Cynthia Wiggins was the East Side teenager who was killed trying to cross Walden Avenue trying to get to her job at the Galleria Mall in 1995. The mall agreed to pay a large part of a wrongful death lawsuit because it was the mall’s policy not to allow NFTA buses — and by extension the often-poorer, black riders who ride them — onto the mall’s property.
Western New York, Cheektowaga and the the Galleria Mall received national attention when nationally renowned attorney Johnnie Cochran came to Buffalo to take up the Wiggins case.
In the years following Wiggins’ death, her name and cause became politicized. Politics aside, the Cynthia Wiggins story is a very human one, of a 17-year-old single mother who was thwarted in trying to get to work by policies that were stacked up against her institutionally.
"She needs to be memorialized near the site of the accident that killed her, the accident that should not have been.
"That's where there needs to be a reminder, some gesture to acknowledge her needless death. It would be a way of saying we care, a way of saying the decision to put her and, over the years, thousands of other bus riders at risk was wrong.
"The first step down the right road is to acknowledge a wrong. The best way to do that is to change the name of a street near the Galleria Mall to Wiggins Drive.
"Dennis Gabryszak, the Cheektowaga town supervisor, doesn't like it that the taint of racism touched his town. He doesn't like it that ABC's "Nightline" came in a few years ago and talked about racism in Cheektowaga, the town the Galleria is in."