Erie Community College is one of the most valuable resources in Western New York. It not only has provided good education to thousands of our residents, it has also spawned countless businesses here.
It is a well-known fact that we have become one of the poorest cities in the country, and a large part of that poverty has been the result of bad decisions in an unbelievably bad Master Plan. Moving the ECC North Campus into downtown Buffalo will not cure the ills of this region.
We missed the boat on the Ralph Wilson Stadium, and the University at Buffalo. We have cut off our waterfront with a Thruway that occupies land that should have been better utilized.
Before people jump on the bandwagon to move North Campus into the city, in a consolidation plan, they need to look at some facts. The fact is that North Campus is the plow horse of the college. It serves 44 percent of the student population.
We can't take back the fact that ECC decided to expand the college from Amherst to Orchard Park under pressure from the Erie County Legislature. After establishing two campuses in the most affluent areas of the county, city residents protested their lack of access, and the City Campus was added. There is no doubt that the City Campus represents one of the architectural gems of Buffalo. What it is not is efficient. It is the most costly campus to maintain and it is less than ideal in its utilization of space.
ECC is the only community college in the state with three campuses. It should never have happened, and now we are paying for the poor choices that were made. Closing the North Campus makes no sense. Although the property desperately needs an infusion of cash, it has some programs that have had serious monies invested to keep them current. The dental hygiene wing in the Spring Student Center cost millions of dollars to update, and the food service administration program, thanks to Statler Foundation monies, has had significant improvements. The Law Enforcement unit has also seen significant physical changes.
Closing the North Campus would seriously harm the enrollment of the college and it would become a financial sinkhole. If our political leaders and The Buffalo News think it's good for the county to help subsidize developers with taxpayer dollars by moving a functional, albeit tired campus into decaying properties that will hardly be "truly high quality campuses," they need to do the math.
Could it be that the powers that be are eyeing the extremely desirable property at the North Campus as a cash windfall? Let's not go down another road to "panaceaville." This idea needs to be looked at through the prism of reality -- and the reality is that the cost of such a move would be unsustainable.
Anthony C. Mauro is a professor emeritus of Erie Community College.