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ReUse: 635 South Park and The Oishei Foundation

When we
last spoke to Oishei Foundation Executive Director Robert Gioia, he had just
issued a statement concerning the firing of Michael Gainer from Buffalo ReUse. Without
specific charges, Gioia said that Gainer had put Buffalo ReUse in
organizational, financial and legal danger.  

In his
statement, Gioia said that the Oishei Foundation had made strides in
stabilizing operations at ReUse, followed by this paragraph:

It was
because of this concrete improvement that the Foundation agreed to release a
$50,000 payment of grant funds to [Buffalo ReUse]. It was also the basis
on which BRU was recommended by the Foundation to the owner of a
building as an ideal candidate to receive the potential donation of the
building. After several conversations between the parties, it was decided
to go forward in the due diligence process. The Oishei Foundation has offered
to pay for legal counsel through the initial phases, which is currently
estimated to be about $10 – 12,000 over the next few months.

The
building that is being referred to by Gioia is 635 South Park, a large,
industrial building owned by Daniel Black of Blackstone Business Enterprises of
Jamestown, NY, which is being brokered by R. J. Gullo & 
Co. Inc., an expert in real estate
exchange.  
Please see the R. J. Gullo website here.  The building was presented
to the board and membership 2 1/2 months ago.  The entire parcel is between South Park and Mackinaw, Fitzgerald and Katherine.

Because
of its size, Garrett felt it would be best shared with other entities such as
AmeriCorps and Father Baker Victory Services.  Gainer, along with founding
members Kevin Hayes and Caesandra Seawell had a look at the building and liked
it, according to ReUse member Bruce Beyer, but felt that even shared, it would
be unaffordable. “At that point,” Beyer says, “Garrett cut
Gainer out of all talk about the building.” 

Without
a call back from Gioia or Gullo, the question is: why this building?  Why
is Oishei putting money into “due diligence” and legal fees, when
ReUse has been offered several buildings on the East Side (one on East
Delavan), where their services are most needed?

Gioia
also made the following statement in our previous interview:

They’re
now on the verge of having something as substantial as a building given to
them,” he stated. “We could have easily thrown the towel in, but we
clearly feel the organization is headed in the right direction.  A revolt
against the board now would be in the wrong interest.”

Suddenly,
Oishei is saying the decision on the 7-year vacant building needs to be made in
30 days, which would fit in with Beyer’s description of Garrett’s tenure as a
“six-months-in-six-months-out deal,” noting that this type of
brokering is “right up Harvey’s alley.”

If
Buffalo ReUse was successful as a social movement, albeit less so as a
business, why would this sort of top-heavy acquisition further the original
mission of the organization, and how big a role should Oishei be playing in the
scenario?  Beyer, making it clear that he was speaking as an individual
and not as a spokesperson for the membership said, “It’s my personal
feeling that there’s more going on here, but I can’t put
my finger on it.”  

The membership will be pressed soon, to
come up with the decision that Gioia referred to as potentially disastrous in
his last statement.  Will the membership overthrow the board and go back to the grassroots
organization that they began as – wiser for the experience – or will they
become a top-heavy not-for-profit that needs benefactors to cover their high
overhead (up to $50K/year including taxes), when they become realty owners?  Having high overhead is counter to the original mission and self-sustaining goal Buffalo ReUse hoped for when they formed.

The membership, as a group, is clear about one thing: they don’t
care to have a skirmish in the  public eye, and when they have a clearer picture of what the
voting majority wants, they’ll be happy to make an announcement publicly.  The membership will meet in a special session on September 3rd at ReUse headquarters.

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