Sometimes life is not fair, and the criticism Mayor Byron W. Brown receives for not doing enough on the East Side may be an example of that saying.
It is true that his administration has devoted considerable resources to the largely poor, African-American area of the City of Buffalo. It is also true that the need there is great and that much more remains to be done.
The mayor made the point – and it is a valid one – in a recent News article, stating, “Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the East Side.” But that has yet to make up for the decades of disinvestment there.
It is because of that long-standing neglect that so many people look around at the still-broken parts and ask why. Brown’s opponents in the September primary picked up on something – the frustration of residents still waiting for the rejuvenation that they see downtown and in some pockets of the East Side to arrive in their neighborhoods.
City spending data over the past 11 years shows that money for streets, sidewalks, parks and similar efforts has been allocated fairly evenly, based on population, in the city’s four neighborhood quadrants. The East Side received a larger share of the community buildings, including ones providing city governments services, than the other sections. Moreover, this section receives considerably more money for housing from the city.
This administration has been developing affordable housing and pouring in resources – $50 million in public and private funds on Jefferson Avenue, $70 million in the Northland Corridor project on East Delavan Avenue and another $70 million in public and private dollars in the Highland Park housing complex being built in the Central Park Plaza neighborhood.
The city’s efforts have consisted of infrastructure, including sidewalks and streets, and demolition of vacant houses, some 6,400. The demolitions have eliminated what might have turned into drug havens, but the empty lots are both unattractive and a drag on rebuilding a street. The city needs creative ways to reuse the open spaces.
And there are still many broken sidewalks that need fixing and roads that need repaving, even more neglected houses that instead of being bulldozed should be considered for rebuilding. Residents want to see more activities for kids that sharpen their minds and keep them busy. The mayor’s mentoring program, anti-violence groups, Say Yes to Education and summer jobs programs all help in that regard.
One of the larger issues, and much harder to solve, is violence. People have a right to live in safety. The mayor and police officials, who canvass neighborhoods following homicides, understand this, and also know there are no quick solutions.
Efforts are underway to make the dream of an East Side renaissance possible. It will just take a lot more work.