BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Almost two months after the mass shooting at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue, the community is trying to move forward and rebuild. Some residents and community advocates are concerned that politicians’ response won’t make a lasting impact on the East Side.

This is not the first time the East Side has been promised a significant financial investment. Experts have told News 4 that prior government funding has been granted to East Side development, but there was no comprehensive community plan to use the funding in an effective way. Many advocates hope that this time around, the investment will make a difference and they want a seat at the negotiating table.

“We are asking to be stakeholders in our own community and our own investments,” Pastor Tim Newkirk of GYC Ministries and the Buffalo Peacemakers said.

The Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Pavilion played host to a meeting between community leaders and officials, including representatives from the White House, Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and New York State Office of Victim Services.

Dr. Casandra Wright was at this meeting and said the money is on its way, which is a positive for redevelopment; however, she is hoping for a data-driven approach to ensure the funding is used to address root problems and create systematic change.

“The money is coming, we know that that’s the case. However, who is tracking it? Where is the accountability? Where is the transparency?” she asked.

Pastor Newkirk agreed and hopes the officials will not abandon the area after sending money.

“We get away from the narrative of the chain of people who are higher up sending down the message of, ‘Send them just enough, but not all of,’ which is at stake,” Pastor Newkirk added.

Boots on the ground organizations are trying to make an impact too. The Buffalo Police Athletic League is hosting many summer events to help young people stay active through sports. All events this summer are held from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

  • July 12-14: Jefferson Ave. and Riley St.
  • July 19-21: Resource Council of WNY, 347 E. Ferry St.
  • July 26-28: JFK Recreation Center, 114 Hickory St.
  • August 2-4: Cazenovia Park, 155 Cazenovia St.
  • August 9-11: Massachusetts Avenue Park, 378 Massachusetts Ave.
  • August 16-19: MLK Jr. Park, 778 Best St.

Tuesday night’s event took place across the street from the Tops on Jefferson Avenue, which is set to open later this week. Community Sports and Programs Coordinator Artis A. Green, III said he is seeing a change in the area.

“I see a shift in a better way that you’re getting people out here into this community,” he explained. “You see us out here in front of Tops, expanding things, trying to do things positive for the community, for Buffalo.”

Measuring the impact could prove challenging, and the community is calling for a data-driven approach.

“That money is going to be dispersed. That’s not the challenge,” Dr. Wright said. “The challenge is the impact and who is measuring whether or not the response from the government is impactful.”

As for when change will begin to take hold on the East Side, attorney John Elmore, who is representing victims’ families from the Tops mass shooting, said it will be clear in the months and year to follow.

“We will know this time next year. When we drive through these neighborhoods, if you see abandoned homes still there, if you see vacant fields with overgrown grass, if you see jobless people hanging around on the street corners,” Elmore said.

Pastor Newkirk said that rebuilding the area should be economically focused and it will take more than Tops re-opening to achieve that. He is calling for revitalization of the entire Jefferson Avenue corridor with community input.

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.