On Saturday, a crowd of about 300 protesters marched past the homes of sex offenders in West Seneca to voice their displeasure with the state's decision.
BUFFALO, NY - Two separate Western New York communities are taking two different approaches toward one common goal: to rid their neighborhoods of sex offenders placed in group homes by the state after it closed a secure facility near Rochester late last year.
Seven developmentally disabled sex offenders from the shuttered Rochester area facility were placed at two adjoining group homes on Leydecker Road in West Seneca. On Saturday, a crowd of about 300 protesters gathered at nearby Sunshine Park to voice their displeasure with the state's decision. They marched past the homes on Leydecker waving angry placards and chanting slogans, hoping to send a signal to Albany that their new neighbors are not welcome.
In Newstead, a group home for people with developmental disabilities has become the object of attention, after it was discovered that one of its newest residents is a registered sex offender. The home on Rapids Road is operated by People Inc.
"We're not a community that is open to places being shut down in far away communities and counties and having those people with criminal records, especially a sex offender, come to our neighborhood," said Newstead Town Councilman Justin Rooney.
Rooney has organized a public meeting set for Wednesday at 7 pm, at the Newstead Town Library, where he says representatives of People Inc. and The NY State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities have agreed to appear and address community concerns.
"They were very responsive (to town officials), we asked them some pointed questions, we're going to go over those questions with the public on Wednesday and hopefully they will continue to be responsive and open to us," Rooney said.
In West Seneca those concerns boiled over into a protest march which was held Saturday afternoon.
"Personally, I'm not stopping until they're gone," said Tony Fischione, who organized the first of what he promises will be demonstrations every weekend.
It began at Sunshine Park and proceeded to the group homes, some 600 yards away.
"We're trying to get as many people out here as possible with signs, flags, banners, …whatever we can think of ," said Fischione on Friday. "We're sick of it and we're not going to put up with it," he said.
On Friday, State Assemblyman Mickey Kearns added his name to the list of lawmakers demanding answers.
Kearns says he has asked the state agency responsible for placing the seven men at these two group homes on Leydecker Road a variety of questions, such as why they chose to move those men here from a secure facility near Rochester which the state closed late last year, why they were moved here in the dead of night, and why the state did so without notifying neighbors or town officials.
He says all he got back was a token response from the office of people with developmental disabilities.