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BOARD KEEPS RENTAL OFFICE DOWNTOWN

The city housing authority today killed a plan to move its rental office outside the downtown area and instead opted for quarters in the Theater District.

The move will shift the tenant selection department of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority from its offices on the 20th floor of City Hall to the ground floor of the Sidway Building, 777 Main St., near Goodell Street.

"I think it's an excellent idea," Commissioner Frank Scinta said minutes before the authority governing board approved the move, 6-1.

Authority Executive Director Lawrence A. Grisanti, without the required approval of the board, in April ordered the tenant selection office moved to the LBJ Apartments at Main Street and Humboldt Parkway. The move would have required the relocation of seven elderly tenants and the removal of their apartments from the rent rolls.

Faced with opposition from some tenants and members of the Common Council, who wanted the rental offices left downtown, authority board members balked at the move and asked their staff to survey LBJ tenants about the proposed move. While the authority obtained the signatures of 16 LBJ tenants who supported the move, Paul Wolf, president of the Buffalo League of Public Housing Tenants, garnered 71 signatures in opposition.

Wolf called the vote to kill the proposed move "a victory for the tenants. The authority is supposed to provide low-income housing, not take it away."

He joined Commissioner Mary Rogers, who cast the lone vote against the move to the Sidway Building, in criticizing the relocation of the office.

"The location isn't as convenient as City Hall," he said.

Grisanti convinced all the commissioners except Mrs. Rogers of the merit of the move. He said the current tenant selection office is in "terrible, dingy, dark condition."

The staff doesn't have enough room to work efficiently, and applicants don't have a place to wait, he said. In all, the current quarters don't give applicants a good first impression of the authority, he said.

The authority board approved a two-year lease calling for $115,569 in rent. Plans call for the tenant selection office to move in August.

In other action, the authority:

Approved an application seeking $5.3 million from the state to improve the two authority projects that it subsidizes. About $13 million is available statewide.

The application asks for $976,130 to make various improvements at Ferry-Grider Homes, and $4.4 million to replace six roofs at Frederick Douglass Towers and rehabilitate one vacant building. The state has told the authority to renovate and reopen one building or face financial penalties.

Approved without discussion a 1989-90 operating budget of $20.6 million. The budget, which will be forwarded for approval to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, calls for a less than 1 percent spending increase over the current budget.

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