Should the state Division of Parole open an office building to serve convicted murderers and rapists just steps away from Carolyn's House, a YWCA-sponsored facility for battered women and their children?
With the backing of former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, Buffalo's Liberatore Management Group says yes.
Opened in August 2005, and named after the late community activist Carolyn Van Schaik, Carolyn's House is a shelter for victims of domestic violence. The fully renovated, four-story brick building has 19 apartments -- studio, one-, two- or three-bedroom units -- complete with new stoves and refrigerators. In addition, each resident is provided with a new bed, an item many women have never before owned.
Liberatore's proposal, currently pending before the Division of Parole, would expose these battered victims to the same sort of violent men many were fleeing from on a daily basis.
While the New York Office of General Services request for proposals specifically states that "Qualified sites cannot be located near residential areas, schools, churches, day care and child care facilities nor places where children gather," local parole officers are said to be lobbying hard for the Walnut Avenue facility, which was formerly the administrative office building for the Niagara Falls City School District.
Paladino's maverick candidacy resulted in a surprising showing this past election season, and even though he ultimately lost to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his political influence and clout have gained tremendously. And he has always maintained strong ties to the law enforcement community, including hiring off-duty officers to provide security at his Buffalo parking lots and other holdings.
The state government has a history of using the city as a warehouse for criminals and other undesirables not welcome elsewhere, and many local officials seem happy about getting the business.
When informed that the state had placed as many as 25 convicted Class II and III sexual predators into a shabby rooming house less than 1,000 feet from Niagara Street Elementary School, Mayor Paul Dyster just shrugged his shoulders.
"They've got to live somewhere," he said.
Nothing was done about the situation until this newspaper did a series of articles on the perverts, which prompted the school board to get involved, and mothers of youngsters attending the school began picketing the rooming house.
After a battle that lasted through the summer of 2009, the perverts were moved out of the residence and placed elsewhere.
For Dyster's part, he's said nothing about the proposed influx of dangerous, violent offenders into the heart of a quiet residential neighborhood struggling to improve itself. Walnut Avenue has not yet fallen victim to the urban blight that characterizes Ferry Avenue, though with Dyster's cooperation, Albany seems inclined to help the process along.
The Liberatore proposal was one of two submitted to the Office of General Services, the other coming from developer Nick Garone, who recently renovated a large office building on Main Street near the new city courthouse complex. Garone is best known here for promoting boxing matches at the Seneca Niagara Casino and the city conference center.
While it seems like a no-brainer to put the parole office across the street from the police station and courthouse, rather than in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood at Sixth Street and Walnut Avenue, steps away from a shelter for abused women and their children, things in Niagara Falls are rarely what they seem.
Will Paladino's politicking override common sense and good judgment once again here?
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Feb. 8, 2011|