Universities, because of their vast human and fiscal resources, can play the central role in assisting in the development of school-centered community development programs that make youth development their top priority. The Futures Academy, a K-8 public school in the Fruit Belt, an inner-city neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, offers a useful model of community development in partnership with the Center for Urban Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The goal of the project is to create opportunities for students to apply the knowledge and skills they learn in the classroom to the goal of working with others to make the neighborhood a better place to live. The efforts seek to realize in practice the Dewey dictum that individuals learn best when they have “a real motive behind and a real outcome ahead.”
This chapter examines two community development case studies related to social inclusion and exclusion in the public participation process. Each focuses on dimensions of public participation in community development organizations and processes. The first case study examines the role of public participation in the governance of community-based housing organizations in Buffalo, NY. Here, public participation is examined in relation to organizational autonomy, patronage politics and bureaucratic structures. This case study illustrates how grassroots control of community-based housing organizations is reduced by institutional constraints placed on community development activities. The second case study examines a neighborhood planning project in Depew, NY (an industrial suburb of Buffalo). The scope and impact of public participation is explored in the context of planning techniques applied to neighborhood revitalization efforts in Depew. Competing interests among residents, business and local government are explored. This case study focuses on the manner in which university-based consultants working on community development projects approach resident empowerment. Constraints on achieving full participation due to limited capacity in the public sector are discussed. Combined, the two case studies highlight the barriers to expanding the voice of disenfranchised groups in the governance of grassroots organizations and the planning of neighborhood development projects. Lessons are drawn from these case studies to outline strategies for expanding the scope of public participation in community development activities, particularly in relation to the role of disadvantaged groups in grassroots decision-making.
This article revisits Arnstein’s “ladder of citizen participation” focusing on inner-city residents’ perceptions of public input in neighborhood revitalization projects. It draws from data collected in Buffalo, New York for a larger project that aimed to address negative externalities caused
by neighborhood change. Data were collected using focus groups in neighborhoods in the early stages of revitalization. Nine focus groups took place across three neighborhoods experiencing encroachment from hospitals and universities. Data analysis was guided by standpoint theory, which
focuses on amplifying the voices of groups traditionally disenfranchised from planning processes. The findings suggest that the shortcomings of public input identified by Arnstein a half century ago remain problematic. Residents continue to perceive limited access to urban planning processes
and believe outcomes do not prioritize their interests. This is particularly problematic in minority, working-class neighborhoods when institutionally driven development occurs. Recommendations emphasize enhancing planners’ fidelity to strategies that expand citizen control.
This article examines residents’ perceptions of inner-city revitalization in legacy cities. The analysis focuses on neighborhoods undergoing revitalization in a legacy city, Buffalo, NY. The article draws from data for a larger research project called Turning the Corner which was sponsored by the Urban Institute. The focus of that project was to identify planning strategies to address negative externalities caused by neighborhood change and heightened risks of displacement due to revitalization. Data were collected through a series of focus groups with residents and stakeholders
in working-class, minority neighborhoods which were identified as being in the early stages of revitalization. Two findings emerged from the analysis. First, residents perceived urban revitalization to have a destabilizing effect on traditional neighborhoods. Second, residents perceived revitalization as detrimental to the sustainability of family-friendly neighborhoods. Insights from the analysis are used to prompt planners’ advocacy for revitalization strategies aimed at protecting minority, working-class neighborhoods when institutionally driven revitalization occurs.
This study follows two earlier works published by the Center for Urban Studies, The Turning Point: A Strategic Plan of Action for the Fruitbelt/Medical Corridor (March 27, 2001) and Fruit Belt/Medical Corridor Tax Increment Financing District (February 12, 2002). The original report argued that better social, economic and physical connections could be established between the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), a wealth generating district within the city, and the adjacent Fruit Belt residential area, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Buffalo.
The study documented in this report was the first attempt to visualize the physical potential of the residential neighborhood. The work took as proceeded under the assumptions stated in the earlier reports about the amount of residential and commercial / social amenity space that could be anticipated in this redevelopment. It was viewed as an opportunity for the existing community members to make initial suggestions about development they would like to see.