The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority has made some “major accomplishments” over the past year, including demolishing one of the Kensington Heights towers and cleaning the soil around it, authority officials said Thursday.
Progress on the long-stalled project was one of the accomplishments cited by Executive Director Dawn E. Sander-Garrett during the authority’s annual meeting at the authority’s Perry Street headquarters.
Kensington Heights was a set of six public housing towers that sat vacant for 30 years, becoming a blighted eyesore and scar on the East Side neighborhood.
Ever since 2009, when Housing Authority executives announced the buildings would be taken down, there have been a flurry of problems, including lawsuits, criminal indictments and health concerns over asbestos that was improperly handled and that remains at the site.
But at Thursday’s annual meeting, Sanders-Garrett delivered some encouraging news. One building has been “completely” demolished, and the soil around it has been cleaned, she said.
A second tower has been “completely” abated and demolition work on it should be finished “within the next month,” she said.
“I’m excited today because we’ve been talking. We’ve been working. We’ve been trying to move a major mountain,” she said.
One of the next steps in the upcoming year is to identify additional funding sources to demolish the remaining structures at the site, Sanders-Garrett said.
The total cost of the project, once estimated at $5 million, is now expected to reach at least $10 million – about double what the authority had available to fund the job.
Officials also provided an update on the Perry Choice Neighborhood project. The authority is about three-quarters of the way toward completing an implementation proposal to compete for a grant to revitalize several public housing developments and the communities around them in the Commodore Perry neighborhood.
In March 2011, the authority was one of 17 housing authorities out of 119 competing to receive a $250,000 Choice Neighborhoods planning grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over a two-year period.
Since then, a Planning and Information Center opened last March at 398 South Park Ave. at Louisiana Street to help residents and neighbors guide the design process for the project. Organizers completed an analysis to identify what schools, churches and other businesses are in the neighborhood.
The implementation proposal is due at the end of March 2013.
With safety as a major concern among many residents, the authority also has added 235 surveillance cameras at various properties and enhanced camera monitoring capabilities, Sanders-Garrett said.
A number of upgrades also were completed around Ferry Grider Homes, including fencing and lighting, which were made possible through stimulus money from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.
Overall, the authority received $14.5 million in stimulus money for projects that employed 227 people and seven prime contractors, who worked with 18 minority subcontractors and 11 Section 3 companies that focus on employing low-income people.
About 85 percent of the money was spent on upgrades at Ferry Grider, LaSalle Courts, Commodore Perry Homes and Holling Homes.
The next regular business meeting was scheduled for noon Nov. 27 at the authority’s Perry Street headquarters.