Prospects improving for Tonawanda Street neighborhood

Mar 24, 2014

Like many revitalized urban areas,  volunteers are leading the effort to return Tonawanda Street to its former heights.

Amherst Street in the Black Rock-Riverside corner of Buffalo was a pretty bad place a decade ago, until turned around by residents and merchants who wanted something better.

Councilmember Joe Golombek says it's now a lesson being played out along Tonawanda Street with people determined things have to change.

Debbie Lombardo from Black Rock-Riverside Neighborhood Housing Services is leading volunteers under the banner of Spotlighting Tonawanda Street.

Executive Director Linda Chiarenza says Tonawanda used to be a nice street next to Riverside Park.
"When my son was in high school which was many years ago, he would be playing baseball and I would take my daughter across the street for an ice cream cone. You can't do that anymore. It's drug ridden," Chiarenza said.

"The only way we're going to take the street back is to take it back ourselves. You certainly get a lot of response from the city and the police, but a lot of it is a volunteer effort."

Lombardo says a lot of the work is based on training from NeighborWorks, a federal agency which helps and trains community workers like some of her volunteers. She says there will soon be an adopt-a-block program.

Golombek says this is all the same pattern which turned around Amherst Street.