Blog Archives

Opponents: School zone speed cameras target ‘Buffalo’s most impoverished residents’

Read the full article from Buffalo News here.

“‘We can find no evidence that these speed zone cameras are saving people’s lives, making life safer and making the world better for the children anywhere, not just here in Buffalo. There’s no data to support that. But what there is data to support … revenue generation,’ Taylor said. ‘It’s nothing more than a revenue grabbing scheme … designed to bilk the African American community from resources.'”

Apple Commits $2.5 Billion to Ease California Housing Crunch

Read the full article from The New York Times, here.

Apple on Monday announced a $2.5 billion plan to address the housing crisis in California, becoming the latest big tech company to devote money to a problem that local lawmakers and economists believe it helped create.

The iPhone maker’s plan includes a $1 billion investment fund for affordable housing and another $1 billion to buy mortgages. Apple also intends to make a 40-acre, $300 million property it owns in San Jose, Calif., available for new affordable housing.

Apple’s housing plan is a response to the increasing pressure Silicon Valley’s tech giants are under to play a more active role in the region’s housing crisis. As local tech companies big and small have boomed, they have flooded the region with hundreds of thousands of highly paid employees.

The Futures Garden

Read the full article from Buffalo Rising, here.

Just when you think that gardens couldn’t be any greater in Buffalo, comes along The Futures Garden. This Grassroots Garden is located directly across from the Marva J Daniel Futures Preparatory School #37 (Futures Phoenix), which is just down Carlton Street from The Medical Campus. On my way to visit a friend who lives a few doors away from the garden, I made a pitstop to inspect the sustainable grounds in all of their glory.

This garden has it all – giant rain barrels, composting, raised beds, beautiful signage, places to sit and ponder, solar power, hand painted garbage cans, flowers, veggies, and even a mini library. To me, this garden is about as inspirational as it gets.


The Base

Re-post from the Boston Review

A protester demonstrates at a rally against police violence in Minneapolis. / Fibonacci Blue


In spite of Bernie Sanders’s primary win in Indiana and favored status in West Virginia, recent voting in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and a handful of other states appears to confirm what has long been anticipated: after a spirited campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Vermont senator is falling to earth. One would not want to write off a campaign prematurely—after all, dismissal of Donald Trump by the press and his fellow Republicans paved his road to the GOP nomination—but Sanders himself is retrenching. Staff cuts and campaign statements suggest he is now focused less on the presidency than on dents he can make in the Democratic Party platform at July’s convention.

Thus it is fair, at this stage, to ask what will become of the political fervor Sanders has unleashed. Supporters of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, hope some of that excitement can be funneled toward her general election run, securing a decisive victory and the legislative mandate believed to result. Especially if Trump is on the general election ballot, as seems all but certain, there is no doubt that a significant portion of Sanders backers will vote for Clinton in November.

Yet this lesser-of-many-evils approach only emphasizes the cynical calculus that Sanders’s supporters yearned to escape: the Democrats promise as little as they can get away with and hope the troglodytes parading in the Republican Party are enough to get the base out to the polls.

Bernie Sanders advocates redistributive government, which puts him at odds with the last twenty-five years of Democratic common sense.

But now some activists wonder whether the class anger orbiting Sanders’s campaign can transform the Democratic Party into a tool for movements against economic and racial inequality. An older generation remembers when the Democratic Party brandished its liberal credentials instead of being terrified by them. For these activists, Sanders’s surprising run yields nostalgic visions of “taking back” the party, reviving what they believe was a grassroots politics representing ordinary people.

Like much nostalgia, however, this is naïve. One need look no further than Clinton’s candidacy to appreciate the Democratic top-brass’s aversion to policies and politics centered on social justice. Instead of thanking Sanders for activating new voters and reinvigorating those still sleepy from the underwhelming presidency of Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton accused him of wanting to “shoot” people on Wall Street. Last December, instead of accepting responsibility for the security of its own data, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) smeared Sanders and falsely accused him of breaking into Hillary Clinton’s campaign secrets. Clinton has reluctantly appealed to Sanders’s supporters by referring to herself as progressive and declaring that the middle class needs a raise. But mostly she and the Democratic hierarchy have mocked Sanders for supposedly promising “free this and free that and everything”—a criticism she rejected when it came from Jeb Bush’s lips. Clinton has campaigned relentlessly on the improbability of universal health care and criticized Sanders for suggesting that there be free tuition at public universities and colleges.

This is not just a case of Clinton failing to detect which way the wind is blowing in American politics. As a steward of American capital, it is her responsibility to attack the idea of social entitlement. It was her husband and campaign surrogate who clearly articulated the politics of the “new Democrats,” when he declared that the “era of big government is over.” Sanders advocates redistributive government, which puts him at odds with the last twenty-five years of Democratic common sense. Hillary Clinton is not fundamentally opposed to the use of the government treasury for any and all social entitlements, but her refusal to embrace serious redistributive policies for the benefit of poor people shows that she sees her future job as her husband saw his in the ’90s: to crush, or at least ignore, the proposition that the public should provide for people’s needs.

This does not make Clinton a conservative Democrat; it just makes her a Democrat. Since her husband’s first term, the Democratic Party has successfully molded itself into a small-government, pro-privatization, law-and-order party. As then-Senator Joe Biden put it while celebrating the 1994 Crime Bill:

Let me define the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is now for 60 new death penalties. That is what is in this bill. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party has 70 enhanced penalties. . . . The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is for 100,000 cops. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is for 125,000 new state prison cells.

Today the Black Lives Matter movement has compelled the party to walk back some of that rhetoric. But there is little reason to believe this is a genuine retreat rather than an exercise in political expediency. Biden was speaking to a deeper truth about how the party wanted to be known: as tough as the GOP, not socially liberal or especially concerned with the interests of minorities.

This is not just old news. Decmocratic veterans nationwide continue to push a regressive agenda. Consider Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, once a party kingmaker and now one of the most reviled public officials in his city. He earned his ignominy by covering for police criminality and attempting to dismantle public education, a process that included thelargest mass school closure in American history, in 2013. Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles has cracked down on the homeless, confiscating their property, including the “tiny homes” that were doing what the city wouldn’t—house homeless people. In New York City, mayor Bill De Blasio betrayed his supporters in the criminal justice reform movement bypledging to hire 1,300 more police even as crime continued its historic downward trend. In San Franciso, Mayor Ed Lee promoted a “Twitter tax break”—a payroll tax exemption lasting six years and intended to keep tech companies in San Francisco—which cost the city $34 million in 2015 alone. Meanwhile, San Francisco faces a $100 million budget shortfall, and Mayor Lee is calling for across-the-board spending cuts from city agencies. With Democrats scaling back services—excepting, of course, law enforcement—and pushing trickle-down economics, who needs Republicans?

One might protest that Democratic officials have generally been more critical of the latest excesses of campaign finance law than have been their GOP competitors. But these words don’t reflect principle. When it comes to absorbing corporate money and accompanying influence, the Democratic Party takes a back seat to no one. The party’s largest corporate donors embody the greed that courses through the financial and industrial economy: Goldman Sachs, AT&T, Bank of America, JP Morgan, and General Electric hedge their bets by giving almost equally to both parties. Lockheed Martin and Walmart veer toward Republicans but still give millions to Democrats, just in case. In the midst of the primary season, the DNC changed the party’s rules to allow presidential candidates to accept more money from lobbyists and political action committees.

The corrosive influence of money in politics is hardly a revelation, but it is sobering to observe it at work in an organization that claims to champion the welfare of the downtrodden. Take the Congressional Black Caucus, which used to refer to itself as the “conscience of the Congress.” The CBC PAC and its politicians politicians have received some of their largest donations from Walmart, General Motors, and Coca-Cola. Is it any wonder that the caucus has been almost absent in the fight for a higher minimum wage, even as more than half of black workers make less than $15 an hour?

Citizens angered by inequality and injustice should not be stifled by the pressure to organize through the Democratic Party.

Indeed, this campaign season has been a lesson in just how conservative the Democratic Party actually is. Hence Clinton’s unofficial campaign slogan of “no we can’t” and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s calm admission that unpledged superdelegates “exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.”

The two-party system itself preserves the Democrats’ conservatism, which suggests that the party is not likely to change before there is a legitimate challenge from its left. Until then, the Democratic leadership can remain confident that its base has nowhere else to go. Thus, even when Democrats push policies that harm their constituents, they can expect little protest from the major liberal organizations. For example, when the Democratic Party promotes so-called education reform policies that are hostile to teachers unions andnegatively affect black students, officials themselves receive almost no resistance from teachers unions or the NAACP.

In fact, the opposite occurrs. While rank-and-file teachers oppose significant aspects of the reform movement, including the Common Core standards and the intensifying regime of standardized testing, their union leadership dutifully lines up to back the Democratic Party. The American Federation of Teachers endorsed Clinton as early as July 2015; the National Education Association followed suit in October, with no debate or discussion among its members. The civil rights establishment is largely silent on education policy, but, when it does get vocal, it tends to support reformers. This is not surprising considering that theNAACP and Urban League have received millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation, which champions charter schools, standardized testing, and privatization. Notably, education reform was the key agenda item of former Obama administration Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The party’s conservatism radiates outward, as its constituency learns to fall in behind its positions.

This makes the party difficult to capture, as the Tea Party had captured the GOP at one point. Yet the appeal of such a strategy is longstanding. The same question returns eternally: How to transform protest rabble into respectable politics? In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the move to integrate the New Left into the Democratic Party was heralded as a sign of maturation for the counterculture. But as the movements in the streets subsided and activists entered the electoral arena, they imbibed party norms and became less militant. In 1984 and ’88, the Rainbow Coalition led by Reverend Jesse Jackson was supposed to get tough with the Democratic Party and demand a seat at the table for black voters. Instead, the party got tough with black and other progressive voters by insisting that they take a back seat to the paty’s conservative wing, represented by Bill Clinton. And let us not forget that it was Al Gore, running against Michael Dukakis for the Democratic Party nomination in 1988, who introduced Willie Horton into the post–Civil Rights lexicon of racial symbolism, helping to derail Dukakis’s campaign and reinforce the era’s demand for crime-control politics and policies.

Given the resilience of party conservatives, their history of both rebuffing challenges from the left and absorbing the challengers themselves, it is hard to imagine a takeover strategy bearing fruit. This brings us back to Sanders and the most unfortunate aspect of his campaign: he is running as a Democrat. As a consequence he will, at some point, be asked to throw his support to Clinton. (Already he has agreed to back her in the likely event that she is nominated.) For Sanders, who has spent his entire political life working with and on behalf of Democrats, this is perhaps no great sacrifice.

However, the intractability of the Democratic Party is not the only argument against moving from protest to polite politics. The assumption that doing so is preferable or important underestimates the critical role protest plays in generating progressive change. When activists recall a Democratic Party that cared about ordinary people, what they really have in mind are the social movements and revolts that forced the party to respond to the needs and demands of those on the streets. There would have been no New Deal without the Hoovervilles, rent riots, sit-down strikes, and Communist Party activism of the 1930s. There would have been no Great Society without Civil Rights protests in the South and rebellions in more than two hundred cities across the country during the 1960s. Even Richard Nixon, who won office appealing to a racist “silent majority,” waited out his first term before he began dismantling Lyndon Johnson’s welfare state, lest he provoke protests.

As the great activist and historian Howard Zinn put it, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but ‘who is sitting in’—and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.” He didn’t mean that elections are irrelevant, but he emphasized what citizens do to shape their world. The anger about inequality and injustice in the United States, which has been given some voice by the Sanders campaign and most certainly by the Black Lives Matter movement, should not be stifled by the pressure to organize through the Democratic Party. It can’t be done. The movement for equality and justice should continue to organize independently and fight for its agenda regardless of what party sits in office.

Housing Bias Outlasts Ruling in a Long Island Village

Re-Post From New York Times


GARDEN CITY, N.Y. — Mary Crosson, a housing activist, remembers moving to Long Island from Bayside, Queens, in the 1990s and being struck by the sharp divisions that seemed to keep blacks and whites apart.

“I come from South Carolina, so I understand discrimination,” said Mrs. Crosson, 68, who is black and lives in the village of Hempstead, where nearly half the residents are African-American. “In Queens, it was more of a mixed neighborhood. I came out here and I felt like I went back to the South all over again.”

A federal appeals court found last month that such segregation was not an accident. The court ruled that Hempstead’s next-door neighbor, Garden City, a wealthy village where 1.2 percent of the residents were black in 2010, had violated federal antidiscrimination law by rezoning land specifically to block multifamily housing — and the potential for minorities to move in.

“Something was amiss here,” a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit wrote in its decision. “Garden City’s abrupt shift in zoning in the face of vocal opposition to changing the character of Garden City represented acquiescence to race-based animus.”

The ruling, which affirmed a 2013 decision by a Federal District Court judge, is a pivotal development in the long struggle to dismantle housing segregation as the federal government, courts and advocacy groups shift the battle beyond cities to white suburban enclaves that have deliberately erected barriers to integration.

The more aggressive posture reflects a growing impatience with the persistence of segregation a half-century after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, and an effort to apply more pressure on communities to finally open themselves up to black and Latino residents.

“It’s another signal that the tide is turning in terms of fair housing,” said Prof. Robert M. Silverman, of the School of Architecture and Planning at the State University of New York at Buffalo, who has written extensively on the subject of housing segregation. “There’s a historic pattern of segregation that those places have experienced.”
Continue reading the main story

In the case of Garden City, however, the legal victory may have come too late. The litigation dragged on for so long that a courthouse is now planned for the land at the center of the case, and local officials, advocates said, claim there are few other parcels on which to build.

From left, Mary Crosson, Diane Goins and Atlanta Georgia Cockrell at the headquarters of the Long Island chapter of New York Communities for Change. CreditVictor J. Blue for The New York Times

The judges who ruled in the Garden City case raised the possibility that discrimination went beyond one community, directing the district court to determine whether officials in Nassau County, which includes Garden City and Hempstead, had deliberately steered affordable housing to low-income areas with largely minority populations.

Experts on fair housing say discrimination cases are flaring where the need for more affordable housing is greatest: cities where housing costs are high and their suburbs. In recent years, legal challenges have been raised inWestchester County, N.Y.; Marin County, Calif.; and the city of Dallas, among other places.

The litigation in Nassau County is entering its next phase as a new rule issued by the Obama administration takes effect, requiring communities that receive federal housing aid to detail how they plan to reduce racial inequality in housing. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has given local governments data and mapping tools to help them address segregation.

Bryan Greene, the agency’s general deputy assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said the requirement would help prevent what happened in Westchester, where some of the country’s most affluent communities sit next to hardscrabble towns and where, a judge found, officials had failed to consider race when they certified that the county had taken steps to promote fair housing.

Westchester, which entered a sweeping desegregation agreement with the federal government in 2009, helped “illustrate to many people nationwide that communities were getting millions and millions of dollars in block grant funding” without evaluating the problem of racial segregation, Mr. Greene said.

In the case of Garden City, local officials had not received federal housing money, but the Fair Housing Act applies to all housing transactions and policies, even when federal money is not involved.

The lawsuit that led to the appeals court ruling last month was filed against the village and Nassau County in 2005. It accused the village of discrimination by catering to residents who had protested the board of trustees’ initial embrace of a zoning classification that would have allowed multifamily housing on a 25-acre parcel that the county owned and planned to sell to a private developer.

While the classification did not specifically refer to affordable housing, the appeals court said, residents who opposed the move raised the specter of such housing being built and urged the trustees to “play it safe” by allowing only townhouses or single-family homes on the property. The trustees did just that.

Using what the appeals court called code words, residents said that multifamily housing would change the “flavor” and “character” of the village and would lead to “four or 10 people in an apartment,” and demanded a guarantee that the housing be “upscale.”

“The tenor of the discussion at public hearings,” the judges wrote, and a flier that circulated in the village, “shows that citizen opposition, though not overtly race-based, was directed at a potential influx of poor, minority residents.”

Garden City officials have yet to decide whether to appeal. The trustees said in a statement that the village had already begun to apply remedies ordered by the district court judge, Arthur D. Spatt, adopting a fair-housing resolution and appointing a fair-housing compliance officer.

Judge Spatt also ordered Garden City to require that 10 percent of new residential developments with five units or more be set aside for residents with household incomes of 80 percent or less of Long Island’s median income.

Advocates doubt the village will create such housing anytime soon. “They’ve been saying to us the whole time that they don’t have enough land to build anything,” said Diane Goins, chairwoman of the Long Island chapter of New York Communities for Change, a plaintiff in the case.

Nonetheless, Ms. Goins, who lives in Hempstead, called the ruling historic. “Having grown up in African-American communities on Long Island, I always knew that we were locked into certain places,” she explained. “You could visit Garden City, but you could not stay.”

The lawyers for the plaintiffs said Garden City and Nassau County were not unusual. “There are many violations going on all across the country, but unless someone catches them, it’s of no moment,” one of the lawyers, Frederick K. Brewington, said.

The broader implications of the case, and the appeals court’s question about whether Nassau had engaged in racial steering, could be far-reaching. Nassau “is one of the most segregated counties in the country,” said Stanley J. Brown, another lawyer for the plaintiffs.

In Westchester, the events that eventually produced a desegregation agreement started with a challenge by an advocacy group, the Anti-Discrimination Center, which accused the county of lying when it claimed to have followed fair-housing requirements while applying for federal housing money.

A federal judge agreed, ruling that the county had “utterly failed” to meet its obligations. The county said it would build 750 units of affordable housing in 31 overwhelmingly white communities. The units — intended for working, middle-class families — were to be aggressively marketed to nonwhite residents.


In Garden City, 2.6 percent of residents were black and Hispanic in 2000. “Something was amiss here,” judges with the appeals court wrote in their decision. CreditVictor J. Blue for The New York Times

At the end of 2015, according to county officials, financing was in place for 649 units, 588 of which had building permits or certificates of occupancy.

But a thornier element of the Westchester settlement required the county to “use all available means as appropriate” to promote nondiscriminatory housing. That included pressing local governments to change zoning rules that discouraged the construction of apartments.

The federal housing agency has repeatedly accused Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, of moving too slowly on the issue. He, in turn, has accused the agency of trying to expand the agreement’s scope.

In a recent opinion article in a local newspaper, Mr. Astorino, a Republican, said the housing agency was trying to “assault local zoning.”

The Nassau and Westchester cases have their roots in a much older housing-discrimination battle near New York: a seminal case in Mount Laurel, N.J.

The Mount Laurel case began in the 1960s when a group of African-Americans found themselves priced out of the township, a Philadelphia suburb. They sued in 1971, after local officials blocked an affordable-housing project.

The case reached New Jersey’s highest court, which in two key rulings limited the use of exclusionary zoning to prevent the construction of affordable housing.

More important, the ruling, known as the Mount Laurel doctrine, asserted that all municipalities had an obligation to provide a “fair share” of affordable housing. Since the mid-1980s, a total of more than 65,000 units have been built across New Jersey’s 21 counties.

Professor Silverman of SUNY Buffalo said continued litigation of fair-housing cases highlighted both the intractable nature of the problem and the robust enforcement now unfolding nationally.

“The fact that discrimination has been sustained over time, despite a series of different court challenges, has kept the issue salient,” he said. “People see the inequalities.”


Five questions for an affordable housing expert

2. Some advocates have conflated affordable and workforce housing — that is combining homelessness, low-income and middle class needs together. Does such an approach sufficiently address the complexities of the debate or are cities more successful when they address these issues separately?

In a place that is growing rapidly, there is a need for a multifaceted approach, since different groups in the population face affordable housing barriers for different reasons. Strategies like workforce housing usually focus on specific groups that fall through the cracks in tight housing markets — teachers, police officers, firefighters, etc. — who can’t afford to live in the place they work due to their salaries being too low.

So, affordable housing, down payment assistance, mortgage interest write downs or other policies are put in place to help them find housing. But, those types of programs don’t address the needs of other groups struggling to find affordable housing, like the elderly, students or the poor in general. They need a variety of other fair and affordable housing options. Even if things get conflated in the short term, the long-term needs of all constituencies will eventually surface and have to be addressed.

3. Are there cities that have best practices on managing housing needs for changing and growing populations?

People point to places like New Jersey as a model for regional affordable housing development. A lot has been written about the Mount Laurel case where affordable housing was part of the state’s regional fair share approach. Illinois, particularly in the Greater Chicago area, is also cited a lot for its use of inclusionary zoning and mixed-income development.

4. Can government be effective when a booming market is bringing together willing buyers and sellers even at the expense of existing residents, i.e., because they live in public housing that will be torn down, because renters will be charged more every year, and because property value increases will lead to an increase in taxes?

Local government can do some of the things I mention above to protect long-term residents from speculation and housing inflation. The most direct ways to protect existing residents are tools like rent control and various forms of property tax and assessment relief. But, local government can also be more aggressive about building more affordable housing.

Today a lot of that activity takes place with nonprofit developers using tools like the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) and by creating low-income housing trust funds. Trust funds are typically funded with fees applied to market-rate developments, payments for increased density that are part of incentive-based inclusionary zoning, and fees for deed transfers, etc.

5. Are there other factors I’m not taking into consideration that I should be on this issue?

Another tool that is being used more to provide for affordable housing are community benefits agreements (CBAs), which are negotiated with developers of large projects like hospital and university expansions, stadium development, etc. Part of those agreements can include set-asides for affordable housing development that are linked to larger projects receiving public subsidies.

David Plazas is the opinion engagement editor of The Tennessean. Call him at 615-259-8063, email him at or tweet to him @davidplazas.

Live Webcast: The Impact of Blight on Communities: Definitions, Effects, and Programs

The Impact of Blight on Communities: Definitions, Effects, and Programs

The UB Center for Urban Studies will be hosting the fourm with the Rockefeller Institute of Government and the Center for Technology in Government at SUNY Albany. While this forum will take place at SUNY Albany, it will be also be presented via webcast in 301 Crosby Hall on the University at Buffalo South Campus.  Following the forum, we will have a panel discussion to talk about the implications for Buffalo. Please join us!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

10:00am – 1:00pm

301 Crosby Hall, University at Buffalo South Campus

This program is part one of a two-program series designed to consider the issue of urban blight and property abandonment. The second program will be scheduled at the University at Buffalo at a date to be determined. Details on this second event will be posted on the Center for Urban Studies website as soon as they are made available.

Cities throughout the United States are facing the increasingly persistent and costly problem of blighted and vacant properties. These properties consume seemingly endless resources, depress market values, and directly affect public safety and economic development. To combat the cycle from distressed to blighted or vacant, urban leaders across the nation are working in new ways to create 21st century remedies.

To promote understanding of the problem of urban blight and increase awareness of some remedies that are already working, and some that are emerging, the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany, the Center for Urban Studies at the University at Buffalo, and the Rockefeller Institute of Government, all part of the State University of New York, are co-hosting a forum entitled The Impact of Blight on Communities: Definitions, Effects, and Programs. In this forum, sponsored by TW&A Construction Management, the University at Albany’s Division of Research, and Cisco, the issue of urban blight will be discussed and defined within the context of New York State and the issues of economic and social impact on cities and municipalities will be considered. The keynote speaker and expert panelists will discuss the financial cost to cities and municipalities, as well as deterioration, decay, and neglect of the physical environment, with a particular focus on exploring the challenges involved in solving these problems.

From Albany

Keynote Address: Alan Mallach, Ph.D, Fellow, The Center for Community Progress and Fellow, Brookings (retired)

Panel 1

  1. George Galster, Ph.D., Wayne State University, Michigan (via video)
  2. Mayor Gary McCarthy, City of Schenectady
  3. Henry Louis Taylor, Ph.D., Urban Studies Program, University at Buffalo/SUNY
  4. Nora Yates, NYS Governor’s Office, Executive Chamber
  5. A Representative from Olean Economic Development
  6. Alan Mallach, Ph.D, Fellow, The Center for Community Progress and Fellow, Brookings (retired)


From Buffalo

Following the Albany webcast, a panel of local experts will discuss the implications of blight on the development of the Greater Buffalo metropolitan region.  Dr. Robert Silverman will moderate the panel discussion.

Panel 2: The Impact of Blight on Metro Buffalo

  1. Moderator: Robert Silverman, Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
  2. Art Hall, Office of Strategic Planning, City of Buffalo
  3. James Pitts, Pitts Development Corporation
  4. Aaron Bartley and Rahwa Ghirmatzion, PUSH Buffalo


Rockefeller Institute of Government/SUNY; Center for Urban Studies, University at Buffalo/SUNY; The Center for Technology in Government of the University at Albany/SUNY

*2.0 AICP Certification Maintenance credits pending*




Center for Urban Studies director awarded Excellence in University-Community Engagement Award

UB recognizes community engagement activities

University-Community Engagement Award Winners at the Jacobs Executive Development Center Photographer: Douglas Levere

University-Community Engagement Award Winner, Dr. Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., at the Jacobs Executive Development Center
Photographer: Douglas Levere


Published March 10, 2016

The projects range from rebuilding Buffalo’s food system and improving the breast cancer screening rates for inner city women to helping city high school students complete their FAFSA forms and bringing dental care to rural communities.

These community engagement activities, notes Provost Charles Zukoski, “build important relationships and enhance university research and education.”

Six members of the UB community working with community partners to realize these and other significant needs in the community are the first recipients of the Excellence in University-Community Engagement Awards.

The awards, created by the UB Engagement Advisory Committee to recognize members of the UB community who are building partnerships with community entities that enhance research, teaching and service, were presented at a reception on Wednesday at the Jacobs Executive Development Center.

The reception was hosted by Zukoski and Mary Gresham, former vice provost for educational collaboration and engagement who retired at the end of the fall semester after 45 years of service to UB. Gresham chaired the Engagement Advisory Committee.

As a public research university, UB is “dedicated to pursuing transformative research and education that respond to local and global issues, and are directly engaged with our communities,” Zukoski told those attending the reception.

“Through UB 2020, we are committed to building partnerships in an effort to address community needs while providing faculty, staff and students with rewarding new research and learning opportunities.

“The engagement projects we are recognizing today exemplify this,” he said. “In collaboration with community partners, our honorees use research to address direct needs in our community and they enrich our students’ educational experience by inviting them to participate in the engagement activities.”

Each of the award recipients, Zukoski said, “embodies our mission as a public research university — serving the greater public good through your contributions.”

Gresham agreed, noting the efforts of the award winners “have strengthened relationships in the community and advanced UB’s public research mission.”

She introduced the award winners and offered a brief description of their accomplishments.

The Excellence in University-Community Engagement Award winners, their community partners and the title of their projects:

“Community-University Collaboration on Rebuilding Buffalo’s Food System”: Samina Raja, associate professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, and community partner Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP).

Raja’s research lab, the UB Food Lab, and MAP have collaborated to rebuild and strengthen the food system in Buffalo, and also work together on events to raise community awareness about the city’s food system. Last year, they partnered to organize a “Just Food, Just Communities” event that included a public lecture on racial and food justice by noted civil rights leader Shirley Sherrod.

“FAFSA Completion Project”: Nathan Daun-Barnett, associate professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, and coordinator of the program in Higher Education Administration, Graduate School of Education, and community partner Say Yes to Education Buffalo.

Completing the FAFSA, a required form for college admission that determines the amount of financial aid available to students and their families, can be daunting. And failure to complete the FAFSA can mean the difference between access to and denial of higher education for a student. The FAFSA Completion Project addressed the problem and implemented a comprehensive strategy — the College Success Center — to help students complete the FAFSA. The project has expanded from one school in Buffalo to 14.

“Mobile Mammography Unit and Underserved Primary Care Practices”: Megan Wilson, community research facilitator, Clinical and Translational Research Center, and community partner Deborah Hemphill, Patient Voices Network.

The goal of the project was to improve breast cancer screening rates for inner city women by using a mobile mammography unit to provide on-site screenings at four urban health practices. Recognizing that many women are fearful of mammograms, the project created “patient ambassadors” who would deliver breast health education and help guide the women on screening days. As of last December, the project had screened more than 2,600 women throughout Buffalo.

“S-Miles to Go”: Stephen Abel, associate professor, Department of Periodontics and Endodontics, and associate dean for student, community and professional initiatives, School of Dental Medicine, and numerous community partners in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.

The S-Miles to Go initiative continues the dental school’s long history of addressing the oral health needs of medically underserved communities. This mobile dental unit travels to these communities to provide direct clinical services and health education. Senior dental students serve a rotation with the initiative, gaining valuable experience with rural populations. In some communities, they provide the only access to dental services.

Gresham also recognized senior faculty members Joseph Gardella and Henry Louis Taylor Jr. as recipients of the Excellence in University-Community Engagement Award for Sustained Contributions for having demonstrated “sustained contributions and commitment to university-community engagement throughout their careers.”

Gardella, SUNY Distinguished Professor and John and Frances Larkin Professor of Chemistry, has used his research expertise in chemistry to address community concerns for more than 20 years, Gresham said. In 1995 he was the first UB faculty member to modify a course —Analytical Chemistry of Pollutants — to specifically allow students to experience the subject matter in an applied context.

Most recently, she said, he has developed a formal partnership with the National Science Foundation and the Buffalo Public Schools to introduce STEM education strategies to high-needs schools.

Taylor, professor of urban and regional planning in the School of Architecture and Planning, has focused his research on “strengthening undeveloped neighborhoods by improving schools, engaging residents in neighborhood development, developing entrepreneurs, improving the delivery of health care services, and by designing and planning these communities to support this agenda,” Gresham said.

For example, Taylor’s “Community as Classroom” project, in partnership with Futures Academy, has worked with more than 1,000 children, teaching them how to use their classroom lessons to solve neighborhood development problems.

Those who know Buffalo say the city is getting its mojo back, but still needs a lot of work

Re-Post from WBFO


A writer, a professor, and a developer walk into a bar. There’s no punch line to follow because that’s actually what happened during a panel discussion on Tuesday night at Allentown Hardware. The main question – is Buffalo getting its mojo back?

Investigative Post editor Jim Heaney moderated the conversation between Buffalo Rising Editor Newell Nussbaumer, University at Buffalo Urban Studies Professor Henry Taylor, and developer Rocco Termini.

Nussbaumer said the city has come a long way from where it was, but hasn’t made a full rebound yet. He said he often gauges how Buffalo is doing on how well he can keep up with what’s going on in town.

“For the first time ever I have a really hard time keeping up with what’s going on,” said Nussbaumer.

Nussbaumer fields constant emails and conversations with people moving back to Buffalo and engaging in new activity.

Termini said the city is in its mojo infancy. He pointed out that every project in Buffalo has a subsidy associated with it, from tax credits for historic properties and brownfields to cash injections from state or local government.

“I think you get your mojo when you don’t need any of those subsidies,” Termini said.

Termini said the real problem is that residents can’t afford to pay market-rate rent with Buffalo’s low median income.

As for Taylor, he took issue with the concept of getting mojo back. He said the mojo of the past should not be a present concern. Instead, Taylor believes residents should focus on the task of creating a new mojo.

“A part of that task is to identify the kind of city that we want to build,” said Taylor. “We don’t know what kind of city we want to build.”

Taylor said the city template should be anchored around social, racial and economic justice. He said prosperity and growth should be looked at as a means of creating a new way of life.

In regards to the best thing Buffalo has going for its resurgence and areas in which it can stand for improvement, all three agreed that the most positive asset is a new wealth of young residents.

“Young people are reenergizing this city,” explained Termini. “They’re coming back. They’re not leaving. And they’re not leaving because they see the possibility of opportunities here, which five years ago, people didn’t see those opportunities.”

Among the items thought to be negative were an underperforming education system, failure to develop the city’s east side, and a lack of vision for accommodating minority and low income residents.

The conversation quickly turned to the question of how to revive Buffalo’s East Side neighborhoods and a key issue.

“Who on the East Side will be the catalyst?” asked Nussbaumer. “Will it be the reverends? Will it be the community? Will it be the block clubs? Will it be the commercial businesses that are over there? Who is going to lead that conversation?”

All three panelists generally agreed that the conversation needs to come from within the east side community, but debated over whether outside help would be appropriate. Taylor said the person or entity hasn’t yet emerged who can take charge of the issue.

Poloncarz appoints members of poverty committee

Re-post from Orchard Park Bee


Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz recently announced the appointees of the re-established Welfare Advisory Board, which will function as a Poverty Committee to advise Erie County on how to reduce poverty, according to a release.

Poloncarz called for the establishment of the committee earlier this year as part of his health and human services plan, Initiatives for a Stronger Community.

“Although numerous indicators show that the County as a whole is better off than it was a few short years ago, our community cannot truly be prosperous if a significant portion of our community is unable to take advantage of these opportunities,” Poloncarz said in the release.

Although the poverty committee will be staffed and supported by the Department of Social Services, it will be engaged with all county departments that work with individuals in or at-risk of poverty.

The poverty committee will advise county government on measures to reduce poverty and its causes, including access to employment opportunities, the high cost of safe and secure housing, substance abuse, mental illness, discrimination and disability.

The Erie County Charter directs that the board, which had been inactive for many years, be made up of seven members. Poloncarz introduced the members along with the chairperson of the board, the Rev. Kinzer Pointer.

“Re-establishing this important committee to ask and seek answers to reducing poverty is our responsibility to our fellow citizens,” Rev. Pointer said. “This is vital work in returning the entire region to better days, and I am pleased to join this effort.”

Rev. Pointer, of Buffalo, and a graduate of Canisius College, is the pastor of Agape Fellowship Baptist Church.

The other new appointees are:

Dr. Henry Louis Taylor, the founding director of the Center for Urban Studies at the University at Buffalo. His research focuses on understanding distressed urban neighborhoods, the redevelopment of shrinking cities, and issues of social isolation, racial justice and class facing people of color.

Anna Falicov, who has focused her law practice and activism on representing and advocating for working people. She is the chairwoman of the Coalition for Economic Justice, an organization that works on issues of equitable economic development and workers’ rights.

Dr. Myron Glick, the chief medical officer of Jericho Road Community Health Center. The center provides a culturally sensitive medical home, especially for refugee and low-income community members, facilitating wellness and self-sufficiency by addressing health, education, economic and spiritual barriers.

Rev. Frank Cerny, board chairman of the Rural Outreach Center in East Aurora, which provides a centralized facility where those in need in rural areas of Erie County can receive acute assistance when dealing with sudden traumatic events, along with empowerment and training programs to elevate their status.

Dr. Yvonne Minor-Ragan, president of Buffalo Promise Neighborhood. The organization is a public/ private partnership seeking to improve academic performance at the neighborhood’s three schools while revitalizing the surrounding community.

Marlies Wesolowski, executive director of the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center, a multifaceted human service organization, since 2001. She previously served as Buffalo School Board president.