Mark J.F. Schroeder has been chosen as the Grand Marshal of the 24th edition of the “Old Neighborhood” St. Patrick’s Day Parade Presented by Sullivan’s Brewing Company and will lead the procession through the historic streets of the Valley and Old First Ward neighborhoods on Saturday, March 11th, 2017.
About 35 years ago, Mark Schroeder, then a young legislative aide to the late Assemblyman Dick Keane, came to what was then the Valley Community Association office at 208 Elk Street encouraging VCA Executive Director Peg Overdorf to have a special celebration. The neighborhood had successfully fought for the demolition of the long abandoned eyesore – Purina Mill – which was on Smith Street. Schroeder had just come back from Columbus, Ohio and saw that they had a “Rally in the Alley” sign. He suggested we have a “Rally in the Valley” celebration. The Valley Community Association took his advice and did, in fact, have the “Rally in the Valley”, which served as a fundraiser for the agency, for 20 consecutive years in the park behind the Valley Center.
In 2001 the Rally Committee decided to start a festival in place of the “Rally in the Valley” that could be a city wide event, thus starting the Buffalo River Fest. The closest that the festival could get to the river though was Father Conway Park. Sadly there was no public access to the Buffalo River that could accommodate the event. As the committee searched for a site on the river for the event, they found a gentleman and old friend of the agency, Tony Altenaeder who owned Buffalo Motor & Generator. He was looking to retire, liked the plan and vision of what the VCA was trying to do, and was willing to negotiate for the sale of a parcel of land right on the river. A price was settled on but the VCA did not have the funds to purchase the land.
A few months later, in January 2005, Overdorf was attending the inauguration of Congressman Brian Higgins when newly elected New York State Assemblyman Schroeder approached her and said he wanted to help the VCA with their plans for the Buffalo River. Schroeder wanted to accomplish on the river what Higgins had done at Gallagher Beach.
The vision had turned into a plan and it was off and running. The VCA commissioned a professional rendering of what they thought this park on the river’s edge might look like. Once in hand, Mark and Peg traveled to Albany to meet various New York State department heads. Mark had scheduled meetings with the New York State Parks & Recreation and others to show them the plan and to see what potential grants were available. Immediately grants were applied for, some of which were received right away and some that took applying a few times before the VCA received them.
It was Schroeder’s contribution from his discretionary funds that really got the ball rolling. Although Mark was feuding with Sheldon Silver at the time, Silver himself came to release $400,000 from Schroeder’s money to kick start all the environmental testing needed on the parcel.
Mark Schroeder was the driving force to see the Buffalo River Fest project through. He was at the VCA office weekly calling whomever necessary to overcome the many challenges that were faced. Mark continued to contribute financial support and certainly was there for VCA every step of the way.
During the building of Buffalo River Fest Park, plans were revealed to place the Ice Boom on the Buffalo River. Immediately Peg called Mark who convened the New York State Power Authority to see the plans. They arrived and once they showed the plan with the boom on the shore of the river, Peg respectfully opposed. Mark was not quite so nice. He told the Power Authority to redo the plans and to make sure that they were approved by Peg. Another 18 months of meetings and negotiations resulted in Mutual Riverfront Park on the Buffalo River.
Because of the first step that was taken by both the VCA and Mark Schroeder, Ohio Street has come back to life. Twelve years after the first plans were laid out for the Buffalo River there are now a multitude of developments including: Buffalo River Fest Park & The Tewksbury Lodge, Mutual Riverfront Park, the reconstruction of Ohio Street through the efforts of Congressman Brian Higgins, a $20 million entertainment venue and casino, almost 90 residential apartments in two buildings have been constructed or are nearly completion, Scholastic Rowing Club will be erecting their own building, land and housing values in the Old First Ward continue to rise, and more!
None of these would have happened without Mark J. F. Schroeder. He continues to care about the well-being of the community. He responds to all problems city or state related. It is because of what he has done, continues to do, and his unbounded enthusiasm for making sure the Buffalo River Community succeeds is the reason Mark has been selected as the Grand Marshal of the 24th Annual “Old Neighborhood” St. Patrick’s Day Parade Presented by Sullivan’s Brewing Company.
The parade will kick off at 12 Noon from the Valley Community Center and will wind through the streets of the historic Buffalo River Community. Viewing of the parade is available along South Park Avenue (between Hamburg Street and Smith Street), Smith Street (between South Park Avenue and Elk Street), Elk Street (between Smith Street and South Park Avenue), Hamburg Street (between South Park Avenue and South Street), and South Street (between Hamburg Street and Louisiana Street).
Immediately following the parade will be the traditional grand Irish “Hooley” featuring live music by “Poor Ould Goat” as well as plenty of food and drink. The “Hooley” runs from 1pm-5pm at the Valley Community Center.