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New veterans housing for Buffalo's East Side gets final legal approval

More housing is coming for veterans and vets with families. It is part of an expansion by the Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition to a new campus on Howard Street on Buffalo's East Side, centered on the former School 75.

The Common Council signed off on the last phases of the deal Tuesday, allowing the property transfer to take place within a few days. 

Housing Coalition President and CEO Gigi Grizanti said the school adaptive re-use should be done in about two years, starting with cleaning out and abating a series of problems in the old building.

"It is full of hazardous material and all of that needs to be abated first," Grizanti said. "Some of the classrooms look like the students just left yesterday. So there is a lot of emptying of the building that's going to take place. Lead paint, asbestos, perhaps some mold and all of that will be going to be abated and that's going to take probably four months."

Grizanti said readying the $29 million project has been very complicated, because neighbors had qualms about veterans moving into the community around William and Emslie and it took about a year of community meetings and some design change to get everything to fall into place. That included provisions for a nearby King Solomon Holiness Church to get land for a parking lot. The project will also be across the street from United House of Prayer for All.

The 47 units will allow the coalition to move older vets from the group's original housing project at Main Street and Old Best into the new complex. Grizanti said that original building no longer meets needs.

"A lot of our population is aging and those apartments are relatively small because it was our first building," she said, "and probably half the residents in that building have some mobility issues and navigating the hallways and some of the doorways is just not as convenient as it's going to be at Public School 75."

The old school will also have an elevator.

Grizanti said the old building rehab will be surrounded by 18 rental houses for veterans with children and all of the aspects of single homes, including multiple bedrooms, porches and front and backyards.

"If you have a family that has two children, male and female, at certain ages they need separate bedrooms and we've been turning families away for years that fit in that criteria because we just can't accomodate them," she said. "We're going to be able to accomodate families in a area that is very spacious. They'll have bedrooms upstairs, 1 1/2 bathrooms."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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