of ECONOMIC DISCRIMINATION
by Carolette Meadows
The Buffalo Green Code seeks to re-write the city of Buffalo’s antiquated 1952 zoning codes in the drive to revitalize the city. The website states:
“The Green Code is a historic revision of Buffalo’s land use and zoning policies that will promote investment, facilitate job creation, and improve the environment. The work to create a healthy, sustainable, and prosperous community is already well underway, spurred by residents in neighborhoods across the city. The Green Code is designed to support and build upon these efforts.” ~Mayor Byron Brown
“The Green Code translates the Comprehensive Plan’s smart growth and sustainability principles into a Land Use Plan that will guide Buffalo’s physical development for the next twenty years or more. The Green Code is further informed by specific plans for the waterfront (LWRP) and brownfield areas (BOAs). The culmination of the Green Code is an update of the 62-year-old zoning ordinance with a new “form-based code” that will implement these plans. The Green Code also reforms the city’s outdated set of Urban Renewal Plans (URPs) by incorporating their relevant provisions into the new code and creating one citywide URP for the city’s Homestead Program.”
City of Buffalo urban planners were supposed to be seeking community input on the Green Code so the final product would reflect the vision of residents in the various neighborhoods. On April 2, 2016 there was a “land use” meeting held a Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. This writer attended that meeting thinking the meeting would pertain to the neighborhood improvements that were supposed to occur with the alleged missing $400 million dollars at the hands of Cimminelli Construction under the Joint Schools Commission’s school remodeling programs. There was also a woman in attendance who proclaimed that she was there as a “representative of the east and south sides” of Buffalo and that, “the east and south sides have been canvassed. They are in full support of the Green Code and ready to move forward with its implementation.”
Conversely, who wasn’t at the meeting were the council officials that represent to most at-risk neighborhoods, Pridgen – Ellicott; Franczyk – Fillmore; Fontana – Lovejoy; and Wingo – Masten.
Instead of hearing about neighborhood improvements and missing money, I observed a sea of Elmwood Village residents who rolled out complaints of non-inclusion in Green Code decision-making. They came prepared, with spiral bound counter-proposals and a plea to stop overdeveloping their neighborhood. There was speaker after speaker worried about home values that have increased from 30K to 200K going bust if the city stays on its present course of bringing in businesses without consideration of such things such as parking and safe street use for bicycles and pedestrians.
What impressed me most, were the people lobbying for the city to take some of the proposed businesses and send them to the east side “which is in dire need of resources.” Of course, these pleas are not altruistic for many of the Elmwood residents. More importantly, they realize the only way to keep this city from burying them is to beg the city to save others. I want to impress upon you that this isn’t a bad thing. East side residents shouldn’t cut off their noses to spite their faces. If there’s second hand development, fight for and gladly accept what Elmwood doesn’t want because it may be they only way city officials give the disenfranchised any piece of the proverbial pie.
This writer had the opportunity to speak and stated, “I am the southeast portion of Buffalo and no one here speaks for me. I am also unaware of any canvassing on the east or south sides and it is my belief that many of us haven’t even heard of this because I haven’t before today… I’m happy for Elmwood having such appreciations of home values but I own a home on the south side and I want to know why we don’t have the problems of Elmwood because south side home values have depreciated due to white flight, an influx of renters, and lack of development… where is our development?”
On April 26, 2016 True Bethel Church held a “community development meeting” that was hosted by True Community Development Corp, True Bethel Church’s non-profit spin off. Arthur Hall, an urban planner from the City of Buffalo, began the meeting by asking residents if they had heard of the Greencode, attended Greencode meetings, or knew what it entailed. He went into a spiel telling residents, who were mainly True Corp renters, that the city wanted input on what they want their neighborhood to look like. Then came the hitch. He said the “development” would only occur in the area contained within Ferry-Box-Fillmore-Kehr perimeter which is conveniently the area that encompasses Council President Darius Pridgen’s True Bethel Baptist Church and True Community Development Corporation.
True Corp’s representative went to bat for the corporation by asking what housing they wanted and what should it look like. When asked why were they talking about housing when Elmwood is discussing businesses the response was to “focus.” The following is conversation ensued:
rep: We must start somewhere and we’re starting with more housing opportunities.
writer: But you’re starting at the end and working backwards. why are you working on housing when people don’t have jobs to pay rent?
rep: Yes, people need jobs but not everyone in this community is poor. There are people that own two and three houses.
writer: But those aren’t the people in the majority nor the ones you should be concerning yourselves with.
rep: Look, please just answer the questions on the form in front of you because we’ll get to jobs and business growth but that’s not what’s on the table today, housing is.
writer: So then, this isn’t about the Green Code, it’s about True Corp building its housing empire. Even if this was about what residents want in housing, start with the toxic waste across the street because who wants to live amongst that? This meeting is crap!
As I walked out of the door, knowing the council could be voting on the Green Code by summer and has yet not looked to include its most impoverished areas for development puts the greatest weight upon my soul. Even for the south district, the Green Code is a disaster. What the city calls south side “development” is only for the Harbor. To attend a meeting and hear city staffers spin the narrative of the Green Code for a development corporation to flip into a self- serving interest is appalling.
If I had not been in attendance during the prior Green Code meeting I would not have seen through the wool that was being pulled over the sheep’s eyes and I’m sure not many, if any, could see the fleecing of the community that’s about to occur.
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” If the east and south sides of Buffalo do not put the racial divide to the side long enough to advocate for their own self-interests, both groups (blacks and poor whites) will see their respective communities and future generations perish under the foot of economic discrimination because the only color wealth recognizes is green – in their code.
Meadows’ is a Community Activist. This is her 2nd column for the bullet.