Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of May 8, 2023

Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of May 8, 2023

Date: May 12, 2023

By Sarah Wooton, Regine Ndanga, and Dejia James 

Each week, PPG summarizes important takeaways from the major Buffalo Common Council meetings. We also include information from Council meetings related to our Community Agenda items. 

This week's summary focuses on Community Development, Civil Service, Legislation, and Finance committee meetings. 

In this summary, we abbreviate “Council Member” as CM, "Council President" as CP, and "Majority Leader" as ML.

During the Community Development Committee meeting, community member Chuki Naylor proposed “Ausome Hours,” requiring one or more city parks to instate sensory time (2-4 hours on two or more days) during park operational hours specifically for the autistic community. This allows parents to take their children safely to the park without prejudice, meeting their sensory needs and ensuring their safety. Additionally, special hours will lessen crowds and overstimulation for these children. Ms. Naylor hopes also to add splash pads and pool hours for these children. Lastly, Ms. Naylor invited council members to their annual toy drive and sensory-inclusive party in the winter. CM Golombek highlighted previous and ongoing efforts to create a similar safe space for youth who are autistic in his district. CM Nowakowski agreed that further research and selection of a park for such a program should move forward. Needs may include fencing and security. CM Wingo agreed with discussing inclusion and accessibility at city parks. He expressed a need for the Parks Department to hear the issue and invited community members to public budget hearings to speak on this issue.

The Civil Service Committee mainly approved items during its meeting and did not involve any discussion or deliberation. 

CM Golombek supported establishing the Lower Black Rock Historic District along Niagara Street from 1884 to 1966 in the Legislation Committee meeting. The meeting included discussions with community members and the developer regarding the district. Scott Glasgow, a lifelong Black Rock resident, and retired engineer, supported the district, highlighting the historical significance of Niagara Street's 12 remaining canal-era buildings. The developers of Unity Temple and Jubilee Library, represented by Niagara St. LLC, contested the inclusion of the Blossom Homestead, a property at 1942 Niagara St., as they intended to demolish it for their mixed-use development.

Brian Kulpa, an architect and urban planner, attended the meeting on behalf of a development partnership led by Corey Hogan. They aim to participate in preserving and restoring significant buildings along Niagara Street. However, they were unaware of the effort to establish the historic district and requested more time to discuss the inclusion of 1942 Niagara St. with the City of Buffalo. They argued that moving and restoring the property would be costly.

William Butler, Board President of the Black Rock Historical Society, strongly supported establishing the Lower Black Rock Historic District, emphasizing its representation of Black Rock's rapid growth from 1830 to 1915. Butler stated the Society's opposition to removing the Blossom Homestead from the district and advocated for its restoration and adaptive reuse.

Gwen Howard, Chair of the City of Buffalo Preservation Board, supported the application and hoped it would be approved. CM Golombek proposed moving the 1942 Niagara property to a different spot on the site, which Howard stated would align with the building's history of being moved. Ann McCoy, Executive Director of the Black Rock Riverside Alliance, supported the historic district and emphasized the importance of preserving historical buildings for community development. Property owner Martin Huber supported saving historic buildings while considering property owner rights. Catherine, a resident of the proposed district, voiced support for the application but had yet to hear from the developer.

Brian Kulpa clarified that their development group had not designed the space yet but planned to engage with neighborhood members and stakeholders for the project. Dr. Mary Ann Kedron, a Black Rock Historical Society board member, expressed the Society's long-standing commitment to the historic district's placement in Buffalo.

CM Golombek supported both proposals and sought clarification on whether approving the item would prevent the property at 1942 Niagara from being moved elsewhere on the site. Assistant Corporation Counsel Karen Gordon explained the possibility of approving landmarking with exclusions and the preservation board's subsequent authority. CM Nowakowski inquired about the legislation regarding demolition permits, and Gordon confirmed that modifications could be made after the Council's decision.

Brad Packard, Executive Vice President at Belmont Housing Resources for WNY, requested rezoning for a 53-unit affordable housing project at 18 Adam St. and 657 Clinton St. The project would include a three-story building on Clinton and 19 townhouse units on Adam St. Support was shown by members of the Church of God in Christ, including Bishop Superintendent Thomas Hill and Elizabeth Bengal with Belmont. CM Wyatt expressed excitement and mentioned full support from CP Pridgen. The item was sent to the Council for approval.

Anthony Ferrentino requested a short-term rental property permit at 144 Connell St. A concerned neighbor raised issues about the potential misuse of the property, maintenance, security, and more. CM Nowakowski advised the applicant to engage with neighbors and continue discussions after the meeting.

In the Finance Committee, the Council approved loan requests for work on Abbott Rd., Bailey Ave., and the Michigan Ave. lift bridge. A representative from the Comptroller’s Office gave a cash flow report. Sales tax continues to perform well compared to last year (4.5% higher), though CM Wyatt flagged that NYS forecasters are predicting a downturn in sales tax.