Aaron Bartley firmly believes in “founder’s syndrome,” the notion that a founder of an organization can stay on as leader too long, bringing stagnation or worse. So, the executive director of People United for Sustainable Housing, the dynamic grassroots organization that he and Eric Walker co-founded in 2004, is moving on.
Through PUSH, Bartley, 42, has left an indelible mark on the West Side.
His departure date is Aug. 1, 2018, at which time he will turn his attention to writing a book on community organizing in the U.S., indulging his keen interest in mid-century modern furniture – which he collects – and possibly opening a pop-up shop with books and furniture at the end of 2018. Foremost, his focus will be on being a stay-at-home dad.
In Bartley, low-income residents found someone who championed their cause from their point of view – he lived and worked with them. He has taken on the establishment and made a major contribution to the revival of Buffalo’s West Side. And improvements there are radiating to other parts of the city.
Among the many highlights of Bartley’s tenure:
• Development. Grants totaling more than $40 million have been directed into a “Green Development Zone,” a 30-block section of the West Side.
• Affordable housing. The rehabilitation of School 77 into 30 senior apartments and office space will bring to 110 the number of affordable apartments and co-ops created.
• Weatherization. More than 500 homes on the West Side and other areas have benefited from PUSH’s low-cost weatherization program.
PUSH has worked for living-wage jobs and, in doing so, paved the way for a job training program through its housing projects, resulting in training for hundreds of people, with more than 75 earning permanent construction jobs. The nonprofit has also developed hundreds of landscaping and green infrastructure projects, including a community-shared solar facility that will be on the roof of School 77.
And then there is the after-school youth center on Grant Street currently serving 60 children Monday through Friday.
Under Bartley’s leadership, PUSH Buffalo has become part of the community fabric, enhancing lives and quality of life in innovative ways. Job well done.