Meeting of the minds resolves controversy at old Deaconess Hospital site

Sep 26, 2018

Buffalo's East Side will be getting a new daycare center and doctor's office, just not quite on the site originally planned.

When the Community Action Organization of Western New York proposed the project for a six-acre site on Riley Street - the old Deaconess Hospital - in July, many neighbors were upset because they were working on single-family housing on the site and did not know what the organization was planning. The two sides were told to talk and work out the situation.

The plan was back before the Common Council Legislation Committee Tuesday with a new location and peace with the neighbors, who still want housing. Architect Jeffrey Hazel said the meetings helped.

"We had not had meetings with the neighbors, so we were tabled at that meeting, and we have since had a few meetings with the neighbors and they really did not want this building to be located on that parcel," Hazel said, "and one of their suggestions was that we take a look at the parcel to the south of there."

That is why the building will now be at 600 Northampton Street, with committee approval Tuesday and probable Council approval expected Tuesday.

The building will replace a CAO daycare center at True Bethel Baptist Church. That is why True Bethel Pastor and Council President Darius Pridgen recused himself when the vote took place.

"This Council, I believe, acted responsibly when we asked them to go back out to the community. CAO actually did," Pridgen said. "We had staff at the meeting and it actually was a good meeting. As you see, I don't think there is one person here at this public hearing to oppose it. This, Mr. Chairman, is the right way to do it."

The CAO needs the new $8 million building finished by Sept. 1 of next year because that is when the True Bethel lease runs out.

The neighbors said they have a commitment from the CAO to come back with a plan for single-family homes on the site. Speaking to the Legislation Committee Tuesday before approval, Valencia Sease said there is a need for the daycare center, but the neighborhood needs the housing more.

"We still felt that it could have been relocated somewhere else, that it didn't necessarily have to be on that site, but we feel there is a need," Sease said. "However, our focus still is making sure that within a short period of time they are back here asking for special use permits for single-family housing on that site."