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A recent article in the business section of The News discussed the decorating initiatives of the new owners of the Main Place Mall. In the article, a marketing professor from the University at Buffalo commented that more than decoration is required and the mall must have a new retailing anchor. In addition, the professor commented on the problems posed by teen-agers in the mall after school every day. Unfortunately, this problem is certain to get worse.

In 1995, after years of work, the YWCA opened a Teen Resource & Referral Center in the Main Place Mall, in partnership with many other service providers, mall management and private industries, including NYNEX and Tops Markets. The program was supported by the mayor, the Common Council, the Buffalo School Board, the Buffalo Police Department, the United Way, the Buffalo Community Partnership and the Rotary Club.

The Teen Resource & Referral Center was the direct result of years of concern over teens congregating in the mall. It was deemed best for the entire community not to engage in an escalating battle of who can, and who cannot, be in the Main Place Mall, and grave concern was expressed by community leaders that the response to teen-agers in the mall not be overly harsh or racist.

The YWCA program is designed to gather into one space the teens who come to the mall and then encourage them in positive recreation, counseling, volunteer activities, homework assistance, computer skills, job training, etc., with some of these services provided in the YWCA space in the mall and others provided at different locations throughout the community.

Mall security guards were able to bring teens to the program center instead of barring the entrance to the mall. Since September of 1995, more than 630 youths received service at the mall from more than 40 partner community agencies, with very impressive outcomes. Seventy-five percent of the youth found summer employment, 100 percent remained in high school, none of the female participants has become pregnant and none of the 630 youths who received service have been arrested.

Sadly, under new ownership, the YWCA Teen Resource & Referral Center has been evicted from the Main Place Mall despite the expressed concerns of the mayor and the Common Council leaders. No new plans for dealing with teens in the mall have been put forth by the Main Place Liberty Group, and it appears that an escalation of conflict between mall guards and teens is now inevitable. We at the YWCA greatly regret the cessation of the Teen Resource & Referral Center but stand ready to help provide positive alternatives for the young people of Buffalo.

Susan Gaska Executive Director
YWCA of Western New York

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