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STATE BRIGHTENS FUTURE OF GRANT-FERRY AREA

Things are getting brighter for the Grant-Ferry Business District on Buffalo's upper West Side.

In keeping with neighborhood and retailer interests to make the business district safer and more attractive, a state grant of $250,000 will be spent to dramatically improve the district's streetlighting, said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, at a Tuesday night neighborhood meeting.

Hoyt and other public officials spoke with a small group of residents at the Concerned Ecumenical Ministries building to give a glimpse of the various government programs targeted at reviving the depressed Grant Street area and surrounding community.

High on the agenda was a state grant that targets community construction or renovation projects. Hoyt had secured the $250,000 grant several months ago but was waiting for community feedback on how the money should be spent.

The response to a neighborhood survey listed street lighting as one of the residents' and business owners' top priorities, with 64 percent of respondents listing it as either their first or second choice.

So that's what the money will be spent on, Hoyt said.

"I think we'll give a sense of hope and a sense of optimism to this area that we all care about," he said.

At the meeting, several residents said they chose streetlighting as their priority because the grant could not be spent directly on police or other security initiatives.

"I think it's a good idea," said resident Bill Licata. "My big fear, though, is the gangs in the area . . . the graffiti, the kids that are on the street. It creates a predatory environment. In my personal opinion, putting up lights is not going to be enough."

Hoyt and Niagara Council Member Dominic J. Bonifacio Jr. agreed that crime and drugs remain a concern for the area.

"I'd like to think this enhanced lighting will help address some of that," Hoyt said.

Residents and others also said they hoped the city would not just put up brighter lighting but more attractive lighting that brings some character, personality and friendliness to the district and highlights active businesses.

"The visual cues are really important," said County Legislator Judith P. Fisher, D-Buffalo.

Hoyt said choosing an appropriate lighting design, and deciding how far it will extend, is next on the to-do list. The new lights should be in by summer at the latest, he said.

Bonifacio said he hoped the city would be able to contribute some dollars to the lighting program.

He also reiterated his plans for a $30,000 crime initiative, which will get off the ground around Easter and pay uniformed, off-duty police officers to patrol the business district. In addition, he said, he plans to try to improve street cleaning and beautification of the area, encourage private investment, and continue to address blighted neighborhood properties.

Other city officials noted that the Grant-Ferry district is part of the Buffalo's waterfront corridor plan. They also said several other projects are in the works to attract investment in struggling city business districts and to support and grow new small businesses in the area.

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