Assemblymembers Rivera and Davila, and Speaker Heastie Announce $3.8 Million in Funding for Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute of WNY

The project, now halfway to its $10 million funding goal, will showcase the contributions of Hispanics in Western New York with a targeted opening date in 2024

Buffalo – Today, Sept. 21, 2021, Assemblymember Jon D. Rivera was joined at the corner of Niagara and Hudson streets by NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assemblywoman Maritza Davila (District 53), several other elected officials, as well as Project Chairman Casimiro Rodriguez and other community leaders, to announce $3.8 million in legislative funding for the Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute of WNY project.

The center, which is set to break ground in 2023 and open in 2024, will be the first of its kind in the region when it opens its doors at the corner of Niagara and Hudson streets on Buffalo’s West Side.

The building will encompass approximately 33,000 square feet and will include three floors. Interior spaces will include a museum, art gallery, café, gift shop, performing arts theater, activities space, broadcast media center, as well as learning labs and administrative spaces. The third floor will be allocated for tenant-leased space as means of generating revenue to support economic sustainability.

Through its museum and spaces for programming and education, the new facility will fulfill long-neglected needs within Buffalo’s Hispanic community and will provide the city’s Hispanic population with a much-needed place for conversation and cultural enrichment.

The Hispanic Heritage Council of WNY initially unveiled plans for the project in 2019, though the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic a year later caused a cessation of most fundraising activity. Project officials had raised just over $1 million before the pandemic struck.

With today’s announcement of $3.8 million in funding, it brings the total amount raised so far to $5 million — halfway to the project’s overall funding goal of $10 million.

During 2020 while the pandemic sidelined initial blueprints, project officials were able to conduct environmental studies, form a business plan and work on site control. They are also now in the process of conducting a net-zero energy efficiency analysis on the project.

Today’s announcement of critical funding committed by the NYS Assembly to the project arrives at an appropriate time, as National Hispanic Heritage Month continues through Oct. 15.

New data from the 2020 United States Census shows that Hispanics accounted for about half of the country’s growth over the past decade, up by about 23 percent, and that about 98 percent of Americans live in a county with an increasing number of Hispanics.

Whether their ancestors have been here for generations or they’re among the newest members of the American family, Hispanic immigrants represent many countries and cultures, each adding their own unique perspective to our country’s story.

When the Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute of WNY is complete and ready to open its doors, it will epitomize the resiliency and determination of the Hispanic population, and will help to provide a permanent, flexible space to educate future generations on the importance of cultural diversity and of the multiplicity from which the nation draws its strength.

Assemblymember Jon D. Rivera said, “This project and all those involved in bringing it to fruition have represented many of the same qualities that embody Hispanic culture – resiliency, faith and determination. The Hispanic heritage is rich with stories of those who came to the United States seeking a life filled with opportunity and promise, and Western New York quickly became the place they called home. When this project is complete, the region will for the first time have a dedicated space to collect and to share those stories, and to preserve Hispanic culture for future generations of Western New Yorkers.”

NYS Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie said, “I am proud to be in Buffalo announcing $3.8 million in funding for the Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute. When it is complete, the institute will be a nexus for the community, for learning and for celebrating Buffalo and Western New York’s rich cultural diversity. Our Hispanic and Latino communities are an integral thread in the fabric of our state, and this center will highlight that thread. The Assembly Majority will continue working to make investments that bring our communities together through the arts, education and celebrating our rich diversity.”

Assemblywoman Maritza Davila (District 53) said, “Diversity and inclusion practices are key in helping our young future leaders grow academically and professionally – this is one of the many attributes the Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute will service. The institute will also provide a space that will educate our children while staying connected to their cultural roots through arts, history, food, media and so much more. As the chair of the Puerto Rican Hispanic Task Force, I’m truly honored to be a part of the process alongside my colleagues Speaker Carl Heastie, Assemblyman Jon Rivera and Casimiro Rodriguez, President of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York. Personal values and personal identity are shaped around our culture and with the Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute, it will be a driving force to help our children reach their potential.”

Casimiro D. Rodriguez, Project Chairman for the Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute, said, “When completed, the Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute will be the first of its kind in Upstate New York. It will educate our children about our past, help us to remember our cultural diversity and develop mutual respect and renewed dialogue amongst different cultures. This institute will represent our history, our identity, and our bond to the past, present, and future. On behalf of the Hispanic community of Western New York, we would like to thank the leaders of the New York State Legislature and in particular the Speaker of the Assembly, Carl E. Heastie, the Puerto Rican & Hispanic Task Force under the leadership of its Chairwoman Maritza Davila, and our very own local State Assemblyman, Jon Rivera.”