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West Side project is in race to win international online 'green' contest

Then-Gov. David A. Paterson spoke of the West Side's "green development zone" in his 2010 State of the State address, seeing it as a pilot project for green neighborhood rehabilitation.

People United for Sustainable Housing -- in collaboration with Massachusetts Avenue Project, HomeFront, Habitat for Humanity and the Outsource Center -- created the plan for the 16-block zone and its more than 50 parcels of property.

Now the project has been named one of 10 finalists in the International Urban Sustainability Contest from Ashoka's Changemakers. The three projects getting the most online votes by April 6 will receive $10,000.

Other countries entered are Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Haiti, Kenya and India. The Buffalo project is the only one from the United States.

To vote, go to www.change-makers.com/sustainableurbanhousing.

"We think of the green development zone as a laboratory of sustainability in the holistic sense, in that we are improving physical conditions of the neighborhood while creating green jobs and providing new models of community-based renewable energy production," said Aaron Bartley, PUSH's director.

"The core value motivating our work is community control of resources."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer urged residents to vote for the project in this "prestigious and important international competition."

"This project will serve as the model for future sustainable housing and job creation in clean energy, and it absolutely deserves the accolades it has garnered so far," Schumer said in a statement.

"The innovative thinking and creativity that have brought this project together will help catapult Buffalo to the forefront of this emerging industry."

Michael Clarke, executive director of Local Initiative Support Corp., which has provided financing and grants, also praised the project.

"PUSH's selection as a finalist speaks directly to the innovative work that is happening right here on Buffalo's West Side," Clarke said. "PUSH's dedication to true resident engagement and participation shows that rebuilding neighborhoods in Buffalo and beyond needs to be about more than just housing."

The green development zone extends west of Richmond Avenue, south of West Ferry Street, north of Vermont Street and east of 15th Street. Work under way includes green rehabilitation of vacant buildings, weatherization, community gardens, urban farming and the capture of rainwater.

Ashoka picked the finalists for their "innovative solutions that engage communities, entrepreneurs and key institutions in collaborating to integrate and develop affordable, inclusive and sustainable urban housing that respects the environment, local cultures and practices."

The competition is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and is a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. State Department and the American Planning Association, with support from the Brazilian Ministry of Cities.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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