Saturday, April 28, 2018

Group seeks to return mix-use to Allen St.

Unique restaurants, shops, art festivals and non-stop night life cover this less than a mile-long street that stretches from Main Street to Symphony Circle. Allen Street is the center of local art and nightlife on the West Side. Bar and clubs flood the section of Allen between Elmwood Avenue and Wadsworth Street leaving little to no room for other businesses. The Allentown Association’s Improvement Committee is an organization set in place to lead Allen Street’s return to a mixed-use environment. By Zachary Huk and Terrance Young

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cuomo seeks to improve wages, end tips

Employees at Santasiero’s, 1329 Niagara St., share concern over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to eliminate the tip credit and raise hourly wages for servers. Cuomo says on his website that a raise in wages for employees reliant on tips to supplement their income will combat the significant fluctuation of wages from day to day that results in underpaid workers. The Department of Labor, led by Commissioner Roberta Reardon, began hearings to examine the issue of tip credits, with testimony from workers and businesses alike in March. The hearings will continue across the state until the end of June. John Brands Jr., head of operations at Santasiero’s, says that Cuomo’s proposal will hurt not only the bottom line for small businesses but will result in fewer jobs, because employee’s hourly wages will become unsustainable. “To supplement the wage, we’re going to have to increase our prices so we would see a drop off in business and probably need less servers,” Brands said. Santasiero’s waitress, Caitlyn Stein has years of experience working in the health care field and says that tips are more beneficial to her than a higher flat rate wage.  By Tara Hark and Max Wagner

Flash women’s soccer to play at Dobson

            The Western New York Flash of the United Women’s Soccer League, has announced this summer’s games will be played at D’Youville College’s Dobson Field.
            The 23-member team hopes to add eight to 10 players for the season, which gets underway at the field, Fourth Street near Porter Avenue, on June 2 against the Long Island Rough Riders.
            The Flash have been around since 2008, playing in five different amateur leagues, with the latest being the United Women’s Soccer league last summer. It acts as a top-amateur league for college-age women soccer players in the area.
             Matthew Waddington, who has been a soccer coach, trainer and player in the area, was hired as the Flash’s head coach back in February.
            “I couldn’t be more excited to play in the city’s west side,” Waddington said. “Soccer as a whole in Buffalo has been growing so much over the last 10 years, as well as the rebirth of the city. They’re almost on the same growth trajectory and it’s exciting.”
            Even so, Waddington said there have been limitations with the game on the West Side.
            “I’ve trained numerous kids from the West Side area, but there are no teams or clubs there. It’s high cost to play. If they can get a club team in that area, then I think there’s room to grow even more,” he said. By Chris Baggs and Neseemah Coleman

Friday, April 20, 2018

Big changes in the works for Allen Street

As part of a two-phase streetscape project, Allen Street will soon undergo major developments in the coming months. Jonathan White of Allentown Association calls it a "radical realization" of what Allentown can be. The first phase will stretch from Washington Street to Ellicott Street and the second phase will begin in 2019 on Main Street and extend to Wadsworth Street. Changes being made include the removal of sidewalk curbs, creating a pedestrian walking space level with the road.  New bike lanes will be added. Over 100 moveable bollards will be installed to accommodate high-traffic events such as the First Fridays, the Allentown Art Festival and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Mark McGovern, director of construction and infrastructure for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus said:.“This is different from past renovations because it is a federally funded streetscape project. They plan on doing a couple blocks this construction season.” By Terra Harter and Ben Hauver

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Our Lady of Hope opens doors for newcomers

By Tara Hark and Max Wagner
Bengal News West Reporters

Three rooms in a West Side convent were converted into a waiting room, a doctor’s exam room, and a surgical suite, with cameras ready to roll on a film about going to the doctor. Leaders of the Somali-Bantu people from across the nation gathered to introduce through film, the unfamiliar experience of American health care.
This is just one of the many initiatives going on at the intersection of Grant Street and Lafayette Avenue, where Our Lady of Hope Parish and Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur are helping immigrants bridge the cultural crossroads faced when coming to America.
Sister Kathleen Dougherty runs the afterschool program for Somali-Bantu children who came to Buffalo through refugee camps in Kenya.  
“You don't get any education in camps so most of these kids had no first or second grade education at all,” Dougherty said.
Sister Kathleen Dougherty
The afterschool program helps students with their school work, but the convent also provides vital educational services for immigrants new to America, struggling from culture shock.
Dougherty also explained that gender roles are another difficulty when adjusting to American life, involvement with the women and mothers in the families is sparse. Dougherty said women do not take part in events outside the home.
“Every day two of the children's fathers are here and they overlook and if there's any difficulty they take care of it in their own language and they keep the children calm because all the Bantu people know each other,” Dougherty said. “I think we have a great understanding of that culture, I mean we’d love to have the women but it’s not part of their culture and you can't force culture on somebody whose culture it isn't, I think in some years to come that will be changed.”
There are talks of new programs geared specifically toward the immigrant women in the community.
“We need to spend more time with women from our church who can speak various languages to be able to translate and to work with folks who might show up.  All of this is in process, we haven't nailed it down,” Dougherty said.
At the parish, the specific mission is to bridge the gap of language among the members of the congregation.
There are seven different African nations, speaking five different languages. Most are from Burma, but with different regions of the country come different dialects. The diversity of language has been the church’s most difficult challenge, said the Rev. Greg Gallagher.
The church relies heavily on group leaders from each culture to help with preparation for ceremonies and other necessary communications.
If people leave mass without understanding what was said, retention becomes an issue, Gallagher said.  
This week the church welcomed a priest from Myanmar who travels across the globe to visit churches with a large Kareni population.
Sister Susan Bowles, who oversees the religious education program, said this population is in the greatest need.   
“The language issue is a challenge, that's why he’s here, he's from Burma. He’s here to primarily focus on the folks in our parish that speak the Karenic language,” Bowles said.  
Another initiative taken by the church is to include missals written in the congregation’s native languages. That way even if the mass is given in English, members can read along and understand what is happening.
“One of the things that's happening now is that one of the first readings each Sunday is being done in a different language,” Bowles added. 

Bowles, on the variety languages:

In preparation for Easter, masses were held in English, Spanish, Burmese and Swahili.  
“We are planning on developing an app that will translate the mass, the homily and short catechetical teaching in for the languages that attend the parish that can also be used around the world,” Gallagher said.
All the initiatives taken are to provide a welcoming environment for the vast amount of cultures on the West Side.
“We want them to know that America wants them here. And we’ll take care of them and we’ll welcome them regardless of what other people say,” Dougherty said.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Monarch source of neighborhood complaints

Residents surrounding the neighborhood on Forest Avenue have launched complaints about increased crime since the opening of Monarch 716, a 500-bed housing complex. 
The nine-building complex located on 100 Forest Ave., opened in the summer of 2017 to serve college students and others.  
Between Sept. 19, 2017 and March 18, 242 incidents have been reported, according to Armed robberies, stabbings, and gun shots are the main crimes reported to the Buffalo police.
Neighbors complain of people loitering, playing loud music and the need for police calls on a weekly basis.
“I have lived here for 25 years and the value of this neighborhood has decreased since Monarch has arrived. I have two kids and I don’t feel comfortable with the amount of times the police are here and the amount of crimes I’ve seen reported in the news,” Sandra James, resident of Danforth Street, said.
Monarch 716 residents have tried to get out of their contracts due to the unsafe environment.
“Residents have complained lack of security and that has resulted in what we call apartment abandonment,” Savannah Morgan, Monarch 716 leasing agent said.
Many students signed up to live at the property from surrounding colleges including SUNY Buffalo State, Medaille and Canisius, although there are also non-student residents.  By Tiffany Channer and Kai Lewis

Friday, April 13, 2018

Call 3-1-1 line to make pothole complaints

This pothole on Lafayette Avenue near Parkdale Avenue, is one of many still unattended potholes on the West Side as warmer weather approaches. Despite the abundance of road hazards around the city’s West Side, residents aren’t helpless against these pesky drive time disturbances. “People can call the 311-system and report a pothole in Buffalo, including the west side,” says Michael DeGeorge, the city of Buffalo’s Director of Communications. “There’s a 48-hour guarantee of one being fixed once reported.” Over $7 million is spent on repairing residential streets in Buffalo every year. “Report a pothole if you see one, don’t assume others will do so,” DeGeorge said. By Chris Baggs and Neseemah Coleman