Clearing Up The Rumors: County Services Remain In Downtown Buffalo!

Rebuttal to a Recent Voices Article

byApril Baskin

A recent column erroneously stated that the Erie County Department of Social Services’ Home Energy Assistance Program (“HEAP”) office has moved from downtown Buffalo to Cheektowaga.  That is not accurate or true.  The HEAP outreach office, access to certify for food stamps, temporary assistance, and administrative offices for senior services and veteran services remains in downtown Buffalo.

Allow me to explain what has happened.

The Department of Social Services (“DSS”) issued a request for proposals in December 2017 for approximately 80,000 square feet of rental space for offices then-currently housed in a Carl Paladino Hens and Kelly building at 478 Main Street in Buffalo.

DSS was looking for new space for various county offices because the Hens and Kelly Building was decrepit and had many problems, such as leaking roofs, crumbling walls and plaster, poor conditions for employees and maintenance issues. In 2018, I took a tour of the building and met with almost 40 DSS workers at their office location. I myself saw the unruly conditions of the Paladino owned building.

The responses to the above mentioned “request for proposals” were due in 2018 and DSS received five responses.  A County review committee met and reviewed the five proposals, and the pros and cons for each were discussed. At that meeting, the five proposals were limited to three. After touring the three remaining spaces, the committee decided to proceed with the Liberty Group and McGuire Development as finalists.  The County then negotiated with Liberty Group and McGuire Development.  DSS worked with architects representing both firms to design layouts of space and determine needed tenant improvements and tenant allowance.

In the end, the AppleTree Business Park location from McGuire Group was selected by the committee and the county executive agreed.  DSS explained to the County Legislature that the benefits to the AppleTree location are its centralized location, free parking, access to public transportation and strong building amenities. The proposed layout is very strong and conducive to a good working environment and the landlord was providing $3.68 million for tenant improvements.  Many affected employees were very supportive of the move and the new space.

With this initiative, about 436 employees who provide child protection and support, foster care and adoption services relocated from the former Paladino owned Hens & Kelly Building at 478 Main Street to the AppleTree Business Park in Cheektowaga. 

Most clients served by child protection and support, foster care and adoption services will remain served by home visits from DSS staff. It was always a common procedure for the staff to visit clients in their homes – not downtown, not at DSS offices.

Contrary to the claim in a recent column, HEAP will remain in downtown Buffalo.  Due to the conditions at the prior office at 478 Main Street, HEAP moved just 2 doors down the street and is now located in new space next door at 460 Main Street.  Any client needing HEAP assistance should go to 460 Main Street or call 858-7644, or residents can reach out to my office directly to get a list of dates wherein I host HEAP outreach days in the comfort of Buffalo’s East and West Side. This allows residents to avoid going downtown for HEAP application services and specialized attention within our neighborhoods.

Contrary to the earlier column and a blog post on this matter which cited, the contract was “rubber stamped by the County Legislature” – That is not true. As a representative of the East Side and West Side of Buffalo I work hard to do extensive research on the items before me in the Legislature will impact my community and personally I did not see moving the County workers as a threat to my constituents access to services. Extensive hearings and discussions were held on this matter, and many written communications, RFP scoring sheets and scoring matrix documents were provided to the Legislature, at its request, to understand the lease and the move.  The five-year lease was signed by county officials and approved by the Erie County Legislature on June 21, 2018. HEAP and other County services remain in Downtown Buffalo. Please reach out to my office at (716) 895-1849 should you need further assistance or have suggestions or requests regarding your family’s needs