Congratulations 2017 Black Achiever Awardees!

45th Annual Gala to Honor 32 Outstanding Citizens

 Four Special Awardees and Two Buffalo Public Schools

Black Achievers, Inc. will host the 45th Annual Black Achievers Awards Banquet on Saturday, October 7 at the Adam’s Mark Hotel, 120 Church Street. The organization will recognize 32 outstanding individuals, all of whom have inspiring stories of personal, professional, spiritual and community achievements. The event, an evening of fine dining, networking and entertainment, will begin with a Red Carpet Ceremony at 5:30 p.m. and cocktails at 6p.m. Dinner and award presentations will follow starting at 7 p.m.

The 32 outstanding Black Achiever awardees and their sponsors include: Ras Jomo Akono, Sponsor WUFO Mix/ Power 96.5 Darnell Barton, Sponsor NFTA Landrum Beard, Sponsor, John W. Danforth Company Dawn Marie Bracely, Sponsor The Buffalo News Jessica L. Bryson, Sponsor M&T Bank Tyrone F. Christopher Jr. Sponsor Belmont Management Company Congratulations 2017 Black Achiever Awardees! 45th Annual Gala to Honor 32 Outstanding Citizens, Four Special Awardees and Two Buffalo Public Schools Nancy R. Crenshaw, Sponsor Roswell Park Cancer Institute Janique Curry, Sponsor Uniland Development Co. Drea D’Nur, Sponsor Challenger Community News Vernon Duncan, Sponsor Willie Hutch Jones Educational & Sports Program Misty Garrett, Sponsor Entercom Buffalo (AM 1400) Curtis Tony Grant, Sponsor General Motors Tonawanda Engine Plant La ‘Ree Hendricks, Sponsor Adam’s Mark Hotel Darnell J. Haywood Jr., Sponsor Bank on Buffalo Anthony Johnson, Sponsor Drescher & Malecki Pastor Dwayne Jones, Sponsor Mt. Aaron Baptist Church Marty McLaughlin, Sponsor Five Star Bank Renee D. Moody Sims, Sponsor People Inc. Janiah Patterson, Sponsor Lawley Insurance Stephan Lamar Perry, Sponsor Thomas T. Edwards Funeral Home Reverend Willie Pulliam, Sponsor Belmont Housing Resources For WNY Karl Shallowhorn, Sponsor GHD Charlette Smith, Sponsor JMS Bros. Construction Dr. Cleveland Southern, Sponsor True Word Anointed Ministry Karen Stanley-Fleming, Sponsor Northwest Bank Lindsey Taylor, Sponsor Hodgson Russ, LLP Jared Threat, Sponsor Key Bank Andre Tucker, Sponsor La Nova Pizzeria Deatra L. White-Paris, Sponsor Design, Development & Compliance. Inc. Dionne Williamson, Sponsor Bellamy Enterprises, LLC Reggie Witherspoon, Sponsor Evans Bank

In addition to the 32 Black Achiever Awards, four special awards will also be presented at the banquet. Rev. Mark E. Blue, President of the Buffalo Branch NAACP, will receive the Community Service Award; Rhonda A. Ricks Ph.D., President and CEO of R+A+R Development, Inc., will receive the Entrepreneur of the Year Award; Nekia Kemp, Executive Director of the Police Athletic League of Buffalo, will receive the Mayor’s Youth Award and former Buffalonian, Rona Drinkard, a Senior IT Project Manager with Leidos, will be honored for a lifetime of achievement with the Homecoming Award. Also to be recognized at the banquet will be two Buffalo Public Schools, City Honors and the International Preparatory School.

The Co-Chairs for this much anticipated event are history making business executive, Sheila L. Brown, Manager and Principal Owner of Visions Multi Media Group, LLC, and Robert Mootry, Jr., the Regional Director of CSEA Western Region and President of the Buffalo Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. For more information on the gala or to purchase tickets, call 884-1490, or visit the Black Achievers, Inc. web site at Tickets may also be purchased at Doris Records at 286 East Ferry.

Zandra Brings Artisan Skin Care to Whole Foods Market Buffalo

                        Zandra Azariah

                        Zandra Azariah

Zandra introduces its award-winning artisan skincare product line to the New Whole Foods Market Store in Buffalo New York on September 15th  & 16th. Zandra, a leading all-natural artisan bath and body product range for educated and empowered girls on the move, partners with Whole Foods Market as it opens its new store in Amherst at 3139 Sheridan Drive, Buffalo on Friday, September 15 and Saturday, September 16.

To mark the first time that Zandra products will be available in Whole Foods, Zandra Azariah Cunningham the Teen-Founder, and CEO will offer product demos, samples, and promotional offers to customers from 11 am to 3 pm on Friday and 3 pm to 7 pm on Saturday. “We are so excited to offer Zandra’s unique brand of American made fun, fresh, natural bath and body products at our very own local Whole Foods to girls in Buffalo.

We know that Zandra customers want the convenience of being able to shop for our high-quality skin-healthy products in more stores and, with partners like Whole Foods, we’re making that happen,” said Zandra the 17-year-old entrepreneur. To start, Whole Foods Market Buffalo will stock several Zandra products including: Hair & Body Soufflè - a moisturizing, nourishing and repairing formula made with skin-loving whipped butters and oils; Sugar Scrubs - designed to exfoliate body and lips for a natural Zandra's favorite botanicals and fair trade Shea butter, and a gorgeous range of Hand & Body Lotions.

Each collection is available in refreshing scents including Mint, Kumquat, Lavender, and Lemongrass and all are free of chemicals. Prices range from $8.00 -$20. From its Buffalo-based lab, Zandra combines the art of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to create 40 nutrient rich skin care products; each naturally proven to nourish, heal and improve teen-sensitive skin. Natural ingredients are the bedrock of Zandra skin care and a lasting alternative to commercial products with yucky unhealthy ingredients.

Rhonda Ricks, Buffalo’s First Certified Minority and Woman Owned Development Firm Leads Project To Redevelop Former Buffalo Public School 59 Into Affordable Parkview Apartments

RIBBON CUTTING: Rhonda Ricks, fourthfrom left joins Mayor Brown, Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes and others in last Thursday's ribbon cutting.

RIBBON CUTTING: Rhonda Ricks, fourthfrom left joins Mayor Brown, Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes and others in last Thursday's ribbon cutting.

Last Thursday,  New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), R+A+R Development and SA+A Development formally celebrated the opening of Parkview Apartments, an $8 million project that converted the vacant Public School 59 building in the East Side community of Buffalo to 26 units of affordable apartments for low-income New Yorkers. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, joined HCR, R+A+R, S+A, Mayor Byron Brown, Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes, Senator Tim Kennedy, and development and community partners for a ribbon cutting ceremony.

             Buffalo Developer Rhonda Ricks

             Buffalo Developer Rhonda Ricks

For Rhonda Ricks, Buffalo’s first certified minority and woman owned development firm, this project is a dream that has been years in the making. Ricks stated, “Leading this renovation has been a proud process for my development firm. The partnership with SA+A Development has been a successful learning experience and provided much support." 

She added, “As a new developer, I am thankful to all who embraced this vision and provided the guidance and financial assistance to bring the vision full circle. It was certainly a tapestry of leadership that included Mayor Byron Brown, Congressman Brian Higgins, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the dedicated staff of the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency (BURA) and the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR).”   The four-story, 36,000 square-foot building at 769 Best Street was constructed in 1901. It now includes a community room, laundry room, laundry facilities, an elevator and playground. Parkview is directly across the street from Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, and is near shopping and services. Rent plus utilities range from $362 to $751 a month and are affordable to households at or below 50 percent of the area median income.  

“The Parkview Apartments are a long time in the making, adaptively reusing the former PS #59 to design brand new upscale yet affordable units created by Buffalo’s first minority female developer. The lengthy waiting list shows that there is a demand for new quality housing options.  Congratulations to R+A+R Development and SA&A on successfully completing the first of many projects on Buffalo’s East Side,” stated Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes.

“All of Buffalo’s residents deserve a safe and affordable place to live, and as we build a City of opportunity, to ensure everyone benefits from Buffalo’s rising prosperity, we’re focused on our continued commitment to further strengthen neighborhoods by providing the best housing possible,” said Mayor Byron Brown.

“I’m pleased my administration was able to contribute $1.1 million in City of Buffalo HOME Funds to this project, which joins the growing list of residential projects on Buffalo’s East Side, particularly in the revitalized and historic Martin Luther Jr. neighborhood.”

New 'Working Toward Equality Report' Sheds Light on Race, Employment, and Public Transit in Erie County

In 2016, a coalition of labor, community, and religious organizations commissioned the Partnership for the Public Good to produce a comprehensive study on racial employment inequality in the Buffalo-Niagara region. The Working Toward Equality report found that local racial disparities were worse than national averages, with an African American unemployment rate from 2010 to 2014 of 17.3% and a Hispanic rate of 13.6%, compared to a white rate of 6.4%.

On July 6 the Merriweather Library in Buffalo, the Partnership will present an updated report: Working Toward Equality, Updated: Race, Employment, and Public Transit in Erie County.  The new report provides a rich trove of updated data on race and employment and then offers a spotlight on one of the barriers to equal opportunity: the distance between workers of color and jobs, and the lack of adequate public transit to connect the two.  The report is available at www. 

Sam Magavern, executive director of the Partnership, will present the findings. Other speakers will include Richard Lipsitz, Jr. (president, WNY Areal Labor Federation); Brenda McDuffie (president, Buffalo Urban League); Reverend Mark Blue (president, Buffalo Branch NAACP); Reverend George Nicholas (Concerned Clergy Coalition of WNY), and Jeff Richardson (President, Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1342). 

Among the report’s findings:

• Of the five major employment centers in the region, only one is located in the City of Buffalo

• Over 50,000 households in the region lack access to a car.

•  Over half the region’s jobs are not accessible by public transit.

• Workers of color use transit more.  In the city of Buffalo, only 5 percent of white workers commute via public transit, but 15 percent of Hispanic, 21 percent of black, and 26 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander workers commute by public transit.

• Workers of color have longer rides. The average black worker who rides the bus spends 59 more hours per year in transit than the average white worker who rides the bus; the average Hispanic worker spends 80 more hours.

• Buffalo’s east side is served by 35 bus lines, but 23 of them are infrequent, with fewer than two busses per hour.

• To get from Buffalo’s west side (the corner of Niagara and Porter) to GEICO in Amherst takes 21 minutes by car but 77 minutes by bus.

• There are no high frequency bus lines that serve the communities of color in western Lackawanna and the Cattaraugus Reservation.

The report concludes that improving public transit is an imperative for promoting economic development, reducing racial disparities, fighting poverty, and decreasing air pollution. 

It recommends that New York State increase its funding for public transit and adjust its funding formulas to treat western New York more equitably relative to other regions.  It recommends that the NFTA improve its service by adding more busses and routes, with a particular focus on connecting communities of color to employment centers; that the NFTA pay its workers more adequate wages (bus drivers currently start at $12.95 per hour); and that it offer reduced fares to people with low incomes.

The report was commissioned by New York State AFL-CIO; WNY Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; Buffalo Urban League; Concerned Clergy of Western New York; Baptist Ministers Conference of Buffalo and Vicinity; NAACP Buffalo Branch; Coalition of Black Trade Unions (Buffalo Chapter); and Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (WNY Chapter).

 The Partnership for the Public Good is a community-based think tank with over 260 partner organizations.

From CookieLand to the Upper Room: East Buffalo Entrepreneur

is One Step Closer to Realizing Her Dream

'TO GOD BE THE GLORY!" In top photo, Vivian Jackson (center in white top) cuts the ribbon for her new development which will feature a Prayer Room, skating rink, small diner and ice cream parlor. In photos above she poses with family and supporters. A large crowd turned out for the community event on June 5 and included a host of dignitaries: Fillmore Councilman David Franczyk, mayoral candidates Legislator Betty Jean Grant and Mark Schroeder, Rev. Cushing, and members of her Elim Christian Fellowship family.THIRD EYE PHOTOS

'TO GOD BE THE GLORY!" In top photo, Vivian Jackson (center in white top) cuts the ribbon for her new development which will feature a Prayer Room, skating rink, small diner and ice cream parlor. In photos above she poses with family and supporters. A large crowd turned out for the community event on June 5 and included a host of dignitaries: Fillmore Councilman David Franczyk, mayoral candidates Legislator Betty Jean Grant and Mark Schroeder, Rev. Cushing, and members of her Elim Christian Fellowship family.THIRD EYE PHOTOS

For the past decade Vivian Jackson has been dreaming of taking her career of providing care for children, to another level; one which would embrace the entire community. And for eight years, she said, a symbol of God’s promise has manifested itself to her in the presence of rainbows… literally everywhere and all the time.

On June 5, after years of dreaming, praying, planning and rainbows, Vivian (also known as Cookie), held what she called an “Inside the Rainbow Ribbon Cutting” to announce her new corporation, The Upper Room, and the creation of a one stop family entertainment complex and eatery rooted in the Spirit and located in the heart of the community. The architects rendering is as striking, exciting and visionary as Ms. Jackson’s goal of providing children with a safe alternative to the streets and offering spiritual guidance to adults and young people who may find themselves overwhelmed in times of need. “It’s been my dream for ten years and I never lost the faith,” said Ms. Jackson, the owner of CookieLand, a successful child care facility she’s operated in East Buffalo for 20-plus years.

The new venture, which will be located at 202 Walden Avenue at the corner of Wasmuth (located on the street right behind CookieLand) will consist of four components. The Prayer Room (The Upper Room) will serve mainly as a place where people in the community can receive prayer and guidance. “We need prayer,” said the long time member of Elim Christian Fellowship. A number of ministers she said, have already committed to volunteer and she’s hoping more will step forward to help. She’s especially excited about the skating rink, which will be called Rainbow Skating, and will feature two rinks - one large and a smaller version.

From CookieLand to the Upper Room: East Buffalo Entrepreneur is One Step Closer to Realizing Her Dream sion for little children. The last two components will be Mama Cookie’s Diner & Eatery and The Cross Ice Cream Parlor -where she hopes to bring back penny candy! “Everything just opened up,” she said of the rapid succession of developments. “It was all God. It’s just favor…. but I seek Him everyday…I don’t let anything come before God.” She said developers hope to begin building this summer, and the facility is anticipated to open by the end of the year. “God is so good!” she exclaimed. “I want to thank Christina a true partner for real…I love her with my whole heart…and of course my brother Darnell Jackson, Miss Denise, Okos the architect, Mike the developer, and Bishop Bronner and my Elim Christian Fellowship family."

Once the building is complete and the doors are open, Vivian said she wants everyone who enters to feel the love from the font of the building to the back. Despite the politics of neglected neighborhoods, she continued, “God has not forgotten about the East Side.” Her experience, she points out, is living proof. The role that the community must play at this point she concluded, is basic. “It’s time to start loving again,” she urged.

Jefferson Avenue Businessmen are some the most resilient and patient entrepreneurs in the city. Ignored for years, those businesses owners who bravely ventured into planting their dreams there -  continue to struggle to maintain and grow their establishments. And new businesses, like Solo Eats on the corner of Jefferson and East Ferry, have recently invested in the area.

They are all hopeful that the current focus on the once bustling main strip will soon bring positive results. But they are keenly aware that not all “progress” is good progress.

Case in point. News that a convenient store would soon be opening at 1390 Jefferson Avenue has given cause for concern.  A petition was circulated by business owners and some 350 signatures were gathered and delivered to Masten Council Member Ulysses O. Wingo ‘s CityHall office opposing the store’s location. It reads in part:

“Currently there are a substantial number of convenience stores already located in the area and the addition of another store at 1390 Jefferson Avenue will encourage loitering, which can only lead to more crime and will hurt our community. For this reason this petition has been established to prohibit the opening….”

The businessmen – of various ethnicities -  decided to go public with their struggle because after weeks of trying to meet and talk to Mr. Wingo they have been unsuccessful. He has yet to even return any phone calls, said Ahmed Salah of Mandella’s Market & Citgo Gas. “More than 25 people have called his office in the last two weeks,” noted Mr. Salah. 

It’s as if nobody is listening. The only thing they’ve heard indirectly from his office is that their petition to stop the opening is “too late.” But as far as these entrepreneurs are concerned, it’s never too late. And they want answers. They feel that they have been slighted and not given the opportunity to even voice their opinion before a final decision was made.

Mr. Wingo’s job, they say, is to represent and respect the people who elected him to that position.  Or face their disapproval on election day. There are so many other types of businesses Jefferson Avenue needs, they pointed out. Another convenience store is not one; especially in light of their concerns.

They believe they at least deserve a reply and conversation about a decision that may adversely effect their livelihood.

CNN Political Analyst to Keynote

CAO’s 52nd Anniversary Dinner and Awards Celebration

Keynote Speaker Bakari Sellers

Keynote Speaker Bakari Sellers

The Board of Directors of the Community Action Organization of Erie County, Inc. is proud to present its 52ndAnniversary Awards Dinner and Celebration on Friday, June 9 from 6 - 9 p.m at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. 

This year’s theme is “Changing Our Direction, Creating a New Future” and will include a recognition ceremony for this year’s outstanding community service leaders, partners and corporate citizens of the agency. Dr. Rev. James A. Lewis, III of Miracle Missions Baptist Church returns as Master of Ceremonies.

Keynonte speakerBakari Sellers, a prominent CNN political analyst,  made history in 2006 when, at just 22 years old, he defeated a 26-year incumbent State Representative to become the youngest member of the South Carolina State Legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the nation. In 2014, Sellers won the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor and is widely considered to be a rising star within the Democratic Party and leading voice for his generation.

Sellers, who is also a practicing attorney,  earned his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and his law degree from the University of South Carolina. He has followed in the footsteps of his father, civil rights leader Dr. Cleveland Sellers, in his tireless commitment to public service while championing progressive policies. In addition to his impressive list of early accomplishments, Sellers served on President Barack Obama’s South Carolina steering committee during the 2008 election.    

As one of the largest, private, not-for-profit agencies in Western New York, the upcoming event commemorates 52 years of focused and dedicated efforts in promoting self-sufficiency through advocacy, partnerships and services.  The CAO serves over 34,000 low-income residents annually through a network of more than 50 locations across Erie and Niagara counties, providing essential services to individuals and families in need as they move towards self-sufficiency. Tickets are just $50 per person, $500 per table of ten. A limited number of tickets to the VIP Reception and Meet & Greet with Bakari Sellers are just $75.  For sponsorship information, or to purchase an ad in the souvenir journal, contact Keri Socker, Administrative Coordinator at 881-5150. Tickets are available online at

Five Star Bank Names Chiquita Rodgers

Branch Manager of Downtown Buffalo Financial Solution Center 

                    Chiquita Rogers

                    Chiquita Rogers

Five Star Bank (“Five Star”) has named Chiquita Rodgers as Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager of its financial solution center in downtown Buffalo. This new branch opened on February 13, 2016 at 40-50 Fountain Plaza. In her role, Ms. Rodgers will develop strategies for the branch and branch staff, manage her team to achieve goals, and develop strong relationships with the bank’s customers and the community.  

Ms. Rodgers joined Five Star in December of 2016 after 17 years with Citizens Bank and its predecessors Rochester Community Savings Bank and Charter One Bank. She started her banking career as a teller and achieved promotions to assistant manager, manager, branch business banker and small business specialist.  

Five Star Bank’s financial solution center concept is designed to meet evolving customer banking needs. It accommodates a wide spectrum of customer preferences with no teller lines, no barriers between bank associates and customers, and hands-on support. Customers have the ability to choose their banking experience by accessing available on-site technology devices, mobile banking demonstrations and a staff of Certified Personal Bankers (CPBs). CPBs provide a complete banking experience, whether processing a transaction, opening an account or providing advice to help customers make an informed financial decision. Commercial banking, mortgage, insurance and wealth management advisors are also be available on site to offer Five Star solutions. 

Ms. Rodgers attended Medaille College. Throughout her career, she has been an active community volunteer and has participated in many organizations and events including Junior Achievement, the Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo, the Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival, the Martin Luther King Celebration, and the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers Tax Preparation Program. Ms. Rodgers resides in Buffalo with her three children. 

More Five Star Bank information is available at, on Twitter, and on Facebook.



Kerns Bowling Center

Committed to Serving Best Interests of the Community 

Newest Venture is Saturday Bowling Program for Youth 8-16 !

                          Mr. and Mrs. Dan Adams, Proprietors, KERNS Bowling

                          Mr. and Mrs. Dan Adams, Proprietors, KERNS Bowling

by Jennifer Strickland

Bowling, to some, might seem like a bygone sport; one that our parents and grandparents savored, but the United States Bowling Congress’ website ( boasts its membership at nearly 2,000,000.  A local entrepreneur and retired manager from Verizon, Dan Adams, Jr. recognizes that bowling is far from its final resting place in the archives of American sports history. 

Whether hosting the weekly bowling competition, “Beat the Champ”; or serving as the venue for local celebrities’ birthday parties, and other events, Adams and his team at the Kerns Avenue Bowling Center (KABC) are making their mark in the community as an African American owned and operated enterprise whose goal is to serve the best interest of our community.  

 Adams’ commitment and passion to make the bowling center a destination for bowlers, both amateur and professional, and others seeking an attractive place to enjoy sports and recreation, is evident in the excellent customer service and inviting atmosphere, they are so determined to deliver to its clients.  Their mission’s objective is to provide a safe, clean, recreational environment within the urban community.

Adams bought the crumbling lanes nearly nine years ago.  He has since rejuvenated and revitalized the facility to accommodate events from bowling tournaments and fundraisers, to league bowling and private parties. They’ve also designated special times for our seniors to enjoy the bowling experience.  The KABC is the only African American owned bowling center in New York State, and, according to Adams, one of only eight Black-owned, in this country. 

The center can safely accommodate 130 bowlers, in the recreational area, where there are 16 lanes with updated electronic scoreboards.  An additional 80 patrons can find comfort in the bar/restaurant area where they can relax, eat from their tasty menu, and enjoy a variety of beverages. 

Dan Adams is always thinking of something new to enhance his clients’ experience at the Bowling Center. The newest, child-friendly venture is a Saturday morning program for children, ages 8 – 16 years old.  The proposed date to begin is Saturday, April 1, 2017. The program will operate from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. each Saturday through June 10, 2017. Coaches will be available to help the children develop their style and technique, while having fun in a clean, safe, and nourishing environment.  Registration is limited. Sponsors are welcome. Please contact the Center at (716) 892-3331, stop by at 163 Kerns Avenue, email to, or hit them on Facebook at Kerns Avenue Bowling Center, for more information.

Mr. Adams, keep up the great work of representing entrepreneurship in the African American community. Your unwavering and tenacious spirit serves as a model for all of Western New York’s small business owners.

New Housing on Jefferson Ave Must be

Incorporated With Local Business Development

           Betty Jean Grant 

           Betty Jean Grant 

As we know by now, two developers, Nick Sinatra and Davie Pawlik of CSS Construction Company, have partnered with People, Inc. to bring a mixed use, new housing complex to Jefferson Ave. This is probably a good idea because with Buffalo’s booming construction at SolarCity, the Medical Corridor, Canalside and the ‘Say Yes’ education program that can provide up to a free college education, many individuals are coming here to live in addition to making this their designated town for partying. 

So why did I say“ probably”  a good idea as opposed to it being a really good idea?  There are several reasons. For starters, one of the developers, David Pawlik is a former employee of the city under the administration of then Mayor Tony Masiello.  Mr. Pawlik worked for the Office of Community Development, now named the Office of Strategic Planning. My problem with him is not where he used to work or whom he worked for,  but his company’s lack of being a widely diverse enterprise in terms of the ethnic makeup of the men and women who worked on many of his CSS development projects. Those projects included many of his East Ferry Street jobs as well as the old 1490 Enterprise Building that was recently rehabilitated.

I don’t know that much about Mr. Sinatra except that he is a fairly new player in the Buffalo development landscape as he owns the Market Arcade complex on Main Street as well as many vacant properties on Main Street, Jefferson Ave and other places I am sure that I don’t know about. I read, sometime last year,  that he is also developing housing units in an old factory at Jefferson Ave and Florida St. to accommodate additional housing for the students at Canisius College.

My biggest peeve is that this is not the first time, when the community talked about economic development on Jefferson Ave., city leaders threw housing units and not for profit agencies into the mix. A few year ago, it was Gateway, Inc. that was going to build a rehabilitation center and housing for wayward youths in the area at Jefferson andBest St. I have nothing against housing units, rehabilitation facilities or even a big, new shiny health clinic in the area but tell me, how is that going to spur jobs and customers when the long ago, viable commercial strips are being totally left in the dust? A couple of weeks ago, a local newspaper ran a story about a new $20 million dollar health and wellness center being built in the same area. In this area we have, already, GIBAUHN Health Agency, ECMC Clinic on Main Street, Jesse Nash Clinic on William St., theCommunity Health Center on Benwood Ave, a clinic in the Jefferson Utica Plaza and less than a mile away, the whole Medical Corridor Campus! We have enough service providers for our health and wellness needs; what we need are stores to buy a pair of shoes, hardware goods, loaf of fresh bread, clothes, fresh fruits stands, markets and souvenir shops so when relatives come to visit, we can take them to a store around the corner from where we live like we used to do a few decades ago.

Even though it has been documented that there will be stores and businesses in the new buildings, they will not be owned by the merchants who are expected to lease them. Those business owners will be leas ‘at the pleasure’ of the landlords and could be subjected to all kinds of anti-business practices such as rent increases, unannounced visits and merited or unmerited evictions.

True economic development is not measured by how many housing units one puts up for, in most cases, responsible tenants who are shuffled from one poor, inner city neighborhood (thus destabilizing one area) to try and stabilize another. Furthermore, where one rests his head at night or go for a morning physical, has less to do with financially empowering a part of the eastside than where one gets a haircut, buys a shirt or sits down for a Sunday afternoon dinner at the local neighborhood restaurant.

Again, my biggest beef is that I am concerned about this project because no minority subcontractors have been identified, no compliance officer is mentioned and with the exception of this non-economic development project, the unneeded health and wellness center and the apartments units being discussed for Florida Ave, the Jefferson Ave Commercial Strip seems to be in the position of being kept waiting for its Renaissance, yet again.