By Veronica Hemphill-Nichols
Buffalo’s Fruit Belt has been in the news frequently because of impassioned citizen engagement. We love our community and have been organized for decades. We understand the political process and we are for progress and development.
But when our rights are trampled, when promotional hype is trumpeted as irreversible policy, we take action. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the Fruit Belt neighborhood have been at the table discussing Buffalo’s future since at least 2005.
The appearance of the Medical Campus and its impact on our neighborhood was no surprise. We knew what was coming and early in the process advocated for a residential parking permit.
We worked with our elected officials and a parking permit bill was sent to the Assembly, where it passed. But the bill was blocked in the Senate when the Civil Service Employees Association sent a memo of opposition.
CSEA Western Region President Florence Tripi recently used this column to defend the actions of employees who are impeding our ability to come and go as we need for our jobs, caring for our loved ones, participating in our church services, volunteer activities and civic responsibilities because CSEA employees cannot budget their salaries to pay for employer-sponsored parking.
Additionally, Tripi writes, “At the moment, I am pleased to report community stakeholders are now holding productive meetings with everyone at the table – with much progress to report.”
What progress? Will the residential parking permit bill be allowed to pass? Who are the stakeholders Tripi indicates? Those experienced in community organizing know that the identification of community stakeholders can be politicized, and that too often those so anointed are sure to capitulate to the interests of the power brokers and not to the community.
The sense of entitlement exhibited by CSEA employees is unacceptable. Fruit Belt residents cannot have employees willfully blocking access to our homes to the degree that we are forced to park blocks away from where we live, have garbage totes left in random places and suffer many other inconveniences.
Rather than excuse the self-centered behavior of CSEA members toward Fruit Belt residents, Tripi, along with other union leaders, must come up with solutions that do not make Fruit Belt residents suffer.
For example, the union should negotiate with the Medical Campus to develop parking fees based on a sliding income scale, obtain increased parking subsidies for employees and find realistic ways to incentivize use of public transportation.
CSEA employee comfort and convenience should not come at the expense of the well-being of city residents.
Veronica Hemphill-Nichols is founder and coordinator of the Fruit Belt/McCarley Gardens Housing Task Force.