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Police accreditation, Jefferson Avenue bank highlight State of City speech

There will be new projects to look forward to on Jefferson Avenue this year:

A bank is moving in.

A financial education center will open.

And free Wi-Fi will be expanded.

Those are just some of the initiatives Mayor Byron W. Brown plans to highlight during his 12th State of the City address Thursday during a luncheon in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

Brown also will talk about state accreditation for the Buffalo Police Department – something activists have been pushing for – as well as a plan to coordinate what he called "beautiful" efforts to illuminate the city’s landscape for observances of tragedy, triumph, reflection and recognition.

In spotlighting Jefferson Avenue, Brown said neighborhood recovery has been underway across the city in every district and he wants to continue to build on that, “even as we tackle new frontiers.”

One of those new initiatives is the opening of a Northwest Bank branch on Jefferson this year.

“After evaluating their branch network it was clear that something was missing – a location on the East Side of Buffalo. They were impressed with the public investment and exciting projects underway in this historic corridor, and they decided this would be the new home for a full service branch. They will break ground this spring and open this year,” Brown said in a prepared text, adding that he appreciate's Northwest’s "commitment to deepening relationships in the community."

Brown also will outline a partnership between Northwest and Belmont Housing Resources for WNY to open a financial education center on Jefferson Avenue. Clients will have access to one-on-one counseling, workshops and online courses on a variety of financial topics, Brown said. The center will be housed in a People Inc. building.

In addition, JEF-FREE WIFI – a free Wi-Fi service – will be expanded in the Jefferson Avenue Business District to include hot spot access points from East Ferry to Best streets, Brown said. The expansion is being done in partnership with Brian Gelfand, president of Blue Wireless. The first phase included access from East Ferry to East Utica streets.

Brown also will reinforce an objective to have the Buffalo Police Department accredited by New York State. He wants it done within a year, which is a shorter time frame than police officials had mentioned earlier.

“This is an ambitious goal, but I’m confident that with the support of my leadership team, this will be accomplished,” the mayor said.

A voluntary program administered by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services since 1989, accreditation is designed to help law enforcement agencies make sure their policies are up to date and that they are using best practices. In July 2017, after years of calls for the department to be accredited by an outside agency, the department announced that it was in talks with the state to begin the process. Then last December, the appointment of Buffalo Police Lt. Joseph Fahey as accreditation administrator was the first major step.

Another project coming this year is Buffalo LIT, a Landmark Illumination Team that will coordinate efforts to light up the night sky along Buffalo’s landscape. Brown recalled the numerous expressions of support and solidarity that emerged throughout the city in 2017, as reflected in lighted facilities.

“From City Hall to the Electric Tower, One Seneca Tower to the U.S. District Courthouse, and so many other points in between and beyond, Buffalo’s iconic buildings and structures are making a statement at night,” the mayor said.

With Buffalo LIT, "these expressions of support can be coordinated as a unified beacon symbolizing what we have, what we hope for, and what we’ve lost. I’m asking all of the entities that illuminate our skyline to join our team.”

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