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Fruit Belt residents air concerns at meeting

As more steel girders rise with the ongoing development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, questions also mount for residents in the nearby Fruit Belt neighborhood.

About 300 people attended a community meeting Monday to air their concerns, ranging from questions about how to maintain adequate off-street parking for residents who lack driveways, to what senior residents ought to know when they receive cold calls from real estate speculators looking to buy their houses.

The meeting, held in the auditorium of Futures Academy, 295 Carlton St., was arranged by Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo.

"One of the main motivations for tonight's meeting was residents who were calling me who felt they did not have enough information about what was really going on in the [medical] corridor," Pridgen said at the conclusion of the meeting.

To improve residents' understanding of current and future developments in the medical corridor, representatives from some of the nine medical institutions developing facilities in the corridor were invited to answer questions. They included Matthew Enstice, president and chief executive officer of Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus; Michael Hughes, vice president of Kaleida Health; Michael Pietkiewicz, a spokesman for the University at Buffalo; and Steven Wright of Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Enstice informed residents that a $34 million parking garage designed to accommodate up to 2,000 vehicles is being constructed on the campus and that it is likely more garages and lots will be built in the future.

"I know everybody doesn't like [it], but unfortunately, it's something we have to have," said Enstice, who also discussed plans for improving the streetscape of Best Street.

In response to residents' concerns about a lack of adequate off-street parking in the neighborhood, Pridgen said city lawmakers have been exploring the possibility of providing daytime permit parking for residents who don't have driveways.

A representative from the city's Office of Strategic Planning assured some residents who said they were receiving blind calls from real estate speculators that those calls were not coming from the city. Pridgen further assured them that they had a right to hire a licensed real estate agent or lawyer to represent their interests before conceding to any sales.

A few residents had questions about the planned fate of the vacant Trico Building at Washington and Ellicott streets. Pridgen said the Common Council's Legislature Committee has scheduled a meeting on that property for 2 p.m. April 24, though the time could possibly be changed to 6 p.m. to accommodate those who work during the day.