Wednesday, December 12, 2018

West Side farms wrap up 2018 growing season

Carrie Nader, co-owner of Westside Tilth Farm
By Ashley Ziomek and Kyle Fallon
Buffalo Review – West Reporters
            When Carrie Nader looked out her window in July, her eyes were greeted by rows of tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and more. Today, her urban farm, Westside Tilth,  paints a bleaker scene, beginning to blend in to the cold city buildings that surround, with different shades of gray mixed in with the white snow.
            With the Buffalo winter ahead, it is time for local farms to begin wrapping up their season. This year’s end begins with the wrapping of any remaining produce, final market sales  and plans for next year based off results from the 2018 season.
            “It’s all experimenting,” Nader said.
            With co-owner Alex Wadsworth, Nader is finishing the first year of Westside Tilth as an operational farm in the heart of the West Side.  
“It’s figuring out what we can grow, what works and what didn’t. We’re very tiny, so we have to be super picky about what we continue to grow,” Nader said. “it’s not so much new crops, but new techniques.”
Broccolini for example, was something the farm will not continue next season due to low production rates.
            Located on a quarter acre of land on Normal Avenue, Westside Tilth produces seasonal salad mixes, root vegetables, alliums, microgreens and more. 
According to Smart CitiesConnect, Buffalo was one of the first locations in the country to have a major zoning overhaul, allowing produce grown in backyards to be sold to, and by, locals. Urban farms also are supported by Buffalo’s Green Code, established in 2010.
Just over a mile down the road sits 5 Loaves Farm, another provider of organic produce for the community. It also offers youth internships and educational services.
            Established in 2012, the farm began with three garden lots. Now, it spans 15 lots on West Delavan and West avenues and features a wide variety of produce such as root vegetables and leafy greens and some popular in Asian dishes.
Matt Kauffman, manager, 5 Loaves Farm
             “Overall, it’s been a pretty good year,” said Matt Kauffman, farm manager.  
Working with charter and public schools such as Nardin Academy and Tapestry Charter, the farm offers paid internships in an effort to educate and support high school students.
Sponsored through Say Yes Buffalo, these educational funds also support teens year-round at nearby Massachusetts Avenue Project.
“We can’t help but look to the future,” said Erin Carmin, development director at MAP.
The year featured the construction of a farmhouse to replace one lost to fire. MAP raised $2.4 million towards the new facility.
“We had a lot of support from the community, which led to a lot of support from the state,” Carmin said. “Some farming just had to be put on hold due to construction.”
Organizers hope to move into the new farmhouse this month, right around the time they will start planning for the next growing season, a mere six months away.

Black Monarchy brings the world to W.S.

Phylicia Dove opened the Black Monarchy boutique  last year on West Utica, where her mission, she says,  is to “bring the world to Buffalo.” She listens to advice from the community on how she can incorporate cultures that are not represented in the area. West Side residents even give the boutique items to sell to make sure their culture is shown. The boutique has partnered with many organizations. Dove partners with Let There Be Light International, which gives a profit from the store to Uganda where it will provide families with solar power for two years. By Kaylin Padilla and Roshea Robinson

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Elmwood Market open Saturdays ‘til Dec. 29

Keelan Darling, from the Darling Bee, a Freedom, N.Y., sold her natural chemical free honey-based lotions and lip balms during a recent Saturday at the indoor version of the outside Elmwood Village Market. The market has been moved from its home on  Elmwood Avenue and Bidwell Parkway to  St. John’s Grace Episcopal Church at 51 Colonial Circle. Susan A. McCartney, event coordinator of the Elmwood Village Holiday Market, says the indoor market will be open from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturdays until Dec. 29. By Talisha Hernandez and Isaiah Small

PUSH says HEAP is only partially helpful

          PUSH Buffalo, a local sustainable housing non-profit organization, stood outside HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) on its opening day, protesting that the federal energy assistance program is a Band-Aid solution to Buffalo’s real energy problems.
            Geovaira Hernández, climate justice organizer at PUSH, was one of those people out there talking to community members in line about issues, over hot coffee.
“If you think you can’t pay your utility this month, you get it set off, you get a late payment imposed and then you also get a reactivation fee imposed,” Hernández said. “Why? When I wasn’t able to even pay my bill in the first place?”
            In April, the Partnership for the Public Good published a report for the Truth Commission on  Poverty in Western New York called “Poverty in Buffalo: Causes, Impacts, Solution.” The report found that HEAP “alleviates” problems, but only helps a portion of households facing imminent heat turnoff.
The study cited that nationwide, 79 percent of tenants pay their own utilities, giving landlords fewer “incentives to upgrade to energy-efficient heating or cooling systems.” In Buffalo, that problem is even greater, the study says, because 59.3 percent of homes are occupied by renters, compared to a national average of 34.9 percent and local energy costs are “already 30 percent above the national average.”
            Hernández would like to see the city create an office of sustainability and a community advisory board made up of disadvantaged community members, as well as make a city-wide commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy.  By Francesca Bond and Alex Silvia

Bazaar to be part of senior meal program

By Olimpcia Desamour and Michael Gibas
Buffalo Review – West reporters
The sounds of vegetables sizzling, young girls chattering over cups of bubble tea and old men in great debates: The West Side Bazaar has long been a melting pot for different cultures and now thanks to a new program it could see a new influx of people joining its tightknit community.
The Erie County Department of Senior Services was recently awarded a two-, $500,000 grant from the federal government in order to expand its current senior meal program. The current program allows senior citizens to walk into senior centers and receive a free lunch. The new program will partner with local restaurants and will allow seniors to come in any time of day and receive a meal based on the menu of said restaurant.
This is where the West Side Bazaar comes in, home to several up and coming restaurants Erie County approached the organization will be among the first locations to be a part of the new program and has also recently received their own grant that will allow them to expand to a larger location on the West Side.
But Bob Doyle, the operations manager at the West Side Bazaar, knows this program is more than just about the food, especially for seniors in the refugee community here in Buffalo and especially the West Side, which is the second most diverse zip code in the state of New York.
Doyle hopes that the program will allow seniors who may feel excluded from places like senior centers for whatever reason will see this new program as a chance to both be able to get more culturally relevant food and start forming some connections outside of their families.
This fits right in with what the West Side Bazaar is all about, a business incubator that understands the importance of community.
 “Our goal as a business incubator, we really want to develop businesses, but we want to make sure that we are developing entrepreneurs that come from our neighborhood,” Doyle said. “Our neighborhoods are only as strong as the communities that make them up.”
The new program will hopefully be bringing many new faces and customers to the West Side Bazaar, a possibility that excites some of the vendors.
Maria and Alain Rodriguez
Maria and Alain Rodriguez owners of Kiosko Latino, a Mexican and Puerto Rican place in the West Side Bazaar are among them. They believe the program will help them expand their restaurant.
The other surrounding food vendors also seemed interested, but Kap Thang from Thang’s Family Restaurant has some reservations. He said that while he thought the program would be good for the community, he is still unsure if the it will help his business.
Once the bazaar does move Doyle hopes to keep the same feeling of crowdedness that is so common in other countries while creating more seating and places for new vendors.
The program is expected to start in either January or February of next year and will be available to all seniors over the age of 60.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Richardson wins national preservation honor

The Richardson Olmsted Campus is one of three national sites to receive the 2018 Richard H. Dreihaus Foundation National Preservation Award, granted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The prestigious award honors adaptive reuse and innovative preservation efforts to utilize historic buildings in the future. The 145-year-old campus’ recent restoration, including the inception of Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center, qualified the campus.
Back in 1872, when the campus was completed, Ulysses S. Grant won his second term in presidential office. Suffragist Susan B. Anthony voted illegally for the first time, advocating for women’s right to vote.
At 145 years old, the campus has witnessed the rust belt city at its population height during the Industrial Revolution, through its post-industry decline to its recent resurgence.
 “This Dreihaus award is a tremendous honor as it represents recognition at a national level. It is especially heartening for the recognition of all of the hard work and community support that went into this project. We think it is a huge boost for Buffalo,” Mark Mortenson,  executive director of the Richardson Olmsted Campus, said.
The long-dormant 42-acre complex found new life when CityInn Buffalo opened Hotel Henry in 2017.
The project revitalized just over one-third of the entire 463,000 square feet campus. With 10 of the 13 historic buildings remaining to be rehabilitated, there is still much work to be done.
“We are now in active negotiations with two developers and continue to pursue other development interest to bring our vision of a live-work-and-play campus to life, ” Mortenson said. By Francesca Bond and Alexander W. Silvia

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Dining Out for Life scheduled for Oct. 9

Remedy House, 429 Rhode Island St., where barista Ariel Brucato and co-owner Andrew Trautman recently prepped orders, is one of several West Side cafes and restaurants that will be taking part in the 16th annual Dining Out For Life event on Oct. 9. Sponsored by KeyBank, Dining Out for Life is one of the Evergreen Health’s key fundraising events. Participating establishments will donate up to 50 percent of proceeds the day of the event. More than $1 million has been raised through Dining Out for Life for HIV/AIDS research and services since 1983. By Michael Gibas and Olimpcia Desamour

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Double Up Food Bucks proving to be popular

At the Elmwood Village Farmers Market, lower income shoppers buy twice the amount of locally-grown produce using the Double Up Food Bucks program. The program matches SNAP benefits, formerly called food stamps, dollar to dollar exclusively for fruits and vegetables. Lisa Tucker French, co-founder and executive director of Field and Fork Network, the organization that expanded the program to Western New York, says it is a way to direct more federal money into the local food economy. Christina Fitzpatrick, a worker at Dan Tower Farm in Youngstown, says the farm’s vendor booth receives enough of the Double Up money to fill a bucket by the end of its shift every time at the Elmwood market. By Francesca Bond and Alex Silvia

Mayor Brown spreads word of housing rights

            Mayor Byron Brown has teamed up with both the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) and Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency by going on the West Side with pamphlets to inform residents of their housing rights.
            The pamphlets describe the Fair Housing act passed in 2006 that prevents discrimination against people for receiving government assistance, marital status, gender, religion and race among others. Housing advocates said these rights have not been heavily enforced by the city since the passing of the law.
            The pamphlets also include information on how landlords can prevent discrimination on prospective tenants and their rights as a landlord.
            The pamphlets state that any complaints made should be answered within 120 days of being filed.
            Fair Housing Officer Harold Cardwell, Jr.  said that he can do no more then just tell residents of their rights.
             “You can give the horse water,’ Cardwell said, “but you can’t make them drink.” By Kaylyn Padilla and Roshea Robinson

Campus Walk to welcome Gourmet Lao Foods

          Gourmet Lao Foods, a popular Asian cuisine kiosk located at the West Side Bazaar, plans to open its first standalone restaurant on Grant Street in Campus Walk
            The restaurant will be under operation of Boulivone Serixay and One Thammasithikoun, sisters from Laos. Serixay owns and operates the kiosk.
Originally scheduled to open on Sept. 10, the date was pushed back to complete renovations on the new addition.
Jim Swiezy, president of Greenleaf Development and Construction Co. which owns the Campus Walk complex, said the restaurant should be open the beginning of October.
           “We want it to be a safe and welcoming area for students and residents,” Swiezy said.
            Construction of the restaurant began with tables, beverage coolers and counters.
          The business will be in addition to the improvement effort on the Grant Street side of the SUNY Buffalo State campus, which has seen an increase in new housing, the new Buffalo State alumni and visitor center, and Vinnie’s Pizza and Wings during the past year.
           “We are seeing new life breathed into Grant Street,” Swiezy said. “We are at a great start and we consider it a success so far.”  By Louis DiBiase and Marcos Watkins

Hello Buffalo Review - West!

Followers of Bengal News West can now find the same great multi-media coverage of the West Side of Buffalo on Buffalo Review - West. The name change comes with a partnership with the Buffalo Review, a news site published by Stripes Media at SUNY Buffalo State. Coverage coming soon!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Custard Corner welcomes the summer crowd

The warmer weather means the time has come for ice cream. Amber Rivera of Custard Corner & Grill scoops up one of the first cones for a customer on a Sunday afternoon in May. The custard stand, owned by husband and wife Mike and Rene Wolasz for over 30 years has been a favorite of many on the Lower West Side. Both are longtime West Side residents. “We have regulars every week. It’s a tradition on the West Side coming here,” Mike said. The custard stand, at Porter Avenue and 7th Street,  is open from April to September. The establishment is known for being crowded on sunny days. “Sunny is money,” Mike said. Along with homemade custards and Perry’s ice cream, customers can get their hamburger and hotdog fix. The custard stand, close to D’Youville College, offers discounts to all college students with IDs. By Christopher Baggs and Neseemah Coleman

Lil’ Libraries coming to a corner near you

Two West Side locations have been chosen for Little Free Library boxes, a project of the Buffalo Architecture Foundation. You can expect to see one outside of the Grant Street Neighborhood Center, 271 Grant St. and the other outside West Side Community Services, 161 Vermont St. Matthew Etu of the foundation discusses the purpose of this free-book reading project. By Zachary Huk and Terrance Young

Urban Roots offers Asian, African plants

Urban Roots Garden Center, located at the corner of Rhode Island and Brayton streets, will provide specialized Asian and African heirloom vegetables, free from genetic modification, to cater specifically to its surrounding community. Providing immigrants and refugees, who make up much of the neighborhoods’ population, with foods and spices they would have only had access to in their native countries. Urban Roots also offers a variety of free workshops for all levels of experience in horticulture. These workshops are hosted in conjunction with Grassroots Gardens Buffalo, the organization that facilitates community gardening, said Urban Roots General Manager Patti Jablonski-Dopkin. Urban Roots is a co-op gardening center, established over 10 years ago by a small group of friends looking to improve their community. By Marcus Darby and Makeda Singletary

Boys & Men of Color reaches W.S. youth

Boys & Men of Color offers an opportunity to teenagers and others an opportunity to be mentored and supported. Created in April 2013, the organization work with Say Yes Buffalo across Buffalo but has a specific mission on the West Side to work with  young Latino and refugee men. Boys & Men of Color’s purpose is to educate, guide and provide a safe haven for young men of color who aren’t receiving it anywhere else. It is a goal to make sure the young men go as far as college and then eventually become mentors in the program themselves. The group meets every Saturday at t Lafayette High School with students from multiple schools. By Tiffany Channer and Kai Lewis

Friday, May 18, 2018

FHA buyers losing out to cash on West Side

By Tara Hark and Max Wagner
Bengal News West Reporters
A new family searches Buffalo for a perfect home to start their lives in, finding one sitting on the corner of Grant Street and Lafayette Avenue. They go to the bank and to their excitement, they’re approved for a Federal Housing Administration loan and are right on their way to a brand-new house and life on the West Side.
But sitting on the lawn is a big red sold sign, signaling that the house was purchased before that family even got the chance to step foot on the sidewalk. The buyer gave a cash offer, trumping the FHA buyer and leaving them once again searching for their home. 
Realtor Naomi Lasco
This situation has been problematic for FHA buyers all over the West Side.
“Cash will just come in, put a lower offer in, maybe asking price, take it as is, and call it a day,” said Naomi Lasco, a West Side real estate agent for Keller Williams Realty and West Side resident. “In a situation where there are several offers on a house; FHA offers are always at the bottom. Cash most always wins, because it’s quick, up front, and involves much less work for the seller. There’s no appraisal, no inspection, just some paperwork.”
Lasco, on the impact of cash real-estate deals:
This problem is rampant on the West Side for an FHA buyer because the homes are generally older and in need of renovations. Sellers are choosing cash buyers because they don’t want to pay for all the repairs required, real estate agents say.
“The reason why FHA or conventional loans are not as desirable to sellers is because they have a reputation for nitpicking houses and requiring them to do certain repairs in order for the buyer to get approved for the loan to buy the property,” said Lee Tringali, Metro Real Estate agent and investor on the West Side.
Besides FHA buyers being shut out of the market, cash buyers can be problematic for renters on the West Side.
Lasco explains a history of cash buyers neglecting their obligations to the tenants of their properties and squeezing as much value out of the home without putting in work.
“A lot of the time cash buyers are not occupiers, they are investors. So, then we run into sometimes having people who do not maintain the property, and just keep it as is or it deteriorates,” said Lasco.
The issue of neglectful landlords in Buffalo was so expansive that the city implemented the Rental Registration Program in 2005 to specifically identify problem properties, absentee landlords, and the quality of life for Buffalo tenants.
“We have many, many out of town landlords, and it is a problem. Some are even out of the country,” said Sam Fanara, director of rental registration for the City of Buffalo.
Lasco mentioned her own neighbors on Congress Street, who are Somalian, Burmese, and from Sudan, who all rent from an absentee landlord. The tenants were bringing out cupboards filled with water due to poor plumbing and roofing issues.
“Renters need to know their rights, and be able to voice them, which is difficult when there is a language barrier,” said Lasco.
Both City Hall and realtors explained that although the issue exists, it has improved in recent years.
The West Side property value has increased exponentially in the past few years, reducing the negligence of out of town owners, Tringali said
“A lot of the buyers are people who want to live there, and they take care of their property as such. People in New York, the younger generation love the West Side, and are willing to pay for it,”  Tringali said.


Baseball, softball leagues need coaches

The West Side Boys Baseball and Girls Ponytail Softball leagues are looking for coaches and umpires for the start of their season.
The first games are on June 2.
League organizer Tovie Asarese says the experience of coaching is worthwhile.
“It’s a great experience for everyone involved,” Asarese says. “It’s been hard to get coaches. Many don’t want to come forward and spend time with the kids during the summer.”
Along with baseball and softball, the West Side leagues also offer T-ball for 6- and 7-year olds. Ages for all leagues range from six to 18 and are played at LaSalle Park. League play extends until 31
Asarese can be reached at 885-7692 regarding interest in coaching or umpiring for the upcoming season.
Asarese, 89, has been involved with West Side youth sports since 1953, when he first coached boys baseball. He is a member of the Great Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
“I’ve always enjoyed amateur sports more than professional sports. It’s a truer sport. Just going out there and playing,” Asarese says. “I probably should have retired a long time ago, but I enjoy working with the kids in this area.” By Chris Baggs and Neseemah Coleman

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Biking making a path in Buffalo’s culture

By Marcus Darby
Bengal News West Reporter

As you drive down Elmwood Avenue, you might notice the presence of a huge cyclist culture. Blue bike racks decorate each block and even the ones outside of coffee shops have sometimes three or four bikes locked in them. As you turn down Lafayette Avenue and reach the intersection with Grant Street, you’ll also see a row of red bikes lined up for rent.
All over the area you’ll notice sharrows and green bike lanes that make a way for cyclists to safely travel. This is when you realize it’s just as popular to ride a bike as it is to drive a car.
         The cycling culture is becoming a huge trend in cities all over America and leaders are making it easier and safer for those who choose it as their primary means of transportation.
Buffalo is becoming the latest city to make the adjustments, in an effort to attract the younger demographic to the city.
Cycling has become a huge trend in the area over the past decade. The city has made the roads and neighborhoods more bicycle friendly.
Not only do these changes promote the culture of cycling but it makes the city more eco-friendly too.

Kowalik, on the growing popularity of biking in the city:

“The city has definitely done a lot to make the roads safer for cyclists,” said Jenn Kowalik, manager at Campus Wheelworks. “We are all really excited about the plans the city has come out with.”
Bike lanes and sharrows have been installed throughout the city to promote awareness to motor vehicle drivers that the road is to be shared with cyclists.
Sharrows are simply decals on the road as opposed to bike lanes, which give cyclists their own lane of traffic which they can safely travel on.
In the summer and fall seasons there are numerous events that cater to the cycling community such as the Slow Roll and smaller community events that involve physical fitness and more.
Bikes for rent on Grant Street and Lafayette Avenue
Rick Cycle Shop, 55 Allen St., has been involved in the growth of community events.
“We help plan and hold numerous events that include cycling such as women only events as well as numerous charity events,” said Tom Azzarella, manager.
Events like these attract people to the cycling culture. In fact, that is one of the goals for another local bike shop.
Campus Wheelworks located at 744 Elmwood Ave., is also an important catalyst in the cyclists’ culture on the West Side.
“We definitely want to promote the cycling culture. The community events we hold help people realize that there are groups in the area they can join in on,” Kowalik said.
Campus Wheelworks is looking to expand the cycling trend further into the West Side with plans to build a new facility on Niagara Street to create a safer environment for cyclists in the lower West Side.
Bike lanes and sharrows on Niagara Street
“The new building is an addition to the Wheelworks family. There is a lot of misinformation regarding that, but the Elmwood location will remain open,” she said.
Niagara Street is a wider road, which makes adding protected bike lanes easier for the city without squeezing traffic as opposed to Elmwood Avenue, where the space is limited and adding actual bike lanes may be impossible without making significant changes to the area.
The cyclists culture has become an integral part of the West Side neighborhoods. No matter what culture, religion, or ethnicity you identify with cycling has brought them all together.