As a follow up to my The Story Garage article, I want to highlight another exciting Black Rock success. Over the last couple of years I’ve been following the pursuits of the Black Rock Riverside Alliance (BRRAlliance), which have resulted in numerous monumental accomplishments, from the vast introduction of urban wildlife habitats to the rehab of a number of critical storefronts.
Along the way I’ve been chatting with BRRAlliance Project Manager Anne McCooey, who is always full of energy and zeal, because she loves what she does. And she does a lot, along with her team!
Not only are there a number of game changing projects underway, BRRAlliance’s offices recently relocated to a new headquarters at 43 Hamilton Street, corner of Dearborn Street. The organization is now located on the first floor, in a space that was once home to a neighborhood bakery. McCooey told me that there is now enough room for the Alliance to host meetings for between 34-40 people, non-covid times. There’s also room for programming, along with 6 work stations, office space, 2 bathrooms, storage, and a garage (for community garden supplies and equipment).
The move into a new neighborhood space also prompted a spin-off for the Black Rock Historical Society (BRHS) which relocated over to 436 Amherst Street – the two organizations formerly shared a storefront on Niagara Street. I will have more news on the reopening of BRHS in coming days.
Aside from successfully anchoring itself in the heart of Black Rock, one of the most exciting recent revelations to come to pass (for the Alliance) is the official certification of the city of Buffalo as a Community Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. I discussed the ramifications of this designation back in April. According to McCooey, this is a huge feat for the city, as Buffalo is now deemed the 15th largest qualifying nature habitat in the US, designated by the National Wildlife Federation’s Community Wildlife Habitat Program. “They said that it would take 3 years for a city of this size to do it,” said McCooey. “We did it in 18 months. It’s the largest in NY State.”
McCooey credited the cooperative nature of Buffalo in undertaking the accomplishment, citing the City of Buffalo (Andy Rabb, Deputy Commissioner for Parks and Recreation) and its help certifying 36 parks as wildlife habitats. A number of garden organizations also participated, as did numerous citizens – altogether, there are 229 certified individual properties (and counting). Grassroots Gardens also enabled 8 schools and community gardens to be certified. That means that there are more birdbaths, native plants, pollinators, rain gardens, rain barrels, and all sorts of other ‘nature friendly’ amenities scattered throughout the city, all of which contribute to an expansive – and ecologically imperative – Habitat Project.
“Everyone is thinking about their little urban lots and saying that they can make better spaces where nature can thrive,” McCooey told me. “So far, my proudest moment was when someone said that they saw a fox in the neighborhood (on social media), and instead of people panicking and saying, ‘call the DEC!’ or ‘shoot it!’ they said, ‘let it be.’ Previously, they would have wanted it removed, but now they understand that we can all cohabitate together – people with nature. It was at that moment that I knew that we were successful in our efforts. We are creating a habitat… a community… for wildlife, and pollinators, and people… all in the city. Now we need to make this a regional movement.”
In subsequent articles, I will get back to the business at hand in Black Rock, at Market Square. There are a number of business shake-ups at the moment, some exciting news on the storefront renovation front, as well as progress with the new streetscape that should be breaking ground soon.
Lead image: New BRRAlliance home – the landlord has plans to redo the storefront