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RESIDENTS GET MESSAGE TO IMPROVE NOW

Residents of the Seneca Street area do not have to wait six to eight months for a planning report before making a difference in their neighborhood, several speakers said Tuesday night during a planning meeting that drew more than 100 people.

"We know (government) money is going to be tight," said Don Livingston, an area resident. "We don't need a planner to tell us the neighborhood is going down the tubes."

He and Pat O'Neill, another resident, said people can take the first step by cleaning up their properties and urging others to do the same.

The meeting in Harvest House was called by Neighborhood Housing Services of South Buffalo to involve the public in preparing a redevelopment plan for Seneca Street and adjacent residential streets, between Cazenovia Creek and the Buffalo River. The planning department of Lovejoy District Neighborhood Revitalization Services has been retained to prepare the plan.

Census data and a survey conducted by the planners show that the area has lost 1,300 people in the last decade and now has a population of slightly more than 9,000. Seneca Street has 131 active businesses, compared with 162 in 1992.

Throughout the area, 75 structures are for sale, 79 are vacant and 14 abandoned, according to the survey. Only one new building, a drugstore, has been constructed in the past five years, the survey says.

But 95 percent of the buildings are in very good physical shape, according to information presented by planner Bryan Cacciotti.

Participants were divided into four smaller groups for brainstorming sessions.

The most popular suggestions included attracting new businesses to Seneca, better enforcement of housing codes and crackdowns on absentee landlords, enforcement of curfews and establishing neighborhood schools.

Information will be compiled into a draft planning report that is expected to be presented in late January or early February. The public then will have an opportunity to comment before the final report is prepared.

e-mail: ternst@buffnews.com

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