Is Progress Pushing People Out in Buffalo?

11:14 PM, May 17, 2013   |    comments
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Gates Vascular Institute on medical campus

BUFFALO, NY - The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is growing fast and residents in and around the booming area want to make sure progress isn't pushing people out.

The president of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus says their recent master plan is all about four communities and one neighborhood. "We knocked on 5,000 doors, we created a group of people who want to learn about the campus and what we're doing now is trying to communicate with them on a regular basis. We've done a very bad job over the years," said Matt Enstice.

As the Medical Campus continues to take shape, there will soon be a new hospital, a medical school and The University at Buffalo is considering moving more of its health science programs to the Medical campus.

"We're probably going to need 1,000 housing units over the next 10-years to be downtown to service the growth of the development of the campus. Today we have 12,000 employees, and I can talk in 3 year terms, by the end of 2016, we're going to have 17,000 employees down on this campus on a daily basis," said Enstice.

This is Buffalo's future and the progress underway, but for residents like Veronica Hemphill-Nichols, there are many questions. "Why is it necessary to take institutions that are already in place in the city and and galvanize it all in one spot and congest this area?"

Longtime residents wonder if the Medical Campus will eventually sweep them out of the neighborhood that many have called home for 40 and 50-years.

Bottomline, the fear is gentrification. Hemphill-Nichols believes it is happening in a systematic way. "We didn't just fall off a turnip truck, we know that at the end of the day, once this expansion takes place, they're going to need to expand out into our neighborhoods."

The man who heads the Medical Campus does not think that will happen and it is a concern he is willing to address with residents.

"This is much more though a forced migration that is coming and I think that is the tone that has really upset the neighborhood," Ricardo Herrera, executive director of the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers.

Tenants of McCarley Gardens, a 150-apartment HUD subsidized housing complex, are still baffled on their future. The 15-acre site is prime, well-maintained property bordering the medical campus. It is owned by Oak-Michigan Housing Development, a not-for-profit arm of St. John Baptist Church.

When asked initially about the future of McCarley Gardens and its residents, Pastor Michael Chapman who also serves as President of the non-profit said, "I don't know, as far as we're concerned, it can stay there for another 10-years." However, it is property that UB wants and according to Laura Hubbard, Vice President for Finance and Administration at UB, there is a contract with St. John which has UB acquiring that property in 2017. 2 On Your Side asked Pastor Chapman about this contract, he said "it's not a contract to sell, it's a contract that we will work toward working out any issues. We do have an intention and we are hopeful that we will be able to work out some type of negotiation point to transfer that land." He would not rule out leasing the land. Although, insiders say the potential sale price for now is $15 million.

As for the contract, we could not see it. Edward Schneider, Executive Director of the UB Foundation in an email told Claudine Ewing, "the contract executed by an affiliate of the University at Buffalo Foundation on behalf of the university is not a public document and is not being released."

Pastor Chapman is clear about his mission of taking advantage of economic development right around the church to create jobs and wealth for those who live there and more housing.

Residents welcome new housing, but preferably owner-occupied homes, not planned townhouses.

If McCarley is sold, it must first be approved by HUD and there must be a re-location plan that provides housing that is equal or greater than what tenants currently have in Buffalo.

"We believe in progress, but we believe in preserving things, the integrity of this community," said Hemphill-Nichols.

Pastor Chapman did not dodge the issue of opponents saying,"if they want us to not do anything in the Fruitbelt, eventually someone is going to come in. Right now we have designated developer status of the Fruitbelt. So anybody that wants to use any of the city property in the Fruitbelt, we must have a discussion."

The site now known as McCarley Gardens could become the future home of the UB Schools for dentistry, nursing, pharmacy and other health science professions.

Send me your comments on Twitter, ClaudineWGRZ

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