Residents and neighbors near the blighted Kensington Heights apartment complex say the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is giving them the runaround when it comes to providing them information about minority hiring on the project to remediate and demolish the long-vacant asbestos-laden towers.
During a forum organized by BMHA officials this summer, residents had an opportunity to raise concerns and ask questions of the officials, the primary contractor and the company monitoring asbestos levels at the site.
But many of the two dozen people at the July 25 meeting were angry that officials were not prepared to respond to their biggest concern: minority job participation.
More than a month later, little has changed.
During the forum, Modesto Candelario, the BMHA's assistant executive director, said the authority's policy is to achieve a 20 percent minority/women hiring goal on the project and 10 percent minority business participation, as mandated by federal law known as Section 3.
Candelario also said there is a "limited pool of certified Section 3 companies" for the authority to choose from, meaning that the number is "zero, as far as Section 3 business participation" goes on the Kensington Heights project.
During the July meeting, officials said they would make the updates on minority hiring available soon. But more than a month later, the information is unavailable on the BMHA website and has not been provided to local media outlets, as authority officials promised.
"They just keep pulling our strings. They don't mean [any] good with us," said Edward Wiley, a community activist and volunteer with 100 Mighty Men Ministries, who attended the July meeting.
"They've been stalling," said Donald Williams, a member of the Buffalo Local Action Committee who also attended the meeting.
"I'd like to get this information and pass it along and see if there is a way we can get more minorities in there," he added.
The Buffalo News has been attempting to acquire the information since the forum, but multiple voice mail messages have not been returned and administrative aides for the authority have not fulfilled promises that the information would be forthcoming.
The July meeting was in response to a string of serious problems surrounding the authority's efforts to tear down six towers of Kensington Heights, whose blighted buildings scar the East Side neighborhood.
After the complex sat vacant for 30 years, the authority announced in 2009 the towers would be taken down and replaced with a $105 million retirement complex.
But efforts to tear down the structures have resulted in a flurry of problems, including lawsuits, criminal indictments and health concerns over asbestos that was improperly handled and that remains at the site.
Plans for the retirement community have been abandoned.
The total cost of the project, once estimated at $5 million, is now expected to reach at least $10 million - about $5 million more than the authority has available to fund the job.
Authority officials have blamed the increased costs on the actions of past contractors - one who was indicted and another who walked off the job - and on tougher requirements from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.