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When PUSH Comes to Shove

An article in the June 2 Buffalo News explains a massive project by PUSH Buffalo to construct and renovate properties on the West Side. They’ve been quoted ad infinitum about their community involvement and support. As a homeowner on the block they are completely taking over, I certainly do not support the project. Additionally, information has been willfully kept from me concerning the plans until construction vehicles showed up on my street.

It’s difficult to speak up when you’re on the wrong side of PUSH, the West Side’s golden child. They’ve done an awful lot of good. I’ve even been a member. I admired them.

The Buffalo News reported in 2012 that PUSH purchased “257 Massachusetts Ave., an imposing three-story structure with blond masonry, bay windows covered with boards, and concrete steps, which it purchased for $6,200 last year (2011).” The article published yesterday made mention that “The project includes nine new structures and seven renovated buildings. The seven buildings to be renovated have long been vacant.” They’ve long been vacant because PUSH land-banked the buildings years ago and has done nothing with them since. Meanwhile, I’m left with this particular brick building adjacent to my property with teenagers running amok in the backyard and on the fire escapes.

PUSH has had a year and a half to address concerns from my community (the 300 block of Normal Avenue) since a 2012 zoning board meeting concerning a variance for the eight-unit structure on Normal. Unlike all of the other construction projects done on the West Side, this one is not on their website, there is no sign up on the property, and no mention has been made anywhere I have looked about their plans to completely take over a block of Normal that is owner-occupied, responsibly rented, and WAS very content.

It doesn’t create a real sense of trust or transparency when it appears as though they are withholding information or doing a project on the sly. I was the only person on my block to receive a zoning board notice in 2012 that wasn’t even from PUSH. In the time since the zoning board meeting until construction started they have not communicated these plans in any way to the neighbors they are affecting. I have real decisions to make about my future and unfortunately those decisions are now based on the consequences of PUSH’s actions and plans of which I clearly have no say.

There is a lot at stake here for me. I’m a small business owner trying to keep my business alive, working over 90 hours a week, trying to figure out if I have to sell my house, and then following through with that was not something I had planned for 2014 (or ever).

My block has about 15-20 residents on it currently. With the additions planned, our population will more than double, the traffic and noise pollution will surely increase, and the block that we loved, the block that was the safest in a large radius, the quietest block in town will be completely changed forever. It is beyond me entirely to understand why NEW buildings are being manufactured adjacent to vacant housing.

These additions are apartment buildings and are unsustainable. They will never be owner-occupied, they will never be anything but housing moved into and out of regularly. And what about when PUSH moves on? Where do they go then? Who manages them? Who will be responsible to tear them down?

I bought my home 4 years ago. I love my neighbors. We get along wonderfully, do projects for one another, and simply care about one another’s well-being. We are being pushed out of our own block.

PUSH sent me an email three years ago asking for a vacant lot that I had purchased at the city auction. I told them I was planting a garden but asked if they were doing a project I could help with since I was so impressed with their ability to bring communities together. An egregious lie of omission occurred that day. Had I or any of my neighbors been told then about what was going to happen to us three years later, we would have purchased the land ourselves and maintained it. But PUSH said nothing. There was simply no way for my neighbors and I to anticipate this move.

They say they canvassed and they say they have community support but I don’t think it’s the common understanding of the word “community” because no one on my block was ever included.

These aren’t elected officials that the community can hold a referendum on, nor do they answer to us. They acquire land, bank it, and use it as only they see fit without regard to those whose lives they are affecting.

I’ve asked that construction stop and our land be returned to us, to continue to clean and care for, and to simply enjoy. The only concerns PUSH is willing to address are those arising from their 12 units on our once peaceful space ten months from now when construction is complete.

- Emily S. Allen, Buffalo



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