August 2003

Andy Sedita -
Commissioner of Fun


by Joseph H. Radder

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Andy Sedita, Erie County’s Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, says, “They call me the Commissioner of Fun.” He’s referring, of course, to his involvement in the many fun-filled events and recreational activities held at the parks and elsewhere. Of course, there are serious matters like environmental concerns and care for the beautiful trees, grounds, equipment and facilities, but Andy’s area of the department is concerned mainly with special events.

Erie County’s system of twelve beautiful parks, two golf courses, two beaches, the Botanical Gardens in South Buffalo and the Riverwalk from Amherst to downtown Buffalo, all come under the jurisdiction of the County Parks and Recreation Department, and is known as one of the finest park systems in the country. Sedita beams as he says, “Our system is second to none.”

When asked to tell us about a typical day at work, Sedita said, “A typical day could include a day at the Ft. Erie racetrack, a ballgame at Dunn Tire Park and a visit to the casino in Niagara Falls with groups of senior citizens - a lot of fun stuff. We have three large senior luncheons, one for our WinterFest, two other luncheons during the year and our annual senior picnic at Emery Park. Over 1700 seniors join us for these events.”

But Andy’s work is not all with seniors, “We do a lot with our younger folks too,” he continued. “We try to break it up.” There is a baseball program that reaches out to thousands of youngsters ages 13 to 20. And there are swimming meets, track and field events as well. “Around Christmastime we do a Santa’s Park program at Chestnut Ridge. At Eastertime we do a program at Ellicott Creek.”

He also works with the disabled. “Two weeks ago we had our day for the disabled at the Buffalo Zoo.” On the day of our visit Sedita would be helping run the Special Olympics for disabled persons.

Until meeting Andy Sedita, this writer thought of the parks department as an organization that trimmed trees, mowed grass and painted picnic tables. It was a revelation to hear about all of these fun activities for youngsters, seniors and the disabled; planned, organized and staged under the direction of Deputy Commissioner for Parks and Recreation, Andy Sedita.

It’s clear that Sedita shares a kind of parental pride about the county’s parks when he says, “Some of our parks are absolutely magnificent. There’s Akron Falls, Chestnut Ridge, Como, Ellicott Creek and all the others.”

He continues with enthusiasm, “Through the graciousness of the County Executive, we were funded in last year’s capital budget to the tune of about $3 million to upgrade equipment and $15 million of the tobacco settlement for parks restoration. We now have a Parks Master Plan in place for the next ten years.” This will assure continuation of the quality of parks and activities that Erie County is known for nationwide.

Spare time activity? He plays a little golf, but Andy Sedita’s real hobby is politics. He has worked on a lot of campaigns over the years. He started out in 1977 working with Jimmy Griffin. He worked on the first campaign for U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato. But he didn’t restrict his work to the Republican party. He worked on Governor Cuomo’s first campaign as well as Governor Pataki’s campaign the first time he ran. He, of course, will be working for the re-election of the County Executive. He’s very high on Joel Giambra. “He has a vision for this community and has started people thinking a little differently. Giambra is convinced you can’t continue to throw money at problems and hope they’ll go away.”

He has an admirable philosophy about politicians, who are of course, often maligned. He says, “We must never forget the phrase ‘Civil Servant’. We’re here to serve people. Good politicians are able to enhance people’s quality of life.”

He tells the story of the time the city removed a number of traffic signals to save money. It so happened that the signal near his restaurant was removed, which affected his business drastically because the people who worked on the other side of Niagara Street could no longer safely cross the street to get to Andy’s for lunch. When Jimmy Griffin was elected mayor, Sedita appealed to him and the signal was soon re-installed.

Andy Sedita was in business on Niagara Street for thirty years, at a restaurant and clam bar called Andy’s, founded early in 1968 by his Grandfather Angelo (Andy) Sedita. In 1996, Sedita sold the restaurant and re-opened at Brighton and Eggert Rds.

He comes by his work ethic naturally. His grandfather, Angelo, his father, Salvatore, his mother, Frances, his sister, Antoinette, and his brother, Joe, all put in long hours at the clam stand and restaurant.

Sedita was born in Buffalo in 1950. He grew up on the west side. As a child, Andy attended Our Lady of Loretto School on 14th Street. Later he went to Grover Cleveland High School and, upon graduation, attended the University of Buffalo.

He has many awards and honors on the wall if his office in the Rath County Office Building. The one of which he is most proud commemorates the time he was elected Man of the Year by the Niagara District Civic Association. Indeed, Andy Sedita is not only the man of the year but a man for all seasons, dedicated to serving his fellow man as “The Commissioner of Fun” for Erie County.



Joseph H. Radder, a free-lance writer and regular contributor to Living Prime Time, is the author of a new book, a fictional biography of a young Jew named Jesus, “Young Jesus, the missing years.”

 

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