About 30 people gathered Monday in the George K. Arthur Center to take the preliminary steps of organizing new 10 block clubs on the Buffalo's far East Side.
The informational session in the Genesee Street center was an initiative of the Buffalo-Cheektowaga Revitalization Task Force, a cross-border alliance between the City of Buffalo and Town of Cheektowaga founded three years ago to collaborate on tackling common issues affecting communities that straddle the city-town line.
"There's really no distinction between the streets on that side of the line and on this side of the line," said Linda Freidenberg, president of the Board of Block Clubs in Buffalo.
"We all have the same problems, the same issues, and we all want, what, for our neighborhoods? We want them safe, clean and [to] have our houses kept up to code so our property values go up instead of going down," Freidenberg added.
Also assisting residents with information on building stronger communities to fight blight and crime were Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana and Cheektowaga Council Member Stanley J. Kaznowski III, two of the founders of the task force.
"The key to a good block club is bringing all of the stakeholders together," Fontana said.
After Monday's meeting, Kaznowski said a number of citizen organizations that are equivalent to block clubs have been active in Cheektowaga for about a dozens years.
"Whether it's a community watch group, a block club, a homeowners group or a taxpayers group, the idea is all the same. It's an organization of individuals that have come together to be the eyes and ears of the police and to also take pride in their neighborhood," Kaznowski said.
Among the streets being targeted are Poplar, Briscoe, Sattler and Littlefield avenues, as well as Zelma and Theodore streets and Sumner Place.
Buffalo Police Officer Andre Lloyd of C District and Cheektowaga Police Lt. Gerald Jankowski encouraged individual residents to collaborate with local police. Adam E. Locher, district office manager for Assemblyman Dennis H. Gabryszak, offered tips on how block clubs could qualify for mini-grants through the state's Livable Communities Capacity Grant program for small neighborhood beautification projects and block club signs.
Meanwhile, Freidenberg characterized block clubs as the backbone of the city.
"They keep the neighborhoods safe. They put their block club signs up so that everybody knows that they're there in the neighborhood and that we're watching out for crime. The police officers can't be everywhere, and we've depended on them a lot to solve the issues in our neighborhoods, issues that we should be solving ourselves," said Freidenberg.