While recognizing the tragic circumstances which led to the development, leaders in the City of Buffalo say Bishop Richard Malone's choice to move into the St. Stanislaus parish demonstrates a vote of confidence in the turnaround of the long-struggling Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.
It was announced April 17 by Bishop Richard Malone that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo will sell his residence, an E.B. Green-designed mansion at 77 Oakland Place, to raise funds for the diocesan compensation fund for victims of childhood sexual abuse allegedly conducted by priests. Malone announced he will relocate to the former convent house on the grounds of St. Stanislaus Parish, on Townsend Street.
Malone's choice of moving to the East Side, specifically the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, has city leaders finding a silver lining in an otherwise very dark matter.
"This is a tremendous vote of confidence by Bishop Malone and the Catholic Diocese on the investment, the progress, the focus that is being placed in Broadway-Fillmore," said Mayor Byron Brown, who told WBFO his administration has invested millions of dollars into the revitalization of the neighborhood, including capital improvements at the Broadway Market.
New York State recently committed $5 million to the Central Terminal, a shuttered but still cherished neighborhood asset that many argue still has great potential for redevelopment.
Common Councilmember David Franczyk pointed to cultural institutions which have also invested in the neighborhood, such as Torn Space Theater, which build an extension from the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle building on Fillmore Avenue to house its performances.
Franczyk says recently arrived immigrants, including many from Bangladesh, have also taken initiatives to rebuild the neighborhood. He pointed to one example he has witnessed.
"There was one house that was in rough shape. The roof was shot. The plumbing was all burst. the inside walls were all crumbling. The place was in horrible shape. One of the new immigrants came in and paid $41,000 cash for it," Franczyk said. "It probably has a negative value. But they're going to go in there and spend tens of thousands of dollars fixing it. That's going to lift all the boats."
Franczyk hopes it will also encourage many who romanticize about the neighborhood but make few visits to give the neighborhood another look.
Malone, on April 17, spoke of his decision to choose St. Stanislaus Parish for his new residence, recognizing developments in that neighborhood.
"I've wondered about it for some time, whether it would be a good thing to be over there. Things are changing are so much. There are encouraging signs with the Central Terminal, we hope, and other things like that," said Malone. "New peoples, immigrants and others are coming in. A lot of diversity. And still, it's the heart of Buffalo's Polonia."
Even before the Diocese of Buffalo faced pressure to come clean on alleged past sexual abuse by priests, it faced criticism for owning the residents at 77 Oakland Place. Although it was home to six bishops and their assistants, the mansion was also used for numerous functions.
Malone, when announcing the formation of the compensation program, stated that the sale of diocesan properties would be among the options on the table for raising funds to support that program.