Niagara Gazette

October 29, 2012

HIGGS: Cheering on the city block clubs

By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A few more comments that cannot be left unsaid came to mind after I submitted last week’s story on the NACC. I mentioned the reuse of this former Niagara Falls High School that was saved from the wrecking ball and replacement by a shopping plaza and did not have enough space to tell you about the 8,000 square foot former gym that is now designated as a sound stage by the New York State Governor’s Office for motion picture and television development. This makes the NACC a desired destination in the movie industry. Rah! Rah!

And, I did not have space to talk about the NACC kids. The Niagara Arts and Cultural Center takes pride in the fact that kids are safe there. It is a building where their talents can be developed and their confidence nurtured. Opportunities abound for them to take part in the fine and performing arts that are not available elsewhere. One of the NACC brochures described the fact that a prime commitment is to building on events and programs for young people in the community. The NACC knows that the arts can be a powerful tool for social change and that creative children can become innovative citizens. That is something to really cheer about.

Moving on to the next “N”, I find it hard not to cheer about the many citizens that are members of neighborhood watch block clubs in the City of Niagara Falls. As treasurer of the Niagara Falls Block Club Council (NFBCC), I am familiar with all of the active clubs by attending their meetings, helping with their use of our funding and generally providing any assistance I can offer.

These hard-working, interested residents of our city have seen change take place in their neighborhoods sometimes on a daily basis. It seems like most streets have one or two vacant or deteriorating structures causing great concerns. These citizens do not let that stop them from reporting suspicious persons or activities within their boundaries to the proper channels. How do you think the police department knows about all the “goings-on” all over the city? Sometimes they are members of block clubs and sometimes they are just citizens who care and they are all “the eyes and ears” of the police department.”

Many of these neighborhood clubs hold clean ups in their area during the April Beautify Niagara campaign and some have more during the year. Some have pocket or community parks as well. There is a vacant lot initiative sparked by ReNU Niagara and other partners to encourage more citizens to adopt a vacant lot that is too small to rebuild a house of today’s standards on. These lots need some tender loving care and can be a neighborhood garden, a playground area or just have someone cut the grass. There are many of these scattered throughout the city and I will have more information on this program as it develops.

Block club members volunteer on the public events hosted by the Block Club Council such as the annual Crime Night Out and the Candidates Night Forums sponsored by the council and other civic organizations during the election seasons. Actually the 2012 General Election Candidates Night is being held Tuesday night in the Main Street Public Library second floor auditorium. The event begins at 6 p.m. with welcome and ground rules by our moderator Dr. David Taylor of Niagara University and then the two candidates from the New York Congressional 27th District, Brian Higgins and Michael Madigan will provide some background information and respond to questions presented in advance by citizens. Following this will be the candidates for the state Senate, George Maziarz and Amy Hope Witryol and for the state Assembly, John Ceretto and Robert Restaino.

Today is the last day to submit your questions and you can email them to Taylor at candidatesnight@yahoo.com. There are many important issues that need to be discussed at this venue and we ask that you participate by submitting your concerns and attending the event. City Court Judge Angelo Morinello is seeking reelection to his office and he will take a few minutes to speak about this elected position and his qualifications and experience. Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour is also seeking reelection as our sheriff, but will be unable to attend the event.

The council holds monthly meetings with speakers of interest where we learn about many new ideas and programs being offered in our area and other items of interest. The council also holds an annual retreat when all citywide club members can send representatives and other interested citizens are invited to attend. We focus on crime prevention and related issues and invite public officials and others to take part in panel discussions on these issues.

It is not hard work to be a block club member. All you need is the interest in your community and your immediate neighborhood. If you do not have a block club, you can get organized by contacting a few of your neighbors to see if there is any interest and then you can contact me at 282-3599 and the Block Club Council will help you get started.

“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.” — Henry Ford. Something else to cheer about.

Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.