University Heights, Buffalo, NY

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Police Make Arrest in the Javon Jackson Murder

From the Buffalo News

Updated: 05/28/09 07:37 AM
Amherst man held in slaying of UB grad
By Lou Michel
Theresa Williams can hardly believe it.

On Wednesday, she learned Buffalo police charged a young man with killing her son only hours after he had graduated from the University at Buffalo a little more than two weeks ago.

The Bronx woman also found out that day that earlier this week one of her son’s roommates was fatally gunned down while visiting a woman in an Amherst apartment.

It’s a lot to absorb in one day, but Williams says she is certain justice will now come to pass for her son, Javon R. Jackson, with the arrest of Da- Mario Cordelius, 20, of Amherst.

Cordelius is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Jackson, 23, who was out celebrating his graduation from UB after earning a degree in electrical engineering.

“He [Cordelius] has taken something from me that I can never replace, but my son will have justice. I am suffering,” Williams told The Buffalo News in a telephone interview from her home.

Any satisfaction that police scored an arrest was tempered by news that 21-year-old Jesse Garnett had been killed Monday night in an unrelated case. The killer remains at large.

“The pain and irony of these two young men who lived under the same roof is unbelievable,” Williams said. “I had the opportunity to meet Jesse. Javon introduced me to him. This makes me feel Javon now has been reunited with a friend in his new life in heaven.”

The break in the Jackson case was announced late Wednesday afternoon by city officials who gathered at the corner of Main Street and Lisbon Avenue, a short distance from the May 10 crime scene.

Mayor Byron W. Brown and Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson, accompanied by homicide detectives and city and UB police officers, said the arrest was the result of an intensive investigation that still continues.

While details remain sketchy on what could have provoked Cordelius to allegedly kill Jackson, Gipson said Cordelius might have been punched in the face by someone other than Jackson.

Brown said one of three video surveillance cameras operated by city police provided police with key information that helped in the arrest.

Cordelius, Gipson added, became a suspect early in the investigation based on the surveillance video and a number of interviews conducted by detectives.

Homicide detectives questioned Cordelius several times, including Wednesday morning, when he appeared in City Court to answer a summons on a criminal mischief charge. As he was questioned, Cordelius confessed to killing Jackson, police said.

Garnett’s family members Wednesday said they are shattered by his death. “We definitely all hope for [an arrest], hopefully soon,” said Richard Garnett, Jesse’s twin brother, a UB psychology major.

Police in Buffalo and Amherst say it is a tragic coincidence that two roommates would share the same violent fate in unrelated cases.

Two days after Jackson’s death, Jesse Garnett stood in Jackson’s bedroom on Lisbon Avenue as Williams packed up her dead son’s belongings. He made a public plea for better protection of UB students.

Garnett’s own words seem haunting now that he has joined Jackson on the list of recent homicides.

“What happened to Javon was just crazy. Kids can’t go out and have a good time anymore,” Garnett said that day in an interview with The News.

Garnett, who was not a UB student, explained that he had moved to Buffalo eight months ago from Yonkers to live with his twin brother. “It has to be safe for the students and anybody else,” Jesse Garnett had said. “We need more security.”

Garnett was shot several times at about 9:30 p. m. Monday in a Yale Avenue apartment east of Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst in what may have been a lover’s triangle, authorities said.

He was visiting a woman and her 2- year-old son. Amherst police described the woman as Garnett’s friend, stopping just short of saying he was her boyfriend.

Andre Ridgeway, 24, of Buffalo, has been identified as a person of interest wanted for questioning in the shooting and was an acquaintance of Garnett, according to Amherst Assistant Police Chief Timothy Green.

In what seemed a surreal replay of two weeks ago when Jackson’s parents were packing up their deceased son’s clothes and books in the Lisbon Avenue apartment, Jesse Garnett’s family, some of them immigrants from Liberia, filled that apartment Wednesday to do the same.

And, like the Jacksons, they had another grim task — making arrangements with Brian K. Lewis, the same Sycamore Street funeral director who had made arrangements to send Jackson’s remains downstate.

Burdened with grief, Garnett family members asked to be left alone while they tended to their son and nephew’s final affairs.

If the Jackson family’s grief is any type of road map of what the Garnett family will travel, they can expect a long journey.

“I still can’t imagine not coming home with my son,” Williams said from her home in the Bronx. “We were counting the minutes. Javon was so excited about completing his degree. He had never given up on it. I was calling him every day and he’d tell me, ‘Mom, I’m studying,’ or ‘I just have a few more things to do.’ ”

The grieving mother also said she remains touched by Jesse’s twin brother, Richard. “He traveled from Buffalo to New York City to be at Javon’s funeral, and I was comforted by him. That showed me the type of friends Javon was involved with,” Williams said.

And while the Garnetts declined to talk, Javon’s mother said, “I know what they are going through.”

Find this article at:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Alternative Spring Break

Here is the video from this Spring's cleanup of linear park with UB students, faculty and staff and the City of Buffalo's Mayor's Impact Team.

Buffalo News Story , University Heights

Below is the Buffalo News Story about crime and other issues in University Heights.
I think it is a well balanced article accurately describing the current atmosphere and concerns in the heights.
A few points about this article I'd like to point out:
1: I think bike patrols and a larger presence in the Heights by the University police is a great idea and long over due.
2: What Canisius College has done in their neighborhood is sort of a model for what UB could be doing. Yes I know there are far more students at UB, but the presence in the community and the way Canisius has bought up property and become part of the community fabric is a great thing, UB does not need to reinvent the wheel here.

Updated: 05/17/09 08:57 AM
Safety issues top agenda for South Campus neighbors
By Lou Michel and Phil Fairbanks

John Proudman didn’t relish the job. His moving company had been hired to pack up Javon R. Jackson’s belongings following the murder of the University at Buffalo graduate three days earlier.
And then, it got worse.
Out of nowhere, it seemed, came a series of gunshots shattering the late morning stillness on Lisbon Avenue.
“We were sitting out in the truck, waiting for his family to arrive, when we heard three gunshots,” said Proudman, an employee of Lincoln Moving & Storage. “It was tough. I was about to leave when his mother pulled up.”
The fact that someone would use a gun in broad daylight, in the middle of what seemed to be a peaceful neighborhood, struck Proudman and his coworker as bizarre.
Unfortunately, crime is part of life for residents of University Heights, the neighborhood that surrounds one of Buffalo’s enduring economic engines, UB’s South Campus, and where off-campus students and city residents mix.
And it might be getting worse. “This is a wake-up call that UB needs to take care of its students first,” said junior Chris Scibilia, who was Jackson’s neighbor. “It’s great that the university wants to increase its standards and create thousands of jobs, but students are its legacy.”
Like it or not, muggings, assaults, burglaries and homicides are part of life in a neighborhood many consider crucial to Buffalo’s renaissance.
In the past three years, three homicides — including last Sunday’s shooting death of the 23-year-old Bronx man the day after his graduation — plus one beating so severe that a UB student was left paralyzed have occurred in the neighborhood.
No one is suggesting the Heights ranks among Buffalo’s most dangerous neighborhoods, but there is a feeling, even among longtime residents, that crime is on the rise.
“My father called after he heard about the death and told me to start applying to other colleges,” said Scibilia, a Rochester native.
Few people are as familiar with University Heights and what ails it as neighborhood activist David J. Ellerbrock.
For Ellerbrock, president of the University Heights Collaborative, the rejuvenation of his community hinges on improved public safety.
And that, he says, depends on its stakeholders — residents, students, business owners and UB employees — becoming better acquainted with each other.
“My argument is there are things we can do tomorrow to increase safety in the Heights,” Ellerbrock said. “Having those kind of connections and relationships are the essence of a true, safe and enjoyable neighborhood.”
He singled out UB, the neighborhood’s largest institution, as a player that needs to get more involved in the Heights.
“What we haven’t seen is a push on behalf of UB decision-makers to encourage UB employees who live in the neighborhood to become engaged in neighborhood revitalization,” Ellerbrock said.
He praised UB President John B. Simpson for his UB 2020 initiative, which aims to increase the student population by 10,000 and increase faculty and staff by 2,500.
But once the infrastructure and jobs are in place, Ellerbrock says, he wants to know “how that changes the culture here in the Heights.”
Jackson’s death, he added, will provide a further test “of UB’s leadership in this community.” Ellerbrock thinks a good first step would be the addition of more police patrols by either the city or the university in the neighborhood around UB.
City police say they had increased patrols prior to Jackson’s killing.
But residents and students say an even greater effort is needed and point to UB for help.
UB’s 61-member police force does patrol the campus and the streets on its perimeter, but it does not go into the neighborhoods around the campus.
Should that change?
“It’s a possibility, and we’re considering all options,” said UB Police Chief Gerald W. Schoenle Jr.
At a meeting held last week, city and university officials discussed expanding UB’s presence on Main Street and adding more surveillance cameras to the area. The meeting was held at the direction of Simpson and Mayor Byron W. Brown.
“Where are the crowds? Where are the issues? On Main Street,” said Dennis R. Black, UB’s vice president for student affairs. “We want to increase our visibility on Main Street.”
One improvement might be UB police officers on foot and bicycle patrols along Main.
“We’re talking about getting out of the cars,” Black said.
The university also might expand its use of surveillance cameras. UB has three cameras operating now, including one that may have provided police information about the Jackson shooting.
Black also noted that the first officer on the scene at last Sunday’s shooting was a UB police officer.
At Canisius College, farther south on Main Street, 25 public safety officers routinely patrol the streets surrounding the college where students live in off-campus housing.
“We go into the neighborhoods where our students reside. We’re New York Statesworn peace officers, and that gives us the ability to make arrests on and off campus,” said Gary M. Everett, the college’s public safety director. “We have a highly visible patrol force, and everyone notices it, including the bad guys.”
Unlike UB’s South Campus, with its close proximity to nightspots on Main Street — which sometimes fuel alcohol-related crimes — Canisius does not have a nearby nightlife district.
But, to be sure, Canisius students are not immune to neighborhood crimes.
“People do get mugged and robbed,” senior Peter Leoni said. “We get e-mails informing us of the crimes.”
Schoenle thinks it’s unfair to compare Canisius with its approximately 3,400 students to UB, the biggest school in the State University of New York system, with 28,000 students.
And while not discussing the Jackson homicide directly, Schoenle said, “An incident like that could have happened anywhere.”
The possibility that UB and Buffalo police might jointly patrol Main Street is the kind of police initiative that Michael K. Clarke, a neighborhood development expert, thinks is needed in the Heights.
“Greater collaboration between various police agencies is essential to give people the feeling of safety they need to invest and live in the neighborhood,” said Clarke, executive director of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. in Buffalo.
Clarke is quick to note that crime is not the only challenge chewing away at the Heights’ foundation.
“You have undergraduates moving away from the neighborhood, living in university apartments on or near the North Campus in Amherst, and the lowering of income and economic potential over the years,” said Clarke.
Yet, he sees at least one important bright spot: Heights residents want to preserve their neighborhood.
He pointed to members of the Collaborative, St. Joseph University Catholic Church, Gloria J. Parks Community Center and the local business community on Main Street.
“They understand that the perception of the neighborhood is [that it is] unsafe and undermines their efforts,” he said.
No one has to tell John Proudman about perceptions. The three gun shots he heard in broad daylight last week are proof enough for him. and

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A dialogue needs to start

What exactly is UB's relationship to University Heights?
Below is a letter written by Scott Ries that sums up nicely how most residents and students living in the Heights feel towards UB.
With escalating crime and the tragic cold blooded murder of this bright young graduate, the resentment towards UB is reaching critical mass. I encourage all parties involved to start talking and start addressing the issues that plague the Heights.

"It’s May 10th, the day Javon Jackson was shot and killed on Main Street, near UB’s South Campus. quotes Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson, presumably in response to a question about the surveillance near where the shooting occurred: “We are in the process of examining the tape to see if there is any usable information from the cameras. Of course, you’re dealing with ambient light and nighttime. The best information, of course, would be an eyewitness account.”

Such an admission makes clear that Gipson’s lobbying for the $4.4 million installment of the cameras in 2007 was badly misguided. Ambient light and nighttime, I assume, are common conditions for crime scenes, especially the armed and violent crimes for which University Heights has become notorious. If the cameras function preventatively (panopticism: if the surveilled believes himself watched, he will not misbehave), they simply do not work. If anyone was foolish enough to believe they were being watched, Gipson himself will now have convinced them otherwise. The “information” the footage might present is obviously visually problematic, and, as Gipson implies, not actively monitored. And again, if the cameras are intended as an aid to enforcement, what good is such footage?

The tragedy of Jackson’s murder makes clear in the very worst way the problems in University Heights and of the relationship of the University to the city as a whole. While I cannot claim that this was Jackson’s situation, many University students arrive to Buffalo with the promise of cheap rent and proximity to UB’s badly located two main campuses. When I moved to Buffalo to begin my master’s degree in 2007, my first apartment was on Lisbon Avenue, where Jackson lived as well, according to the Buffalo News. My landlord lived in Brooklyn, did not maintain the property, and charged an exorbitant rent when I moved out. In April 2008 I was robbed at gunpoint not a block from where today’s incident occurred.

I see a direct connection between the location of the University and its relationship to the city and the crimes that all too commonly occur there. (The Answer Lady’s blog at provides a detailed list.) The University provides very little guidance as far as off-campus housing, and its direct influence on the area around South Campus seems to be little more than the opportunity for students to export money to irresponsible landlords and to provide an image of class division with its location atop the green hill.

These are very high-level problems for which there is no simple solution; the location of South Campus maintains a social and class division and a tension as palpable as the visual separation between Crosby Hall and the Tops Plaza across Main Street. The locations that the University chose are fatally unfortunate. The location is not the problem to be solved. It is absolutely essential, in the thrust to UB2020, that the University address its situation to the surrounding community.

It is not solved by romanticizing an alumnus’ murder. How many students are the victims of violent crimes in the Heights? This is an important question, one to which the University as a research institute must address its efforts, but the University should not remain selfish to its effects. What precisely is the University’s role with its community at the bottom of the hill, and much more importantly, how will it resolve the tensions its locations commonly (if not, perhaps in the present situation) cause, perpetuate, or ignore, and the violent crimes by which these tensions manifest themselves?

Something is very wrong in the Heights. Cameras that are meant to be seen more than to see are not the solution. The University’s position atop the hill compounds the problem. The city and the University are not responsible for Javon Jackson’s murder, but they must address their impact on the concentration of crime in University Heights. It is too late; UB must, however, address its responsibility in fostering a healthy community, both in proximate neighborhoods and with Buffalo as a whole. President John B. Simpson’s assertion, coordinated with UB’s purchase of three security cameras in the Heights at $80,000, that the University “will continue to take a leadership role in improving safety and behavior in the neighborhood,” (according to the UB News Center) is simply not enough. How can UB and the Buffalo Police, no administrative strangers, contribute to a healthier Buffalo community?

Scott Ries
Buffalo "

Friday, May 8, 2009

University District - Home to the Best Buffalo has to offer!

Artvoice has published their annual
"Best of Buffalo"
winners and the University neighborhood had winners in several of the categories!

Late Nite Eats
Jim’s SteakOut

Best Sub
Jim’s SteakOut

Best Middle Eastern
Falafel Bar

Best CD/Record Store
Record Theater

Best Book Store
Talking Leaves

Best Vegetarian
Amy’s Place

Best Diner
Lake Effect Diner

Congratulations all!