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Keeping an eye on development in downtown’s 400 block of Main Street

Fights, panhandlers & homeless in business district
Posted at 4:20 PM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-19 18:17:47-05
Steady police presence at Lafayette Square.

There is a steady police presence at Lafayette Square in Buffalo where there are reports of fights in the area.

Redevelopment is slowly occurring on that 400-block of Main Street, but last Friday, inside this Tim Hortons at Main and Court, an employee had to call police because of an altercation.

Tim Hortons at Main & Court, downtown Buffalo.

A man and two women entered the coffee shop. They reportedly threw snowballs at workers and punched and kicked one of the female employees.

The store manager and employees declined an interview, but a student tells 7 Eyewitness News he saw the attack.

“I was actually inside, and some people were just throwing snowballs and you know I was like shaking my head drinking my coffee and I guess the girl was trying to tell somebody to get out and a lot of stuff broke down,” recalled Jlen Jones, Buffalo resident.

Jones and his friends, Lumene Eyoto, Desean Simpson, said they see a lot of fights while waiting at the bus stop at Main and Court in the heart of downtown's business district.

Jlen Jones, Lumene Eyoto & Desean Simpson wait at the bus stop daily at Main & Court and witness fights.

Jones told us he doesn't feel safe.

“And I actually got knocked over ‘cause someone hit somebody and they fell on me,” explained Jones. You shouldn’t be doing that stuff you know.”

“Stuff like that – unacceptable because people are just trying to work. You shouldn’t be bothering them at the workplace,” remarked Simpson.

“I would be so mad if I came to work and somebody was throwing a snowball at me,” said Eyoto.

Mixed with the tens of thousands of workers who converge on downtown every day, panhandlers, who are a familiar sight around Lafayette Square and the 400 block of Main Street.

Charlie Dawkins, a Buffalo resident, tells us he’s not homeless but admits to panhandling. He was asking for money while standing on Main Street near Court Tuesday.

Charlie Dawkin, Buffalo resident, hangs out on Main Street.

“People respond to me all right. It’s Buffalo,” Dawkins stated. But he admits some people tell him to “get a job.” He says if he sees a fight nearby, he leaves the scene.

“I think a big part of it is we have a large homeless population in Buffalo. So there’s a lot of people aggressively panhandling and perhaps the law enforcement should maybe deal more about that- it would probably help,” said Dave, Buffalo resident.

Buffalo Place executive director Michael Schmand insists downtown is safe.

“The B-district has an officer assigned to specifically Lafayette Square to deal with what I’ll call the illegal cigarette salespeople. We have our ranger program that operates seven days a week,” Schmand noted.

For decades businesses have moved in and out of this stretch of Main Street, but there's a new commitment. Evans Bank recently relocated its corporate office on Main Street and Roads Less Traveled opened a new theater nearby.

However, Schmand says returning cars to this section of Main Street, like the theater district, will bring success.

Buffalo Place executive director Michael Schmand.

“When they come to downtown Buffalo, they come to the theater district and they feel good. We want the same for the full length of Main Street, from canal to the medical campus. We’ve got to have traffic up and down Main Street,” Schmand said.

But that comes with an $80-million price tag. Schmand says Buffalo Place continues working with its city partners and state leaders to figure out how to improve the ‘curb appeal’ on Main Street.

“This is our Main Street. This is what attracts people to downtown Buffalo,” Schmand remarked.

Schmand also noted the decline of Main Street downtown didn’t happen overnight and said it is taking time to redeveloped successfully.

“The decline of downtown Buffalo didn’t take place over a short period of time and everybody just left. It started after World War II and started declining because people just wanted to get further and further from the center core,” described Schmand.

But Schmand says with so much new restaurants, businesses, retail and downtown living occurring, he’s certain Main Street will experience a renaissance.