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Fruit Belt, McCarley Gardens Residents Continue Speaking Up

Francis M. Letro

Residents of the Fruit Belt neighborhood and the McCarley Gardens community are following up on their demands to be included in the planning process for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

On December 13, former city councilman George K. Arthur spoke to a panel representing the University at Buffalo and St. John’s Baptist Church. Arthur called for the panel to be dissolved and reconstituted to include residents of the neighborhood most immediately affected by development plans in the area. He also called upon the UB Foundation to disclose the agreement signed by the foundation and Reverend Michael Chapman over two years ago, so residents could have a sense of the planning that has been going on in secret. Arthur mentioned a January 3 deadline to respond to his requests.

That deadline passed without comment from UB or St. John’s. So, on January 15, Veronica Hemphill-Nichols, a Fruit Belt organizer, and Lorraine Chambley, a McCarley Gardens resident, sent a letter to UB Foundation board chairman Francis M. Letro:

Dear Mr. Letro,

This is a follow up to our request made during the University at Buffalo/St. John Baptist Church conversation with the Fruit Belt/McCarley Gardens Community on Economic Opportunity held on December 13, 2012.

The purpose of the meeting was to open dialogue between all parties: UB, St. John and Fruit Belt/McCarley Gardens residence (the public). The goal being, to find ways to increase the University’s presence in the Fruit Belt area.

Our problem was that there was an agreement entered between you, The University at Buffalo Foundation, Inc and St. John. The agreement required that a panel be appointed. The problem was that none of the members of the panel has ever lived, worked or played in the Fruit Belt/McCarley Gardens Community.

We requested that the panel be dissolved and a new panel convene that would include neighborhood representatives at a ratio of two to one, we requested that a copy of the contract be made available to us, so that we would know the terms, conditions, timetable and goals. Also, we asked for a copy of UB’s development plans for this site.

We requested that an answer be given to us by January 3, 2013.

We haven’t heard from you and thought that maybe communication broke down and you haven’t received our request because of the holidays. WE ask that you would let us know your answer as soon as possible and that all future meetings concerning the Fruit Belt and McCarley Gardens Communities be open to the public and the press.

The letter closes with contact information for Nichols and Chambley, thanking Letro for his consideration. The letter has since been reprinted on page two of the Buffalo Criterion newspaper. So far, there has been no response from the UB Foundation.

In addition, residents are circulating a petition in these East Side neighborhoods, which states, in part:

It is apparent that planning for the new Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus has been conducted without appropriate input from the residents, property owners and taxpayers of the McCarley Gardens/Fruitbelt Community, who have lived, worked and invested in this historic neighborhood for decades, and who intend to remain as such, and to ensure the success of this community it is vital to recognize the needs of these stakeholders.

The petition calls on Buffalo’s Common Council and Mayor Byron Brown to “declare a moratorium on any and all future developments in the McCarley Gardens/Fruitbelt Community area until a master plan is developed by a body which will include a majority of residents, property owners and taxpayers of the McCarley Gardens/Fruitbelt Community.”

Residents want the master plan to address the impact of further development on the sewer system, traffic, density, and recreational facilities. “Health, safety, livability and environmental concerns” of the neighborhood would have to be met.

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