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Project needs to get moving; Michigan Street Heritage Corridor is running far behind schedule

It's fair to say that the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor project has been slow going. And recent word that more time has been sought to develop a plan isn't exactly encouraging.

This project has been beleaguered from its inception. The 20-plus members of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Commission have been slowed by forces beyond their control as they tried to develop a management plan by last August's deadline.

Perhaps that's why, in late spring, the commission received an extension giving it until the end of this year. That still hasn't been enough time, and commissioners have requested an extension into 2013.

This commission has been troubled from the start, with then-Gov. David A. Paterson taking until 2008 to make the necessary appointments, even though state legislation established it in 2007. And it took another year for the commission to receive 501(c)(3) tax exempt status and set up a corporation that will continue once the commission is dissolved.

And then there's the money.

The commission has been waiting since June for Albany to redirect $120,000 in grant money to pay the consulting firm chosen to develop a management plan.

The commission had been awarded a state grant for $70,000 and another for $50,000, with the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency designated to administer the money. The process stalled when both the agency and commission decided it would be easier if the contracts came directly to the commission, and the commission is still waiting for that to happen.

And more delay involved the planning consultant, Huntley and Associates. It took a long time to get a contract from Huntley, which will put together the management plan.

These delays have added to the burden on the commission members, but it's a burden these volunteers have to pick up.

Indeed, they should get the resources necessary to help bring alive Buffalo's role in African-American history and in the Underground Railroad. The railroad helped slaves escape to the North and Canada, and one of its stops was Buffalo's Michigan Street Baptist Church, where fleeing slaves could hide before their trip to safety across the Niagara River. The corridor also includes such historic sites as the Colored Musicians Club and the Nash House Museum.

The Michigan Street African American Heritage Commission was formed to tell the story of an important chapter in Buffalo's history. The story is too important to be derailed by a series of delays.

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