While biking around the West Side today, I came across a guy mowing the lawn in front of this vacant property at the corner of Virginia Street and Prospect Avenue. Instinctively I got excited, thinking that maybe I was about to encounter the new owner or caretaker of the building. Instead, I found myself talking to the building’s immediate neighbor, Jeffrey Lokken, who told me that he’s been mowing the grass at the corner for years. So in a way, I was correct in my assumption that he was the caretaker of the property (by default).
I asked Jeffrey about the plight of the building, and he told me that he and his neighbors have been tearing their hair out for years, helplessly watching the structure fall into disrepair. Even with the news of a new owner and potential plans that were posted on BRO last August (see here), it can be frustrating to play the waiting game for so long. Watching properties such as this languish, in neighborhoods that are otherwise fairly strong, can be infuriating. Thankfully, there are people like Jeffrey who do what it takes to keep their blocks looking the best they can – even if that means spending his time mowing the lawn of a neighboring dysfunctional property.
When I asked Jeffrey why he does it… why he cares, he led me down the sidewalk and pointed to his red brick house with a newly shingled mansard roof. “That’s why,” he told me [pointing]. “We bought this house twenty years ago, and around ten years ago we finally realized that we made the right decision. This is a tight-knit neighborhood where people watch out for one another. There are neighbors here that have been on this street longer than we have. We maintain our houses because we are proud to live here, and if that means that I have to mow the neighbor’s lawn, I’ll do it.”
Talking with Jeffrey was inspirational. He told me that he and his wife had no intentions of ever leaving, especially after the significant roof investment that they had made. Aside from the gorgeous roof, he was particularly fond of a small gargoyle that he had fashioned onto one of the roof tiles. Can you spot it?
Thanks to Jeffrey for doing his part to make Buffalo a better place to live. Now, hopefully his hard work will pay off and the new owners will get to work fixing up this troubled building.