In the struggle to save this city, housing court is where the rubber meets the road. It's where good intentions are separated from bad; where irresponsible property owners are taken to task and those who are doing their best seek more time and direction. It's where innovative ideas for reviving the city's derelict buildings and empty lots can seek the legitimacy of a judge's approval.
And, of course, it's where, in the day-in, day-out fight to maintain the vitality of Buffalo's great neighborhoods, it's where decisions are made that if they're the right decisions prerevent the creation of more vacant lots and derelict buildings, and the damage those do to the integrity of a neighborhood and the city as a whole.
Until last year, Buffalo's housing court enjoyed the dynamic leadership of Judge Hank Nowak, who has moved on to New York State Supreme Court. Nowak introduced significant reforms, embraced new ideas, and worked like a dog to use housing court as a tool for revitalizing city neighborhoods.
Among the six candidates for four slots on city court in Tuesday's election, Nowak has a natural successor: Gillian Brown.
Brown, currently an attorney for Colluci & Gallaher, is as familiar with housing court and issues surrounding neighborhood development and housing as nay attorney in the city. He has spent his career in housing court, specializing in landlord/tenant issues. He served as general counsel to the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority under Mayor Tony Masiello, and later and extended stint as interim executive director. His passion for the issues that arise in housing court, and his respect for Nowak's work there, is reflected in a frequent campaign pledge: If elected to city court, he will volunteer for housing court, seek to continue Nowak's legacy, and never seek another assignment. No other candidate for judge this year has been so committed and clear about why he wants the job and what he'd like to do.
Brown enjoys a political distinction that makes his candidacy appealing, as well: He is beholden to nobody. None of the major Democratic Party factions supported his candidacy. He was blackballed from the Democratic primary, and is on the ballot on Tuesday by means of an endorsement by the Working Families Party. So thoroughgoing are the transactional politics of our region that they sometimes reach even into the courtroom; Brown's political ledger is refreshingly free of debts.
The work that Hank Nowak started in Buffalo's housing court must be continued, or the small strides the city has made on the road to revitalization will be erased. Gillian Brown is the guy for the job.
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