Tuesday, May 16, 2023

West Side film studio rich with opportunity

Professor and Director of Television and Film Arts at Buffalo State University 

Aaron Daniel Annas 

By Andrew DiMartino

Construction on the Niagara Street Studio site at the corner of Niagara and West Ferry Street is well underway and the hopes for impact on Buffalo’s West Side remain strong. The future site is already generating interest from the community as the possibilities for new opportunities grow.

            Professor and Director of Television and Film Arts at Buffalo State University, Aaron Daniel Annas believes that a partnership between the university and Niagara Street Studio is very likely given the current collaborations with established film studios.

            Buffalo Filmworks, for example, partners with Buffalo State, Annas said.

            "There was just a media production project, a music video, shot at the soundstage,” Annas shared, “it was a professional project that students worked together on.”

He suggests the addition of a new studio would offer students looking to enter a career in the film industry better chances to work on professional projects right here in the neighborhood.

            The studio's impact reaches further than just college campuses however, since businesses in and outside the realm of film production could be called on to help with the projects the studio is working on.

Buffalo Expendables, 799 Seneca St., supplies productions across Western New York with necessary equipment ranging from headsets and cords to tape and clamps. Co-founders Amy Cortese and Matthew Quinn are excited to begin working with the studio and to provide it  with the proper tools needed to make their projects possible.

“I am hopeful and anticipate it being a big deal.” Quinn said, “If some series came and took over that space and needed to be in production five days a week, that would change a lot of people’s lives around here.”

It is important not only for big budget films to want to shoot in Buffalo but also for more consistent, long-running productions such as television series to come to the city. Some television shows have completely changed the landscape of the cities they filmed in, such as AMC’s The Walking Dead and its impact on the city of Atlanta.   

“With the larger productions that have been here, I think the nice thing about when somebody dips their toe into Buffalo is that they always like it here,” Cortese said. “Our city is very welcoming of them coming here and making movies, being very cooperative and willing to do what we can.”

The location of the studio on Niagara Street is also an indicator of the city's efforts towards investing in the district. Buying the 1155 Niagara St. property from Rich Products Corp. gave Great Point Media a great spot in the city and a valued local investment partner, Buffalo NIagara Film Office Director of Operations Rich Wall said.

"I think geographically its location in a Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, transportation access, and proximity to a ready-to-go workforce made this West Side location a great choice,” Wall said.

He described the studio as another area of support in the city's investments to Niagara Streets infrastructure, turning the industrial district into a bustling business community.

Not only is the location great but the timing as well. As a way to encourage productions to film in New York, Gov.  Kathy Hochul is implementing the New York State Film Tax Credit Program. Annas believes this tax break for filming expenses is going to increase productions in the state to the levels seen in pre-pandemic years, or possibly beyond.


Thursday, May 11, 2023

Food pantry seeking summer volunteers

Mary Schaefer, senior manager of operations at prepares inventory at Provisions 139,  a food pantry operated by West Side Community Services. She is looking for volunteers to lend a hand during the summer months. Open since  August 2021, the facility provides canned goods, dog and cat food, diapers, wipes and occasionally, fresh produce to a large mass of families in the West Side. “It’s kind of fun! I have worked in the pantry doing all the things that the volunteers do. Especially if you’re in a group of people that you know. We put on music. It’s a good time,” Schaefer says. Volunteers will load in, unbox, and shelve shipments from weekly deliveries. These deliveries are scheduled every Thursday between 12 - 4:30 p.m.  By Julie Ferguson


West Side praised for extent of diversity


By Julie Ferguson

            “The West Side itself is super diverse. It’s more diverse than anything around here in my opinion,” says Najja Bouldin, a four-year resident, and professor at Buffalo State University.

            Professor Bouldin, originally from East Side Buffalo, moved west because of what he describes as a “better quality of life”. He also shared that his ability to go bike riding with his young son and the irresistible ambiance of the West side is what he loves most about the neighborhood.

            “We have people from all over south Asia, we have people from all over the continent of Africa,”  he said.

            According to the US Census Bureau American Community Survey, not only is the West Side  proven to have the highest rate of educational attainment, but it is more culturally diverse when compared to the Northern and Southern parts of the city. Main Street and the Scajaquada Expressway border a varied population of 7% Asian, 18% Black, 21% Hispanic, and 50 % WhiteWest Side residents.

            The culturally diverse population is reflected in the diverse set of businesses you can find on the West Side. Located in the Upper Elmwood neighborhood, Origem is an intimate Turkish gift shop on 830 Elmwood Ave. Luanna H. Akkurt, the owner, opened the store in December 2022 alongside her husband to bring a taste of Turkish culture to the West side.

            “So many of the customers that are coming in actually know someone, or it has been on their bucket list, and they want to get to know the place,” Akkurt said.

            The shop features a large variety of imported items that are handmade and full of culture. Her collection of merchandise varies from antique lamps, rugs, jewelry, scarves, wall decorations, and gemstones. Every customer can expect to learn a vast amount about the unique history of each item in Origem over a cup of Turkish coffee. Customers are also able to make purchases online and always have access to contact her with any questions regarding items.

            In the Waterfront neighborhood, La Casa De Sabores, a Dominican restaurant located at 1 Letchworth Street, has gained significant popularity with close-by Buffalo State students and west-side residents. Owner Carlos Cabrera opened the restaurant in 2018 after graduating from Buffalo State University. As a Long Island native, Carlos saw the need to bring his Dominican culture to the West side.

            “Knowing that there was nothing with your culture here, motivated me to see if we could bring our food and culture to the buffalo community,” Carrera said.

            This house of flavor has gained popularity because of its great customer service and exquisite-tasting Dominican cuisine. Customer favorites include mango, sauteed onioned over ripe plantains, chicken beans, and rive and empanadas. They also make sandwiches for anyone looking for their take on an American dish. Customers can come in person to pick up food from the display, or you can make orders on Grubhub, Caviar, Door Dash, Postmates, and Uber Eats.

            Both business owners bring something unique to the West Side. They equally contribute to the diversity of the West Side and highlight the importance of different cultures in a community.



Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Crockatt leaving helm of Olmsted Parks

Stephanie Crockatt, the current executive director for the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, is leaving her position to become the first CEO of Sarasota's Bay Park Conservancy. During her time as executive director for the Olmsted Parks, Crockatt worked on various different projects that have made a positive impact on the parks to this day. "There have been some momentous things that we have done. All of it. I mean you can't pick a favorite child in your family, it's hard to pick just one," Crockatt said. Crockatt said that she thinks after her departure, she expects the parks to find more funding to help sustain the parks. "We're going to be looking at maybe an endowment
campaign to help sustain everything. It's a balancing act between everyone wanting a capital project, but do they want to give to the sustaining fund to make sure that capital project lasts a long time," Crockatt said. By Justin Siejak