University Heights, Buffalo, NY

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Graffiti to Art II

Below is a link to a very brief article about the work done in University Heights to cover up graffiti and create works of public art in the process.  While the article is much shorter than the one I posted yesterday from the Buffalo News, it includes several photographs of the new art.  Be sure to check out the article, and see the art for yourself in person!

The art of conquering graffiti: Public project beautifies University Heights


 I have always tried to use my posts for this blog to relay positive information about the University Heights community, and the article below from the October 29th edition of the Buffalo News "City & Region" section certainly does that.  It provides yet another example of the great things happening in the University Heights neighborhood, and the great people who care about their community.  Specifically, it outlines a project carried out by the University Heights Tool Library, students from the University at Buffalo, and local artists in order to deal with vandalism in the neighborhood.  Unfortunately, I was unable to copy images of the artwork onto the blog (I instead inserted an image of the neighborhood along Main Street), but I encourage everyone to visit University Heights and see it for themselves!

 "The art of conquering graffiti: Public project beautifies University Heights," by Susan Schulman

Vincent Alejandro was painting a streetscape on the side of West Northrup Place building, depicting Main Street shops along with a little girl reading a book.

Around the corner an artist known as “Brakes” started a work that, when finished, will include “hip-hop vegetables.” More on that later.

And down Main Street a bit, in a narrow alleyway, artist Chuck Tingley was painting the face of a girl with cat-like eyes on a part of the same wall that an artist known as “OGRE” was using to create “Bookworm.” On an opposite wall in the same alley, David “Vintango” Pierro was painting a pink, blue and white robot figure that seemed like a cross between Beetle Bailey and a transformer. There was also a slight resemblance, especially in the face, to Pierro himself.

This is one answer to Buffalo’s graffiti problem.

Let a group of artists paint over the graffiti – and create a public art project in the process.

That’s exactly what was happening Sunday, and will continue the rest of this week, in Buffalo’s University Heights neighborhood.

A day earlier, on Saturday, a group of about 40 people, mostly University at Buffalo students, volunteered to help clean graffiti off University Heights buildings along Main and its side streets.

Cleaning graffiti off wood and vinyl siding can be tough, but is generally doable, organizers said. Getting graffiti off brick is another story. It’s almost impossible.

That’s where the artists came in.

Thirteen local artists are replacing the graffiti scrawled on a dozen or so brick buildings with streetscapes and other designs intended to add to the community picture rather than disfiguring it.

“With this project, we hope to show the University Heights community that the best approach to graffiti abatement is art itself, while adding to the unique flavor of University Heights,” said Jim Montour of Community Canvases.

Montour is among the small group of people responsible for the project. Others include Darren Cotton and Aaron Krolikowski, the founder and manager, respectively, of the University Heights Tool Library .
The Tool Library on West Northrup – which operates somewhat like a regular library by lending tools to members instead of books – obtained a $2,500 Keep America Beautiful grant that got the public art project started.

The first part of the project, Cotton said, was to locate graffiti. Volunteers were asked to report graffiti to the Tool Library using a smartphone application. The process resulted in about 100 graffiti locations, which were then mapped, Cotton said.

Community Canvases was brought in as a partner in the project, to bring public art to the sites where the graffiti could not be removed, Krolikowski said.

Community Canvases is rooted in a research project Montour was doing for Buffalo Common Council Member Joseph Golombek, who was looking for ways to combat graffiti. As a member of the Council’s central staff, Montour said, he learned that one solution is public arts. As a spin-off of that research, Montour and Alex Cornwell formed Community Canvases, devoted to bringing artists into communities to create public art.

For the University Heights project, Community Canvases brought in 13 local artists who are volunteering their time and talents. All the buildings being painted are owned by Michael Miranda, who gave the artists permission to replace graffiti with their art work, Montour said.

Some of the artists are formally trained and work out of art studios, or as graphic artists or designers. Others are largely self-taught. In a couple of cases, the art work seems rooted in graffiti-style painting.
Among the artists working Sunday was Alejandro, who recently returned to Buffalo after 20 years. After graduating from Performing Arts High School, Alejandro moved to Missouri with his family. He said he financed his return by “painting his way back” to Buffalo. The streetscape he’s painting on West Northrup is entitled “Higher Learning in University Heights.”

Garrett Dykstra, 27, of Lockport, was painting a Buffalo skyline on another wall of the West Northrup building.

Around the corner, the artist known as “Brakes” was doing a hip-hop-style painting that will include, he said, hip-hop vegetables, including a tomato with a gold chain.

Another artist, known as “Rusker,” was painting a portrait often referred to the “Buffalo Ugly Face.”
Working in another alley was Tingley, 30, a SUNY Buffalo State graduate who has an art gallery on Exchange Street. He was painting a large face of a young girl with gold and brown cat-like eyes. On the same wall, OGRE, 29, whose “Book Worm” painting bore some resemblance to Eric Carle’s “Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

Painting the opposite wall in the alley was Pierro, whose work was his signature robot design. Pierro is a graphic designer who graduated from Sweet Home High School in 1998, then from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Some of the artists had just about finished their work before the sun went down Sunday. Others would be continuing over the next week.

“We hope this project and partnership with Community Canvases can turn into a larger public art initiative,” Krolikowski said.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The University Heights Tool Library

This long-overdue post provides a brief overview of the phenomenal work of the University Heights Tool Library in 2011 and 2012.  Located at 5 West Northrup Place, the Tool Library has participated in projects with various departments at the University at Buffalo, the city government, and local organizations to help improve the University Heights neighborhood.  The resources and people from the Tool Library provided valuable contributions to such neighborhood projects as the rehabilitation of green spaces and flower beds at Linear Park and the intersection of Tyler, Bruce, and Flower Streets, contributed to cleanups of the Minnesota Street median community garden, decorated several storefronts during the seasonal “Light the Heights,”  and planted trees throughout the neighborhood, just to name a few.  In addition to these efforts, the work of the University Heights Tool Library has also helped bring local and city organizations and residents together both to prevent the duplication of efforts, as well as to help foster an even greater sense of community.  The many individuals associated with the Tool Library highlights the overwhelming presence of caring and dedicated residents that the University Heights neighborhood is blessed with.  For more information about the work of the Tool Library, along with contact information, hours of operation, membership applications, and donations, please visit its website at  

Saturday, August 31, 2013

University Heights sign

Have you every considered the many benefits of urban living?  The University Heights neighborhood is home to many quality and affordable houses.  Please check out the Heath Street Block Club at the link below for a list of homes for sale in the area.  This list is updated every few weeks.  While at the link, be sure to search the Heath Street Block Club website to see some of the great work performed by a very dedicated and caring group of residents in the heights.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Film Entertainment in the Heights

The University at Buffalo's Student Association and Office of Student Life are sponsoring a summer film series on South Campus.  Currently underway and going until August 21st, films will be shown for free on Hayes Hall lawn.  In case of rain, the secondary location will be Allen Hall.  You can check for movies and times at

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Movies in the Heights

The University Heights neighborhood is blessed with many entertainment venues and attractions, including a fantastic movie theater in the Amherst Dipson Theater.  Located at 3500 Main Street, right across from the University at Buffalo’s South Campus and next to the Tops Plaza, the theater shows a variety of different major studio and independent films.  The theater offers reduced price tickets, as well as half priced popcorn and drinks, every Tuesday.  The Amherst Dipson also shows various operas and ballets on screen at certain points during the year.  For more information about the theater visit their website at you are looking to attend a movie, please stop on by!       

Monday, July 16, 2012

Housing in the Heights


The following article was composed by David Heraty of VOICE and posted to Buffalo Rising on June 21st.  The article does a great job highlighting the efforts of many dedicated individuals who are committed to improving housing conditions in the University Heights neighborhood.

The city's troubled University Heights neighborhood has been seeing positive change at the grassroots level.  At the hands of negligent absentee landlords, crumbling housing stock has hollowed out the core of the neighborhood.  From Englewood and Merrimac on the west to Lisbon and Minnesota on the east, the first few blocks in from Main Street were in pretty rough shape.  A student housing unit was taken down by a fire.  Tragedies have resulted from student party violence.  The problems remain, but in 2011, the downward spiral began to reverse its course.

Working through VOICE-Buffalo, a faith-based social justice organization, a handful of committed citizens decided to confront the problem head-on.  They identified the problem, crafted a solution, and went to work - and ended up being the catalyst for a change in housing conditions.  A trip through the neighborhood revealed dozens of houses which were in a state of disrepair.  These properties were evaluated from a public vantage point for housing violations such as peeling paint, broken windows, and unsafe porch balconies, among others.  A list of problem properties was compiled and, along with a detailed list of violations, was submitted to City Hall's 311 complaint system.

The results were seen even more quickly than expected.  As the neighborhood's most problematic landlords were issued letters of violation, many of them went to work making the necessary repairs.  The landlords who failed to fix the violations found themselves in Buffalo City Housing Court.  The inspector's efforts to work with the landlords paid dividends, and within a few months, substantial exterior improvement was noticeable.  However, there was still the question of interior violations such as faulty wiring and unsafe living quarters.

Working with UB, the city's Inspections Department developed a pilot program called Operation Student Safety.  Its purpose is to obtain access to rental housing units and conduct interior inspections.  For the past three semesters, sweeps of the neighborhood have covered every street that is plagued by problem properties.  Several of the property owners have found themselves in Housing Court.  The most egregious example was a property on Lisbon, which had to be condemned due to the magnitude of the violations.  The organizers from VOICE-Buffalo still play a part in the process, submitting fifteen problem properties to City Hall each semester for special attention.  Once a safe haven for negligent landlords, University Heights has become a model for effective enforcement of the housing code.

The success in University Heights has been a joint achievement of the university, city inspectors and VOICE-Buffalo.  There's much more work to be done to rebuild the neighborhood, but an improvement in the inspection process - and by extension, the housing conditions - was an important first step.  It's also an example of how ordinary citizens can achieve social change by acting locally.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Free Homebuyer and Homeowner Workshop
                   provided by KeyBank

Ideal for first time and experienced homebuyers or homeowners looking to refinance.

KeyBank will be presenting the workshop Thursday evening June 14 at the Gloria J. Parks Community Center.

Workshop topics:
  • Understanding your credit score
  • Refinancing your mortgage
  • Pre-approval vs. pre-qualified
  • How much house can you afford?
  • Mortgage loan options
  • 100% financing available
  • Understanding the mortgage closing process
Learn how you can get a FREE pre-approval.

When:  Thursday June 14, 2012 from 5:30 PM until 7:00 PM

Gloria J Parks Community Center
3242 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214

Presentations by:
John Whiting of KeyBank Mortgage
Gail Plato of the University District Community Development Association

Seating is limited;  Be sure to register ASAP.

To register:
Contact Cassandra L Vito at 716-871-4265 or

KeyBank (R)
Unlock your possibilities (R)

This program is for information purposes only.  It does not constitute an application nor does it guarantee loan approval.  It does not constitute/cover the homebuyer education required for many loan programs.  All loans and lines are subject to credit approval. (C)2012 KeyCorp.  KeyBank is Member FDIC.  ADL4803    Equal Housing Lender

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

St. Joseph University Parish


 St Joseph University Catholic Church, located at 3269 Main Street, is a treasure of the University Heights neighborhood.  Unlike the average Catholic city parish, St. Joseph has experienced an increase in membership over the last two decades, with a current total membership of over 1800 households coming from over 50 different zip codes.  The parish has dedicated itself to the neighborhood and to community outreach.  One of the more prominent efforts of the parish has been its school.  The St. Joseph University School is the oldest continually operating Catholic elementary school in the city of Buffalo, first opening in 1850.  The school reflects the diversity of the parish and the neighborhood with a student body that is 63% minority and non-Catholic.  This institution provides quality education for its students, as reflected in 100% of graduating eighth graders who were accepted to their first choice high schools in 2012. 
In addition to its school, St. Joseph University Parish takes seriously the Catholic Social Justice Teachings: staffing two soup kitchens on the second Saturday of each month, one located in Black Rock at Assumption RC Church and the other downtown at the Friends of the Night People; providing monthly donations to four different food pantries in the city; collaborating with Sts Columba-Brigid Church on Hickory Street in hosting homeless families through Family Promise; establishing a Habitat for Humanity crew; forming an active VOICE core team dedicated to neighborhood improvement; and organizing a Social Justice Concerns Committee, which educates and works for change at the national and international levels.  St. Joseph also has a variety of social and liturgical ministries that provide parishioners with other opportunities to participate in the work of the parish.  
St. Joseph University Church is an English Gothic building designed by a Buffalo architect, Duane Lyman and built in 1925.  The parish is known for its hospitality, its outstanding music, and it’s challenging homilies.  The Sunday morning 10:00 am service features a traditional church choir and organ; the 11:30 am service has a more contemporary sound with a mix of gospel and jazz.  The parish also provides religious services for students of the University of Buffalo’s South Campus.  
The mission of the pastoral staff and the congregation is “All Are Welcome!”