Buffalo Rd. Corridor Home Improvements
In the fall of 2017, the Eastside Grassroots Coalition applied for a Neighborhood Assistance Program, Special Priorities Program based on a tax-credit donation from Northwest Savings Bank in the amount of $25,000. The project is aimed at mitigating blight along the Buffalo Road Corridor in our neighborhood, and the target area encompasses the two blocks north and south of Buffalo Road from Pennsylvania Avenue to McClelland Avenue.
Awarded the full amount of the project via tax-credits in December 2017, the project kicked off in January 2018. The project is designed to give micro grants of up to $5000 to homeowners in need of outer home repairs in the target area, with a minimum of 5 homeowners receiving assistance. An application process was opened, and applications were sent to all homes within the target area. Applicants must meet certain income restrictions, demonstrate the need for repairs, have an ability to pay a 10% cash match of the amount awarded to them, and fulfill other requirements.
In April of 2018, a selection committee convened to evaluate the applications and select the first round of homes to receive assistance with outer home repairs. After careful review of all applications, six homeowners were chosen to receive assistance: Doug Marlowe, Joan Frew, Gerard Pietrasiewicz, M. Victor Kisiel, and James McNeil. In May 2018, contractors were contacted about submitting bid proposals to complete the needed work on the selected homes. We are currently awaiting bid proposals before selecting contractors to begin work on the homes. All repair work will be completed by the end of August 2018.
Additionally, in May 2018, the EGC was awarded an additional $25,000 from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Association to double the projects efforts. This second round of funding will allow a minimum of 5 additional homeowners to receive grant money to perform outer home repairs. A second application is now open until August 15, 2018, and all repair work for the second round of homes will be completed by November 2018. If you are interested in the program or know someone who is, please contact us today to receive an application.
The hope of this project is to mitigate blight affecting our community, and cause a visible change in the appearance of our neighborhood. This could potentially lead to greater investments from both businesses and local government. In addition, it can help instill a sense of pride in all residents of the neighborhood that we at the Eastside Grassroots Coalition feel every day.
If you would like to apply for assistance, simply fill out an application and return it to the House of Mercy located at 2005 Woodlawn Ave.
Environmental Justice - Erie Coke Plant
One concern we have repeatedly heard from neighbors involves the Erie Coke Plant and the many violations they have had from the PA Department of Environment Protection (DEP), as well as raids from the FBI. Neighbors are concerned about the effects of the toxic chemicals leaked into the atmosphere when these violations occur, and how they affect the health of our residents.
In order to address these concerns, we are working with many community organizations such as Our Air, Our Water, Our Rights, the Sierra Club, the Benedictine's for Peace, and many more. Together we reached out to the state DEP and have formed a stakeholders committee to discuss the Erie Coke Plant's current permit renewal and our concerns about it.
We are demanding transparency about all past violations, exactly what was released into the air and when, what is monitored already compared to what we want to see monitored, and how we can hold Erie Coke accountable. Thus far, Erie Coke has cooperated in giving us some of the information we seek, including allowing a tour of their facility to understand the processes and byproducts released into the air.
We are still waiting for a comprehensive list of past violations and complaints from the DEP. We are also working with the county and state health departments, as well as the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to determine how to conduct a health assessment of the residents and effects of pollution from Erie Coke.
We have also began discussion on other industrial sites in our area and how they may be affecting our health, such as BASF. Our goal is to fight for Environmental Justice for our residents, a population that has historically been dismissed and taken advantage of when it comes to pollution. We want to know how this long term exposure to chemicals from nearby sites affects their health, and what we can do to prevent harm. We will continue to pursue the answers we seek and will not support a permit renewal for Erie Coke until we are satisfied our residents' health is protected.
If you ever notice an industrial site such as Erie Coke or BASF emitting smoke or odor that concerns you, whether it is black smoke coming out of a stack, smog rolling through the street, or an offensive odor in your area, take a picture and note the date and time of the incident.
Follow this link to report what you saw to the DEP either online or by phone. This helps us in our fight for Environmental Justice and holding these corporations accountable.
Community Clean Up 2018
In keeping with the tradition started in April of 2017, the Eastside Grassroots Coalition held its second annual Community Clean Up on April 14th, 2018. This year we decided to join our efforts with those of Gannon's Day of Caring in order to make the biggest possible difference in our community.
The cleanup effort was split in half between both the House of Mercy and Urban Erie Community Development Corporation to tackle both halves of the community the EGC serves.
Community members were joined by student volunteers from Gannon University as well as several youth living in our community. Fueled by donuts and a desire to make a difference, everyone worked all morning picking up discarded trash in our neighborhood. By the end of the day, our neighborhood looked renewed after the long winter and ready for summer!
Immigrant Clay Class
The community the EGC serves is vibrant and full of New Americans of immigrant and former refugee status. This makes our community unique when comparing it to other neighborhoods in the Erie area.
As a way to show our dedication to including these New Americans in everything we do here, we successfully applied for and received a grant from Erie Arts & Culture to hold a series of clay classes with BLOOM Collaborative! The classes included lessons both in hand forming, and using a pottery wheel!
The clay classes were held in February 2018, and 18 members of the New American population participated! It truly was an incredible experience witnessing these people coming from varied backgrounds and countries all learn a new skill and bond together over clay.
The pieces they created are all functional to be used in the home, including a mug, bowl, platter, and even vase. Each person incorporated their own native decorating styles into their pieces for truly beautiful finished products.
The clay class culminated with an exhibition of the pottery they created, and featured food prepared by the participants that is native to their countries of origin. Everyone involved loved the class so much that BLOOM Collaborative decided to sponsor a second series of classes which were held in late April and May of 2018!
We are beyond thankful to Erie Arts and Culture as well as BLOOM Collaborative for making this project not only possible, but a huge success! We hope to partner with them again in the future and see what other kinds of art we can create together as a community.
Community Fall Fest
In keeping true to the Eastside Grassroots Coalition commitment to community engagement in our neighborhood, we held our first ever Fall Fest on November 2nd, 2017!
The Fall Fest, which was open and free for all to attend, featured tons of fall-themed games including pumpkin bowling, pumpkin hula-hoop toss, pop-a-pumpkin, and even pumpkin tic-tac-toe! There were also activities including temporary tattoos and a photo booth!
Over 100 kids and residents attended the Fall Fest to enjoy the games and refreshments, and every person who attended went home with a gift bag that included more information on who we are and what we do to help spread the word about our organization!
Overall the event was a great success made possible by volunteers from the community, local government, and local colleges. We can't wait to make it an annual event and celebrate with our community again this fall!
Har-lin Community Day Care Center
When it opened in 1967, the Har-lin Community Day Care Center was a pillar in the community. However, after its closure in 2007, the building was left abandoned. Over the years neglect took hold and the former day care center became a pillar of the blight plaguing our community.
In 2016, the problem worsened when the building caught fire. Now the community was left with an abandoned, burnt out reminder of how forgotten their neighborhood was, right on the main street through their community.
In early summer of 2017, the Eastside Grassroots Coalition, having heard about this problem from concerned residents, contacted city officials to see what could be done about the now dangerous building. In late July, we celebrated a victory in our quest for positive change when the building was demolished by the City of Erie.
The once dilapidated eyesore was finally gone and hope was restored to the residents that change can happen in their neighborhood too. Seeing the impact this small project made, the EGC doubled down its efforts on blight, leading to one of the projects we are currently working on today.
Community Cleanups 2017
In April of 2017, the Eastside Grassroots Coalition completed its first ever projects in the form of not one, but two neighborhood cleanups!
The cleanups took place on the first and third Saturday in April and had an impressive group of Core Team members, residents, youth leaders, and other volunteers all come out to show support for the organization.
Empowered to make a difference in their community, the group worked tirelessly picking up discarded trash in our neighborhood, leaving behind a new and improved community both in appearance and togetherness.