Shannon Anderson watched as crews removed the broken sidewalk on Moselle Street, and prepared the dirt for new cement that will soon be poured.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said.
It’s good the sidewalks are being replaced, she said, so that another tragedy like the one that took her baby’s life can be prevented.
But it’s sad, she said, that her child had to die to bring enough attention to the problem that the sidewalks are finally getting replaced.
Anderson, 23, was visiting her aunt on Moselle Street on June 19, when she and her aunt left the house at about 9:30 p.m. with Anderson’s 7-month-old daughter, Nyree Greene, in a stroller.
The sidewalks were in such rough shape on Moselle – as they are on some other nearby streets – that it was impossible to walk a stroller on the sidewalk, Anderson said.
So they went into the street.
A car struck the three. Anderson and her aunt fell to the ground. Anderson got up. Her aunt’s legs were broken. Nyree’s stroller was crumbled. The baby died.
Taniqua Simmons, a community activist, said she and others met with Mayor Byron W. Brown on Tuesday about the sidewalk situation. The mayor said the city would fix the sidewalks, Simmons and Anderson said.
“I am grateful,” Anderson said.
But Simmons said she first brought the sidewalk issue to the attention of the city 15 years ago, in 2001, when she said, she toured the area with the local councilman.
Councilman David A. Franczyk has been the Fillmore representative for much of the past 30 years, but not in 2001, he noted.
Nonetheless, Franczyk brought up the Fillmore District sidewalk issue after the November 2015 election.
Franczyk said that while campaigning door to door in the district, there were times he had to walk in the street because of the poor condition of sidewalks. The problem, he said, was in front of vacant properties where houses had been demolished years ago. The demolition companies, Franczyk said last year, destroyed the sidewalks with their heavy equipment, and didn’t repair the sidewalks as part of their demolition contract.
Franczyk said in recent years the city has done a better job of making sure demolition contractors repair sidewalks, but many that were destroyed in the past remain impassable.
Franczyk again brought up the issue after Nyree was killed, asking the Public Works Department if anything can be done – but also recognizing that there are so many requests for new sidewalks in Buffalo that the city can’t afford to replace them all in any one year.
The mayor then contacted Franczyk and agreed to get the Moselle sidewalks replaced.
Then Tuesday, Brown met with residents, and told them the sidewalks work would be done within 90 days.
Brown and Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak then talked and, given the neighborhood concern, decided to move the project date up and get the work started Friday.
Stepniak said last year the city repaved Moselle at the community’s request and also installed handicapped-accessible curbs.
The city hoped to also replace the Moselle Street sidewalks at some point, but had no immediate plans to do so prior to the recent discussions surrounding the June 19 accident, Stepniak said.
The city recently received an additional $2.5 million in funds that could be used for streets and sidewalks, and some of that will go toward the Moselle work, Brown said.
The work is expected to cost $100,000 and be completed sometime next week, Stepniak said.
Anderson said she lives on Sweet Street, about a 25-minute walk to her aunt’s home on Moselle.
Much of the walk, she said, is in the street because of the condition of sidewalks in the area – and not just on Moselle.
Additional sidewalks in the area will be replaced with a portion of the $2.5 million, Brown said.
City residents are generally responsible for maintaining and replacing sidewalks in front of their homes, unless the sidewalks are damaged by trees in the city right-of-ways, or if property owners cannot afford to replace sidewalks, Brown and Stepniak said.
In many low-income neighborhoods, the city is able to use federal Community Development funds for sidewalk replacement.
But Moselle does not qualify for the federal program because of the large number of vacant houses and lots on the street, city officials said.
The cause of the accident that killed Nyree has not yet been determined.
The driver of the car has not been named, and police are awaiting toxicology tests.
Franczyk said he has heard the driver of the car dropped something in his vehicle, and the vehicle swerved when he went to pick it up.
The car jumped the curb, and ran into a tree on the grass, just before the sidewalk.
Anderson said it is possible they would have been struck even if they were walking on the sidewalk that night.
She said the accident occurred on the side of the street where there are no street lights. She also questioned whether the driver was speeding.
Brown said the city has stepped up traffic enforcement in the neighborhood, but rather than issuing tickets, he would prefer that motorists obey speed limits and other traffic laws because it’s the right thing to do.