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Plan to transform neighborhood gets boost from new grant

Buffalo Promise Neighborhood has some big plans to help transform education, health care, housing and the business district for 12,000 residents in the 14215 ZIP code.

Now there are timelines and more funding that will help put those plans in motion.
The group will break ground Oct. 17 on its new 10,000-square-foot early childhood center at Bailey Avenue and Amherst Street.

And the organization announced this week that it was awarded a $962,765 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to fund efforts to improve safety and security for the children and families who live, work and go to school in the Promise Neighborhood.

"Safer neighborhoods create a better quality of life and foster an atmosphere in which children can feel safe at school, at home and in parks and playgrounds," said David K. Chamberlain, vice chairman of the Westminster Foundation, which produced the Promise Neighborhood plan. Chamberlain is also the chief executive officer of the organization.

"This [grant] is another important step forward," he said.

Buffalo Promise Neighborhood is a five-year plan to improve the lives of children and families in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods by working with members of the community to come up with strategies to help residents help themselves.

The federal grant will be administered over three years through the department's Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program and will help fund:

*Additional police patrols for crime "hot spots" in the Promise Neighborhood, roughly bounded by Main and East Amherst streets, Kensington Avenue, Eggert Road and Winspear Avenue.

*More equipment, including cameras and radios, to help monitor crime.

*A Youth Outreach Program to build long-term mentoring relationships with troubled youth and to provide conflict resolution for students and families.

*A full-time caseworker, located in the community, to help residents with employment transition, education, family preservation, housing and community development services.

*A research partnership with the University at Buffalo Regional Institute to more closely examine the drivers of crime in the neighborhood and solutions to the problem.

The funding that was announced this week was secured with help from the Western New York congressional delegation; the City of Buffalo; the Buffalo Police Department, which put together the grant application; the Buffalo Urban League; and the Buffalo Local Initiatives Support Corp.

The nearly $1 million will be added to other money the organization has secured, including a $1.5 million grant awarded in May by M&T Bank, a major Promise Neighborhood partner; $1 million awarded in February by the John R. Oishei Foundation to help fund construction of the early childhood center; a $6 million federal grant awarded in December to implement the five-year plan; and about $182,000 from Local Initiatives Support Corp.

The childhood center, expected to open next year, will support 150 children from infancy to age 5 and is an integral part of the overall plan to impact the lives of residents from cradle through college.

Another goal is to improve two low-performing schools in the neighborhood – Highgate Heights Elementary and Bennett High – through shared management between the Buffalo Public Schools and Promise Neighborhood.

Buffalo Promise Neighborhood will follow the example of Westminster Community Charter School, which was transformed from one of the worst-performing schools in Buffalo to one of the best, despite its low-income demographic.