Residents put out the "not welcome" mat to any further attempts by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority to buy up property in the North District.
Close to 200 people gathered in St. Florian's Parish Center Monday night to sign petitions and express opposition over the Housing Authority's now-abandoned interest in buying the privately owned Hertel Homes apartment complex.
Sharon M. West, executive director, said earlier that the authority had been interested in the 158-unit complex as an investment and it would not have been operated as public housing. She said it withdrew its interest "at this time" in the light of community opposition.
Several speakers expressed concern that it might try again later and anger that the authority did not make its interest in the property known.
North Council Member Joseph Golombek, who sponsored the meeting, said he is concerned the authority might "try to sneak it through again" and said he will demand that it appear before the Common Council and answer questions concerning its vacancy rate and need for additional property. County Legislator Albert DeBenedetti said it is "absurd that the Housing Authority, which does such a . . . poor job of managing the property it already owns, wants to buy more."
"What took place (the secret negotiations) is appalling," he said.
Thomas Gleed, assistant to Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, said the mayor has made it clear he opposes the authority purchasing Hertel Homes and said the nearby Jasper Parrish Homes, a Housing Authority facility, is part of a neighborhood redevelopment plan to be made public in March or April.
Both Gleed and Golombek said efforts should be made to encourage individual homeownership, not the opposite.
The authority was not represented at the meeting. Golombek said he invited West.
Mary L. Washington, president of the Jasper Parrish Residents Council, said she objected to characterizations of the complex as a slum or ghetto and said the authority is doing a lot of work to fix it up.
Dale Zuchlewski, a former Common Council member, said the community was not informed about the negotiations and asked Gleed if he could make a commitment that it would be in the future.
"We will put the Housing Authority on notice that as of now, yes," Gleed replied.
Community activist Richard Kern said the authority has more than 1,500 vacancies and yet is trying to buy additional property.
Golombek said it appears the immediate concern has been resolved.
"Breathe easy, but be wary," he said.