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The Phoenix Rising Part II: Arson flames extinguished for good with rainstorm at unveiling

Brett DeNeve:

Joe Galvin’s new addition on 461 Massachusetts Ave, the porch salvaged from Black Rock’s own twice arson-scorched 81 Amherst St., was unveiled this past Saturday at 2 p.m., bringing out the spirit of the Buffalo community as a whole for a joyous celebration with food and music until 5 p.m.


Stephan Coker, 31, of “Three Bothers Catering” was manning the grill, providing Larkinville sliders to die for, hot dogs, and pasta salad; Rob Cuck, 19, accompanied him. “I’m very happy to be here,” Coker said “We are all here today to give back to the community. I grew up around this area and really appreciate what Joe is doing.”

Coker met Galvin down by the square about a year ago and they have been in contact ever since. Coker fell in love with cooking at the age of 16 and has been behind the grill ever since, even going the distance by getting a fork and knife tattoo a little bigger than the size of a dollar coin on the back of his right hand by the base of his thumb. “I married the game that day,” Coker commented.



Buck Quigley and the “Steam Donkeys” filled the atmosphere with tunes packed full of bluesy box scale guitar solos and pitch perfect vocal harmonies. By the end of their set, each member of the band had song at least a verse of a song, leaving any musicians in the crowd to make mental note of hard work, dedication, and an overall love for the jam. “Even with this rain there’s a nice crowd. Joe asked us to come out and we’re happy to be playing for him and everyone,” Quigley commented.


“Victoria thought she was coming to see the porch and maybe meet my wife and a couple of people but when she saw the whole thing she was very surprised,” Galvin (above in white ball cap) commented. He is of course referring to Victoria Armstrong, owner of 81 Amherst St. Galvin went to Wild Things on Lexington off Elmwood and got two pieces of jewelry made, previous to the unveiling, which incorporated the colors of the porch’s previous house as well as it’s new one. One went to Armstrong the other went to his wife.  “I thought we had a great turn out,” he said.

Don Ingalls, VP of state and federal relations at BlueCross BlueShield of WNY, had heard about this event through BR’s preview article as well as reading about it in Artvoice and was interested immediately, almost mistaking the porch’s relocation for actions associated with PUSH Buffalo. “It’s great what Joe’s doing for the area, I had to come check this out,” Ingalls said.

PUSH (People United for Sustainable Housing) may not have literally been behind Galvin’s actions, but the fact that confusion could occur speaks volumes. PUSH Buffalo was founded, among other things, “to create strong neighborhoods with quality affordable housing,” according to their website.  This goal pumps through the veins of everyone who came out to this event.

Robert Barrali, a district building inspector, decided to stop by after watching the St. Joes football team play at St. Mary’s. Barrali first heard Galvin’s name through the city’s 311 complaint line, also dialed as (716) 851-4890. The line, accompanied by its almost too-catchy slogan “One call does it all,” has many different service options, ranging from animals and parking to streets and forestry; one of these options is housing and inspections. “If someone calls in about street maintenance or garbage pick up, it goes to their department. If it has to do with housing inspections and it’s in my district, I hear about it,” said Barrali. “Joe has called a good amount of times for one reason or another and never had any intentions of keeping his calls anonymous. What he’s doing is great for the community,” he stated.  Although this event highlighted Galvin’s most recent conquest, to many people this event was a long awaited mile marker in a footrace towards a better neighborhood here on the corner of Mass and 19th, let alone the West side at large.


Friday, prep day, was quite telling; the porch was getting its final touch ups as rain clouds began to gather themselves in numbers with no desire to leave any time soon. The actual party was to take place around the corner, to the left of 49 19th St., in a place referred to in the local vernacular as “The Compound.”


This common lot, residing between 49 19th and the houses on adjacent pavement Massachusetts, is a tranquil place for the community to breath. Residents of 19th, Mass., and even neighboring streets will bring their dogs to walk around or just take a load off on one of the benches or lawn chairs that are openly available. Some sculptures are set throughout the green grass, giving the public some art to look into and ponder, making it that much easier to escape the worries of reality for a few minutes.

Galvin looked out of the attic window of 459 Massachusetts Ave roughly 25 years ago; “It looked like a forest out there,” he commented. The compound was just another untapped lot in the city: a chaotic placement of barriers, both earthly and human.


A few weeks ago he visited his tenants at 459, making time to climb the narrow, yet steep staircase from the second floor to the attic, and couldn’t help but look out this window again. Taking a deep breath, he reminisced about his residency in that attic a quarter of a century ago. He knew how far he had come, but understood how much farther he wanted to go.




Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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