BY MATT RICCHIAZZI
Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) officials’ decision to disqualify dismissed BMHA Housing Commissioner Joe Mascia from running as President of the Resident Advisory Board (RAB) became public on the same day as the election, June 27, 2016. Tenants of BMHA were also informed that Marine Drive residents would be barred from voting and that Mascia was ineligible to serve since Marine Drive, where Mascia lives, was not a federally subsidized development.
That announcement, made by Commissioner-elect Leonard Williams just minutes before the vote was to take place, threw the process into turmoil as BMHA residents protested the last minute disqualification.
Williams is closely aligned with the Administration of Mayor Byron, BMHA Chairman Michael Seaman and BMHA Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett, with whom Mascia has often sparred.
Residents at the scene wanted to know why the bar to Mascia’s election was never applied to past elections and demanded to know why Marine Drive residents were – for the first time – excluded from voting in the election.
Mascia’s supporters argue that this represents another example of the Brown Administration’s longstanding efforts to exclude Mascia from the authority’s governing structure. In this case, the action disenfranchises thousands of public housing residents.
Mascia was expected to win the election in a landslide. He was nominated on May 30, 2016 by fellow residents of BMHA. Following Mascia’s removal from the BMHA Board by Mayor Brown earlier this month, he vowed to continue as a resident advocate.
Williams’ announcement that Mascia was off the ballot sparked an uproar at the polling stations, causing residents to stop the voting causing the election to be suspended until a legal ruling can be obtained.
Without officers, RAB cannot provide federally required comments to ratify the sale of Woodson Gardens to City Honors High School or BMHA’s Five Year Plan.
“They don’t care how many people they bomb as long as they get this one guy (Mascia),” says Terrence Robinson, the high profile preservationist. “They have shown a complete disregard for the rights of the residents and how many people they disenfranchise in their petty vendetta.”
“They deprived BMHA residents the right to a BMHA Commissioner for a year, and now they concocted a bylaw change to frustrate residents’ choice. They initiated changes to the election process and now construed federal regulations in an unprecedented manner to further disenfranchise 1,000 Marine Drive residents from participation,” he adds.
It is unclear when RAB elections will be held.