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Razing crews stir hope for West Side sector

A small block on the city's West Side has finally received some of the help -- and hope -- it needs.

City crews showed up on Ferguson Avenue on Thursday morning to demolish three dilapidated homes and help jump-start the revitalization of this little neighborhood, nestled between Grant and Herkimer streets.

"It's the beginning of stability," said Dwayne Robinson, the street's block club president.

"You've got prostitution, drugs and gangs on Grant Street. It flows into this street," Robinson said. "Today gives me a sense that, after all these years, something good is going to happen."

The demolition is just a slice of a larger, more ambitious collaborative project, sparked several years ago with the help of Buffalo's Westminster Presbyterian Church.

West Side Neighborhood Housing Services bought the three properties with grant money from NeighborWorks America. The city demolished the homes, thanks to the help of State Sen. William T. Stachowski and Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz, who supported new legislation allowing communities to borrow money for demolition.

Now, Habitat for Humanity, which already has refurbished three homes on the block, will build new homes on the site in the spring.

The hope is eventually to revitalize the entire block.

"Ferguson Avenue, a couple years from now, will look entirely different," said Mayor Anthony M. Masiello.

The outgoing mayor was there Thursday morning on Ferguson, and hopped into a huge excavator to take the ceremonial first swipe at the abandoned homes.

After 12 years of press conferences as mayor of Buffalo, this was Masiello's last. It was fitting it was on his home turf on the West Side, and involved neighborhood redevelopment, an issue he spoke of throughout his mayoral career.

"To me, what we're doing here today is another example of how we do our best work when we're working together," Masiello said.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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