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Hold on to That $2 Bill

West Side Neighborhood Housing Services delays approval of new members

Remember last fall, when West Side activist Harvey Garrett was voted off the board of West Side Neighborhood Housing Services?

The real story then was not Garrett’s dismissal from the board, it was what his removal revealed about the organization’s membership: A couple dozen new members had been accepted into the organization that August, 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 new, last-minute members that may or may not have qualified recalled an incident in 1995, when then WSHNS board chairman Modesto Candelario signed up 100 new members to prevent the upstart Robert Quintana from wresting control of the board from the Carl Perla political machine.

Fast-forward to two weeks ago, when the current WSNHS board found on its agenda approval of 50 or 60 new membership applications, which had been received—surprise!—just in time for the new members to vote in this November annual meeting.

The applications came primarily from bona fide West Siders, we’re told, including many residents of the Cottage District, where WSNHS is partnering with developer Sam Savarino to rehab the former White Bros. Livery Stable.

This time the board did not simply accept the new applicants, as it did last year and does typically whenever new member applications are on the agenda. Reportedly, Linda Chiarenza, executive director of WSNHS, smelled a rat: These, she suspected, were all Sam Hoyt people. Stung by criticism (in this paper) that she had allowed her membership to become politicized last year, she alerted the board to her concerns.

The board voted to send letters to all the new applicants, to probe their intentions in joining WSNHS, before accepting them. If they were eventually accepted, they would be allowed to take part in the November meeting.

But that was two weeks ago, and none of the new applicants has received a letter from WSNHS.

Chiarenza did not reply to email and phone requests for comment.

geoff kelly

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