Activists & leaders call for more community centers in Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- As the medical corridor continues to grow, people living in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt neighborhood are asking for the city to invest in their daily lives.

“None of those benefits are trickling down from our anchor institutions into our neighborhoods,” said India Walton, a resident and activist.

She wants to see a new community center opened in the neighborhood.

“I think it would really just bring back a real sense of unity and bring back a sense of hope to people who have felt so left out for so long,” said Walton.

She’s envisioning a gathering place with year-round sports, job training, cooking classes and access to computers. Walton hopes it will provide youth something to do in the evening.

“Even for children to be able to come in and get to know their neighbors, get to know our elders and have our oral histories told, it’s very beneficial,” she said.

The idea has caught the attention of Common Council President Darrius Pridgen. He told News 4 expanding the Johnnie B. Wiley facility could be an option.

“If I had the ability to fulfill dreams, it would be something there on that site,” said Pridgen.

He said he’s met with Mayor Byron Brown to work on getting the one to two million dollars a community center is expected to cost. He’s also reached out to the medical campus to discuss how it can contribute.

“I stand behind them and hope that within this next year we are able to come to some sort of solution for that community,” said Pridgen.

A city spokesperson confirmed to News 4 Mayor Brown is reviewing how community centers fit into the recreational needs of the city.

“The centers are very important for this city and I hope they put them throughout the city,” said Billie Webster, the program manager for the violence prevention program SNUG. “Let’s give these kids something to do other than fighting each other, or on Facebook going back and forth.”

He says the Genesee and Bailey areas are also in need of centers, especially to provide job training.

“A lot of the kids want to work,” said Webster. “There’s a lot of people tell us they would hire them, when we go to these people to get jobs for these kids, they say we would hire them but they don’t have skills.”

Webster told News 4 it’s important the whole community gets involved in efforts to improve the lives of children living in Buffalo.

“Show the kids that we love them,” he said. “We need to be able to be there for the kids no matter who they are, what they look like because they’re all our kids.”

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