Just one day after Mayor Byron W. Brown won re-election to a fourth term, about 50 community members and grassroots leaders stormed his City Hall office to demand that city officials take bold action now to address gentrification.
The Buffalo Anti-Gentrification Coalition wants the city to “immediately” implement a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy. Coalition leaders argued that since last February the Office of Strategic Planning has stalled on producing an affordable housing study and developing an inclusionary zoning policy that would guarantee affordable units are included in new housing developments in the City of Buffalo.
The demonstrators wanted to meet with Brown on the spot Wednesday to discuss strategies for “ensuring that Buffalo remains a diverse and vital community.”
“We know the mayor just got re-elected yesterday, but we’re tired of this,” Maxine Murphy, president of the board for PUSH Buffalo, said during the protest rally, which began on the first floor of City Hall where coalition leaders voiced their concerns.
“Rents are too high,” said Aminah Johnson, tenant advocate for PUSH Buffalo. “We need inclusionary zoning, not gentrifiers… raising our rent higher and higher. Inclusionary zoning is the answer.”
Coalition members then took the stairs to the second floor where Brown’s office is located.
“Fight. Fight. Fight. Housing is a human right,” the protesters chanted as they went upstairs.
“Come out. Come out and meet the people that you left out,” the group loudly continued in front of Brown’s office for several minutes.
The excitement drew about five armed security guards and Buffalo Police officers.
Brown said later, at a news conference, that he was in his office at the time, but decided not to come out to address the crowd, primarily because city officials already have an upcoming meeting scheduled with one of the groups.
“My thought is that they wanted to put on a show,” Brown said, after the demonstrators had left the building. “We’re meeting with one of the groups in about a week and a half.”
Brown also said final arrangements are being made for the consultant, czb LLC, to present its analysis of Buffalo’s housing market in late November or early December. The report, Housing Opportunity Strategy, includes recommended actions, Brown said.
“My administration has been focused on affordable housing from the very beginning,” Brown said. “We want to make sure that our Housing Opportunity Strategy goes forward in a sensible and sound way and does not create a chilling effect on the economic development that we’re seeing in the city.”
After they left the second floor without speaking to Brown, the protesters paraded up to the Common Council chambers on the 13th floor, where a Council committee meeting was being held. They sat quietly without further protest.