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An Appeal to Oak-Michigan Development From Fruit Belt and McCarley Residents

McCarley Gardens

In response to rumors circulating among residents of the Fruit Belt and McCarley Gardens—the HUD-subsidized, moderate-income apartments that are coveted by the University at Buffalo for their 15-acre location adjacent to the publicly-funded expansion of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus—some in the community are asking the owners of that property for answers.

While the general perception in the media has been that St. John Baptist Church Reverend Michael Chapman owns the property, its true owner is an entity called Oak-Michigan Housing Development Fund Company, Inc. Chapman is not even listed as a board member of that entity, according to tax records. It is that board that authorized Chapman to sign the 2010 agreement with the UB Foundation, to sell the property and relocate all 150 families.

Therefore, a strongly worded letter has been sent to Oak-Michigan Co-Chair Archie Martin, Co-Chair William Yokley, Secretary Lionel Davis, Treasurer Rebecca Jones, and board member Patricia King:

We would like to say at the outset that we strongly support and welcome the medical corridor and stand ready to help in a constructive way. The medical corridor can and will go forward…without McCarley Gardens.

We are appealing to you and your fellow board members of the Oak-Michigan Housing Development Fund Company, Inc., as the owners of the McCarley Gardens Housing Development, not to sign an extension with the University at Buffalo Foundation, Inc., to sell the most successful housing development of its kind in America.

The university has said and shown on all of its plans that when you deliver that land over to them shovel ready, THEY PLAN TO BUILD ANOTHER PARKING LOT ON THAT SITE. That parking lot will be a constant reminder to Oak-Michigan and St. John Baptist Church of how you were taken advantage of. You will look at that mistake each and every Sunday till the university decides to build housing on it for the rich and the well to do.

The hidden agenda is that the university doesn’t want people of color, BLACK or BROWN living anywhere near their developments. Don’t let Oak-Michigan Housing Development Fund Company and St. John Baptist Church be misused in this diabolic racist ploy.

If they were living today, the late Rev. McCarley and Rev. B.W. Smith would be leading the fight to stop the sale of this development and making sure that the residents were being protected. You and your fellow board members must do the same!

Think about what happened when Roswell was being built and what happened when Black families were tricked out of the Dante Project. The same thing is happening today but with a lot more sophistication.

You are the owners of this development, there can be no sale without you, we ask that you and the Board of Directors stand up and say “No Sale!” Don’t turn your back on the residents who have been living there for years and years. They deserve better.

While you have been very silent during this whole ordeal, the time has now come for you to let the community know where you stand.

The letter was signed by former city councilman George K. Arthur, Fruit Belt organizer Veronica Hemphill-Nichols, and McCarley Gardens resident Maria Marti. The board members could not be reached for comment.

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