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Weekly Roundup: Who says we can’t have nice things?

We are nothing if not a diverse community of free-thinkers, and our weekly content is meant to represent that fact. Backing up a few for a macro-view of the Buffalo Rising posts from any given week, we see a city in transition — something we wholeheartedly celebrate as a local media presence for 20+ years. In other words, the one thing that remains constant about our content is that Buffalo is ever-changing. Sometimes the story ends up being less about a post itself and more about the opinions of readers, who often help us illuminate the devilish details with their unique vantage points.

Beginning this Monday and continuing each thereafter, we’ll be rounding up a collection of ten stories that ran the previous week, cobbling together an effective snapshot of what’s happening in our beloved city. We leave the hard-news-politics to the other folks, but all the rest is fair game. So, here’s the skinny on what we covered last week, from environmental reform and cleanup initiatives to positive developments for the food menu at our public schools and a tip about a four day Cinco de Mayo party.

01

Buffalo may well be looking toward a prosperous future, but a careful eye must remain trained on the past. Trepidation about concepts like ‘urban renewal’ and ‘gentrification’ comes from warranted concern, and the handling of the Fruit Belt post-WW2 is a prime example. Bradley Bethel’s history lesson about the inherent racism of real estate ‘redlining’ in sections of the East Side (as construction for the 33 was being planned) takes us back to a time that’s difficult — but necessary — to examine. A quote from Hamlin Park resident Esterphine Greene sets the tone: “Those who have no seat at the table will find themselves on the menu.” The vintage photos are too few but fascinating.

02

There’s hope for Buffalonians troubled by President Trump’s rollback of nutrition requirements for food served in public schools. Based on a series of recommendations from Bridget O’Brien Wood, Food Service Director with Buffalo Public Schools, the school system has allotted over $1.1M to procure regionally sourced items from 5 NY-based businesses. The focus seems to be on improved nutrition while maintaining a kid-friendly menu.

03

Part and parcel to Governor Cuomo’s Health Across all Policies in New York State initiative, $30.1M has been earmarked for improved infrastructure related to air quality, cycling and walkability in WNY. The funding is to be split among 15 specific projects, and we’ve broken it all down for you. Naturally, residents are divided about how the money is set to be spent. It’s always interesting — and sometimes infuriating — to discover what politicians think a city needs, looking in at us from the outside. What do you think the money should be spent on? Did they get it at least partially right? Chime in!

04

What do you like to eat when you smoke that funny stuff? Are you unable to steer yourself away from super-indulgent ‘old reliables’? Is it all about the power of suggestion? Maybe you don’t smoke pot, but plenty of people do and they’ve become much less interested in hiding it than, say, 10 years ago. With legalized recreational marijuana use on the horizon in NY state, UB did a little research on the eating habits of pot smokers… and while the results aren’t terribly surprising, they posit some important questions about how to prevent an avalanche of bad habits on gen-pop that’s already struggling with high levels of obesity. On the other hand, as one reader pointed out, habitual marijuana users have a statistically higher rate of thinness… so maybe they’re the exception to the rule? Brownies, anyone?

05

Especially for folks that work remotely and also enjoy full-flavored coffee, there’s no such thing as too many indie coffee shops. Spend a few hours working on a laptop in one and you’ll really start to get a feel for the place and begin realizing how different each one is from the others — much more so than anyone ever could dashing in and out to just grab a mobile order from your favorite corporate coffee chain. With its repurposed gymnasium floor and custom light boxes, Jam Coffee — the latest from Tipico-owner Jesse Crouse (along with co-owners Amber Small and Monica Cichon) — fills a definite need along Parkside, right by the Buffalo Zoo. Read on to find out more about their innovative business model.

06

Two cleanup initiatives are on Buffalo’s horizon. One is already established ( the second annual Grant Street cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, May 4 – details and much commentary here) and one is a new proposal from artist/environmental activist Alexis Oltmer. Oltmer, who often repurposes the plastic and debris collected from her own cleanup efforts by incorporating it into her artwork, has posted a Change.org petition regarding Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina – and a series of proposed dates for beach cleanup groups. With an eye on the hot-button topic of plastic pollution, Oltmer is looking to help educate people while also engaging them in a crusade to preserve Buffalo’s waterfront.

07

In a bid to make every day Earth Day, last week Wegman’s announced a plan to reduce the use of plastic packaging made from fossil fuels in its stores while also vowing to phase out plastic bags this year, months ahead of the scheduled 2020 statewide ban. “We need to ensure packaging is functional and performs as expected, which is key to reducing food waste. But, it must also use materials efficiently and responsibly, and be recyclable whenever possible,” said Wegmans packing and sustainability manager, Jason Wadsworth. Reader reactions to this story were varied and revealing, from accusing the supermarket chain of “liberal stupidity” and attempting to cash in on the sale of reusable bags, to suggesting compost heaps at each store or reminding folks to stock up on plastic bags while they have the chance.

08

It probably seems like forever that there’s been scaffolding set up in and around Evergreen Health Services at the corner of Elmwood and Chippewa, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just after EHS opened the doors to its expanded facility at 206 S. Elmwood two years back, work began on restoring the façade of what was once the Roanoke Arms Hotel. We checked in with Justin Azzarella, VP of Community Development, and Kim LaVare, Associate VP for Special Projects and Strategic Initiatives, for an encouraging update.

09

Snow storms are even more part of Buffalo’s fabric than hot wings or any of our beloved-yet-beleaguered sports teams. 12 years and 30,000 trees later and ReTree has reached its goal. ReTree Western New York, which is part of the Buffalo Green Fund, was established in the wake of losing some 57,000 trees during a fall snowstorm in October 2006. Try and envision Buffalo with 57,000 less trees and it’s easy to gain an appreciation for the efforts documented here.

10

The only thing better than a rocking Cinco de Mayo shindig is one that lasts four days… in this case, thanks to the Kentucky Derby. Bust out your favorite lampshade and head over to Hot Mama’s Canteen pretty much at any point during business hours between Friday , May 3 and Monday, May 6, and you’ll get caught in the undertow. There’s plenty of live music involved, drink specials, discounted tacos and a hot pickle eating contest. Deets here.

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Written by Christopher Treacy

Christopher Treacy

Christopher John Treacy has been an ongoing contributor to The Public since the paper's beginnings and was the voice behind the celebrated column, 'The Grumpy Ghey' as well as the Editor in Chief of Loop magazine's newsprint edition. A Buffalo transplant from Boston (by way of a two year layover in Austin), he was formerly the lead music critic at the Boston Herald and has written for alt-weekly newspapers throughout the country. Now a Buffalo resident for over six years, he spends much of his time hoarding vinyl LPs and devising ways to survive that don't involve suits or cubicles. Wish him luck, he always needs it.

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