to run down Elmwood Avenue and Richmond Avenue on April 23 and he will be running in honor of his younger cousin who has autism.
The group is running with the ambition to beat last year’s amount of $16,907 that was raised for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation.
The organization is also currently aiming to accumulate enough miles to equal the distance between the earth and the sun this year. Members have run a total of 5,913,748 miles this year, with close to 80 million more to go.
Registration for the event ranges from $13 to $27, but prospective participants can find more information on the Moon Joggers website. By Dominic Beaton

Monday, April 10, 2017

Cuomo’s plan excludes part-time students

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s free tuition proposal would allow families of full-time students making under $125,000 a year to receive free tuition. The $6,470 yearly tuition at a four-year school and the $4,350 yearly tuition at a two-year school would be covered. However, the proposal does not apply to part-time students, such as Katelynn Hackett and Rebecca Shultz from Erie Community College. By Jessica Freda and Meaghan Michel

Monday, April 3, 2017

Westside Stories taking old dictionaries

Westside Stories, a used bookstore on 205 Grant St., encourages customers to donate their unwanted dictionaries. Co-owner Joe Petri said the books are given to the growing refugee population on the West Side. He said dictionaries are always kicking around people’s houses, collecting space and dust, but they have a more important purpose. This redistribution aims to help refugees learn the English language. The bookstore accepts donations during business hours throughout the year. By Jillian LeBlanc and Christina Stuart

Sunday, April 2, 2017

IN DEPTH: Poetry event hopes to foster understanding

Fatima Nor, an immigrant from Somalia, will be among those reading poetry during a  two-day event planned later this month at Rust Belt Books. The event  will use poetry by recent immigrants and their supporters to strengthen the sense of community on the West Side. Read the full story.

WEDI ENERGY leader leaves after four years

Carol Greetham, director of WEDI ENERGY after school program, is stepping down from her position because of her employment with Windemere Elementary School.
The program has seen tremendous growth during her tenure. When she took over in 2013, 14 students were enrolled. Today, the program serves 32 and provides an intimate one-to-one student-to-volunteer ratio.
“I love the kids and the volunteers that I work with,” Greetham said. “It’s like a family, so it’s really hard to leave.”
When Greetham took over, the program lacked direction.
“There was no real specific goal other than to provide help to students on the West Side,” Greetham said. “Now, we’re focused on providing literacy for children who don’t have English as a first language.”
Although Greetham is sad about leavings, she sees big things on the horizon for WEDI ENERGY. She hopes the program will eventually establish satellite programs.
“There are so many kids that need help,” Greetham said. “The Buffalo Public school system is overwhelmed by the amount of newcomers over the last few years.”
Ben Bissell, executive director of WEDI, called Greetham’s tenure “wildly successful.”
“She was able to work to improve the program significantly over the past four years,” Bissell said. “It’s a difficult transition for her and a difficult transition for the program.”
Bissell is in the early stages of hiring a new program director. By Dan Almasi and Andrew Kuczkowski

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Neighbors hope historic home will be saved

Tom Smith looks upon the badly damaged house that he once owned on 69 Symphony Circle. The fire took place  March 26 and caused damages amounting to $1 million. Famed architect F.W. Caulkins designed the home in 1878. Smith said because of the home’s brick foundation, it was able to sustain less damage than homes of modern construction. Smith also noted the elaborate 4,200-square-foot design is heated by a three-furnace system. All of Symphony Circle has historical context for West Side residents. The area was previously called “The Circle” until 1958 when it was renamed Symphony Circle because of its affiliation with Kleinhans Music Hall. The house still stands and neighbors are hopeful that this historic landmark will be remodeled in the near future. By Gregory Garrett Jr. and Osman Shire

IN DEPTH: Planned Parenthood cuts feared under Trump

Planned Parenthood leaders in Buffalo fear a budget proposal from the Trump administration could result in diminished health-care choices.  Read the full story.

IN DEPTH: Congo refugee finds home in ESL program

Immigrants such as Ygeutte Rudahindwa, a native of Congo, are not only learning English at the Herkimer School, they are learning  how to get acclimated to life in America through classes offered by the Buffalo Public Schools and Catholic Charities. Read the full story.