The advocates for the residents of Buffalo’s struggling neighborhoods are protesting that the city’s renaissance hasn’t made a difference in their lives. They see opportunity passing them by and want their fair share.
They’re right. The city is in the midst of a resurgence but it hasn’t reached all its regions. That is both normal and insufficient. Economic progress is often concentrated in neighborhoods that are seen as ripe for development, and poor ones are often the last in line, when they benefit at all. Buffalo and Albany need to keep working until the city’s revival reaches all corners of the city. That has to be the goal.
That’s about a mindset, and one that, in fairness, is present in Buffalo, at least to some extent. It may not be sufficient, over the long haul, but there is no disputing that areas outside the city’s core are getting attention from the state, City Hall and other organizations.
The principal effort thus far, is the Northland Corridor redevelopment project. It’s an encouraging effort that includes the Northland Workforce Training Center, a $44 million project of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development program.
The broader redevelopment project, benefiting a part of Buffalo’s East Side, is an effort to transform a 35-acre section of the East Side into a light manufacturing training and business hub. It is being directed by the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. and has already drawn more than $100 million in funding.
The Training Center is designed to provide jobs training for residents of the East Side and other city neighborhoods so they can obtain positions in advanced manufacturing fields. A separate training center, announced in February, will provide training to people who work in staging live theater, movie and television productions. Buffalo Manufacturing Works is also relocating to Northland, to the same building as the training center.
Of lesser impact, though still worthy, is the face-lift given to the MLK Business District on Fillmore Avenue, where four buildings have been improved and where the streetscape features portraits of African-American leaders on banners placed on streetpoles. The work was funded with a $300,000 from the Housing Trust Fund for the New York Main Street Better Buffalo Fund. The money was awarded to the Community Action Organization of Erie County, which has applied for another $500,000 to continue the work along Fillmore Avenue.
Investments from private developers and nonprofits are also supporting the East Side, with the help of tax credits and other subsidies. Several projects are in planning or already underway on Jefferson Avenue, for example. They include residential housing with People Inc., a medical services building, and a Northwest Bank branch. Other hopeful projects on Doat Street and Broadway are also in progress.
Still, many of these investments would likely have been made in any case. The fear isn’t so much that some neighborhoods are being simply ignored as much as it is that a moment of possibility might pass them by.
In that, they are right to raise their voices and they should continue to do so. It’s a big lift that requires not just city and state infrastructure investments, but a host of other improvements, especially in education. Northland and other projects offer a start, but they are only a start.