More than 200 volunteers, including employees from 30 Niagara County-based organizations, joined forces with dozens of area residents on Wednesday, May 15, to spruce up homes in downtown Niagara Falls as part of the South End Housing Initiative’s second annual “Rock the Block.” This year, the State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) is a major sponsor of the event, as part of the “Spruce Up” neighborhood clean-up events held each year across the state.
“The State of New York Mortgage Agency invests in communities across the state by bringing the dream of homeownership to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers,” said New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas. “Through events like Rock the Block and Spruce Up, we partner with local community groups to help revitalize neighborhoods one block at a time. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, Homes and Community Renewal is doing more than ever to ensure that all New Yorkers can enjoy safe, vibrant neighborhoods and an affordable place to call home.”
The Niagara University-led South End Housing Initiative links local homeowners with business representatives – including presidents and CEOs – to perform minor housing repairs, such as painting, landscaping and general cleanup, in the city’s South End. In its inaugural year, 35 homes, 76 vacant lots, 10 alleys, and four city corners from Fourth to Seventh streets were improved as part of the coordinated cleanup effort, which had an economic impact of more than $74,000.
“‘Rock the Block’ is an ideal example of the initiatives Niagara University has been, and will continue to be, committed to doing in our local community,” said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University president. “Our mission calls us to use our campus resources to inspire deliberate and focused positive impact in the region surrounding the university, with an emphasis on the City of Niagara Falls. We are happy to join with our community partners and city residents to facilitate transformation in the city’s South End through ‘Rock the Block.’”
“We think that the South End Housing Initiative can have a dramatic impact in improving the community for our new neighbors in Niagara Falls,” said Chris Campos, president of TM Montante Development. “We are proud to offer our support for the 2019 ‘Rock the Block’ event and are excited to collaborate with members of the Levesque Institute, as well as other local businesses, organizations, and city residents to create vibrant neighborhoods in the city.”
"Niagara Area Habitat for Humanity sees neighborhood revitalization as the way of the future for Niagara Falls,” said Gina Beam, executive director, Niagara Area Habitat for Humanity. “We are happy to be a partner in the SEHI. We have to look at neighborhoods holistically in the City of Niagara Falls. This way, we will all be helping neighborhoods become stronger, more resilient, and more sustainable than ever before."
In its second phase, the South End Housing Initiative seeks to revitalize housing in Niagara Falls from Fourth Street to Portage Road, within the surrounding perimeter from Niagara Street to Pine Avenue. Organizers contend that the revival of this corridor of homes will encourage economic development on the outlying areas of the neighborhood.
In Niagara Falls, about 20 percent of homes stand vacant, and only 56 percent of Niagara Falls residents are homeowners.
The South End Housing Initiative is made up of 30 partners from various organizations throughout Niagara county: City of Niagara Falls, Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association, Inc., Element Development, Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative, Habitat for Humanity, Home Depot, Isaiah 61, Leadership Niagara, M&T Bank, Mobile Safety Net Team, National Grid, New York Power Authority, Niagara Community Action Program, Inc., Niagara Falls Block Club Council, Niagara Falls City Schools, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, Niagara Falls Neighborhood Housing Services, Niagara Global Tourism Institute, Niagara/Orleans Regional Land Improvement Corporation, Niagara Street Area Business & Professional Association, Niagara University, Niagara USA Chamber, Orleans/Niagara BOCES, Pine Avenue Redevelopment Project, South End Residents, The Service Collaborative of WNY, TM Montante Development, United Way of Greater Niagara, Verizon Wireless, and the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier.