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The Editorial Board: Rebuilding a crumbling infrastructure can lead to more East Side investment

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Bike lanes such as this will become more common in East Buffalo as a result of a $100 million street repair project.

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It’s not glitzy, it’s not sexy and there probably won’t be a grand opening, but, over the next three years, about $100 million worth of street repairs will be happening on Buffalo’s East Side.

If done right, this can provide a strong foundation for more revitalization activity – including private investment – in long-neglected areas of Buffalo.

The new sidewalks, curbs, bike and turning lanes, signage and more – as well as repaved roads – that will result from these funds accompany a concerted investment by New York State that includes unspent Buffalo Billion II funds, as well as $225 million announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this year.

Many longtime activists and observers of East Buffalo’s blight have stressed that big ticket expenditures on one or two high-profile projects such as the Central Terminal or the Broadway Market – as significant as those urban assets are – do not often spread their benefits to the surrounding communities.

In other words, strong neighborhoods need to grow from the ground up, not trickle down from the nearest silver bullet project. For proof of that statement, one need only take a drive along the blocks surrounding Niagara Falls’ big shiny casino.

Potholes, crumbling curbs and cracked pavement signal that those in charge of a community’s infrastructure don’t find it enough of a priority to do the work needed to fix it. If the municipality doesn’t find a public investment in a neighborhood worth making, then it is unrealistic to expect private investors to expend their resources there.

On the other hand, as Rep. Brian Higgins stated at Friday’s announcement for these improvements, infrastructure improvements spur private spending, with a “multiplier effect” typically resulting in $7 in private sector investment for every public dollar spent on street enhancements.

The work starts next year, with the first phase including Jefferson Avenue between Main and Best streets and Main Street between Goodell and Ferry streets. In succeeding years, the work continues on Main, Michigan Avenue, Bailey Avenue, and the remainder of Jefferson.

Is it too much to hope that this work will also provide training and employment for neighborhood residents, who can be recruited for that purpose? Not at all. Indeed, that’s the way communities should be rebuilt, by the people who live in them and want to see them grow in strength and stability.

As public meetings and other participatory forums about this work are held, those jobs should be part of the discussion.

There isn’t one thing that will restore the health of Buffalo’s most neglected neighborhoods. But this is a good beginning.

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