Follow That Story: West Side NHS
by Geoff Kelly - posted 9:30 am, September 4, 2009
In last week’s paper, we published a story about West Side Neighborhood Housing Services delaying the acceptance of a host on new member applications they’d received this summer. The delay seemed like a reaction to criticism aimed at WSNHS (from this paper, among others) last year, when a couple dozen new members had been accepted into the organization just in time to qualify to vote in WSNHS’s annual meeting in November. Most of these were city employees who reported to Mayor Byron Brown and didn’t live in WSNHS’s service area: Peter Cutler, for example, who lives on Linwood Avenue; Jessica Maglietto, who lives on Crescent Avenue in North Buffalo; Brian Reilly, who lives in the Elmwood Village; Allentowner David Granville; and others.
To qualify for membership in WSNHS, which costs $2 a year, an applicant must live on or somehow be considered a “stakeholder” in the West Side. The influx of voting members aroused suspicion that the mayor’s office was trying to take control of the organization, and that the board and the executive director were allowing it to happen.
This year many new applications for membership were submitted, many from residents of the Cottage District, who are interested in WSNHS’s partnership with developer Sam Savarino to redevelop the White Bros. Livery on Jersey Street (a project that yesterday received a little jolt of Restore New York money). Apparently stung by last year’s criticism, the board and executive director voted to delay the acceptance of the members, and to send letters confirming their membership applications.
I use words like seemed and apparently because I don’t know: I called and emailed Linda Chiarenza, executive director of WSNHS, before publishing last week’s story, but nobody from WSNHS has gotten back to me.
That was early August. Two weeks later, none of the new applicants had yet received a letter, so we ran the story. Chiarenza was apparently (there’s that word again) hurt and furious. But here’s the important part: his week, the applicants began to receive the letters the board had voted to send three weeks ago. (Here’s a copy.) Our story was published August 26 online, August 27 in print. The letters are dated August 29.
The letters seem benign enough. Is this a permanent change in the way the board will review membership applications?