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MASIELLO NOTES FUND PRIORITIES AT SUMMIT IN NORTH DISTRICT

Two-thirds of last year's property tax increase went to the schools and police, Mayor Masiello told 250 North District residents Wednesday evening during a neighborhood summit meeting.

"We came up with $7 million more for the Board of Education," Masiello said in the Northwest Buffalo Community Development Center at Lawn Avenue and Military Road.

The summit was the third in a series, with seven more to follow, concluding Nov. 16.

In balloting at the Wednesday evening session, area residents assigned 30 percent priority to fighting crime, 18 percent to improving housing, 12 percent to improving city services, 7 percent to the environment and 6 percent each to creating jobs and to education.

Each resident was allowed five votes, which could be cast for one item or split among several.

Noting that crime topped the list of residents' list of priorities, Patrol Chief Lawrence M. Ramunno said the good news is that the FBI has reported a 15 percent decrease in serious crimes in Buffalo.

He attributed this to such Police Department efforts as forming a gang-suppression unit and creating higher visibility for police on the streets.

Community police officers also work out of a substation that opened in February in a senior citizen apartment building on Hertel Avenue near Parkside Avenue.

Parks Commissioner Daniel Durawa told residents his department got an additional $400,000 this fiscal year, a fourfold increase over previous years, to remove stumps and dead and diseased trees and to plant trees.

He said Masiello will introduce the city's new forester at 11 a.m. Friday at Symphony Circle.

During the public comment period, Nick Sidoti, president of the Grant-Amherst Block Watchers, called for a neighborhood effort to combat drug abuse.

"There are streets in this district where drugs are being sold to youths in the middle of the afternoon," said Sidoti, who also is president of Western New York Real Estate Investors.

Agreeing, the Rev. George J. Stephan, pastor of St. John the Baptist and St. Francis Xavier Catholic churches, asked that an undercover narcotics officer be assigned to the neighborhood.

He also suggested that single mothers who move into apartments be denied welfare if a boyfriend moves in and sells drugs.

Both ideas drew applause.

Michael Bajak, co-chairman of the Riverside Alliance Club, said North District residents have been asking for "more police liaison officers -- not just a place for them" in the substation on Hertel near Parkside.

"People are afraid to walk outside their houses on Esser Street" in Riverside, several miles away from there, he said.

In what may have been a parting shot at Bakery Salvage Corp., a woman said the Chandler Street plant that converts bakery byproducts into animal feed has held the neighborhood hostage for 15 years.

On Oct. 4, the state Department of Environmental Conservation ordered the Black Rock plant closed because of persistent odors, but that may be temporary.

North Council Member Dale L. Zuchlewski praised residents for taking part for in the neighborhood summit a second year, which he called "a model of citizenship participation."

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