Donn Esmonde's column "UB forsakes promise to neighborhood" doesn't tell the whole story. UB hasn't forsaken anything -- in fact it stepped back from its housing rehab initiative partly because that's what it was asked to do.
UB was perceived to be competing with -- and could not improve upon -- the work that was already being done by local nonprofit housing groups like Gloria J. Parks Community Center (University Heights Community Development Association) and Kensington-Bailey Neighborhood Housing Services.
We also found that private and public funders did not believe this was the best way for UB to help neighborhood revitalization. UB's housing effort struggled because of lack of investment by area financial institutions -- only M&T Bank and Fannie Mae joined us in making a financial commitment.
We concluded that we should join forces with other nonprofits to create a better and stronger means to increase owner-occupied housing in the UB area. We are working with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the aforementioned housing agencies to determine how best to make this happen. We did not conclude that we would abandon our neighborhood!
Esmonde dismissed plans to improve the South Campus because "it's not the same as jumping into the neighborhood." The University Community Initiative has developed an asset-based marketing strategy for University Heights and two other neighborhoods in our district; worked with local businesses to improve commercial districts; partnered with Gloria J. Parks Community Center, Fannie Mae and M&T Bank to start a home-buyer education program for UB employees who wish to live in the district; begun a project to fight blight in the university area; and established a Regional Community Policing Center.
Recently, more than 200 UB employees helped out on various projects in this neighborhood as part of the United Way Day of Caring.
UB is neither unresponsive nor absent, and the neighborhood is eager for the university to find a way of helping that does work. So let's stop construing an ongoing struggle to find a solution as disinvestment and default. The more vitriol that Esmonde and others contribute, the harder it gets for those of us who are working to get the job done.
MARY H. GRESHAM
Dean, UB Graduate School of Education
Vice President, Public Service & Urban Affairs