Former county executive Joel Giambra promised a lawsuit at yesterday’s Common Council hearing on Erie Community College’s plans to expand its North Campus in Amherst. “There will be a lawsuit,” said Giambra. “A group of attorneys have been assembled. They’re looking at the state statute on sprawl.” At issue is the application of New York State Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act, which requires state infrastructure agencies such as SUNY to make investments that are consistent, to the extent practicable, with defined smart growth criteria.
Giambra was one of about 40 people to file into the Common Council chambers to protest ECC’s expansion plans. “I was looking forward to Mark Poloncarz undoing a lot of the bad decisions that were done during the Collins administration,” said Buffalo resident Ed Cardoni. “I thought that this would be one of them, and I’m very disappointed that the decision has been made, hopefully it can be stopped, to do this development at the North Campus. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Young Citizens for ECC, an advocacy group for Erie Community College, has been vocal for two years about the proposed expansion, which they say is an opportunity to grow ECC’s City Campus and link students to job and internship opportunities of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
In recent weeks the group rattled off a slew of stats that they say support expanding the City Campus, many of which come directly from an ECC study released by the Poloncarz administration:
47% of ECC’s students live in the City of Buffalo, yet the City Campus, due to its limited programs, serves only 25% of ECC’s students.
More students who live in the City of Buffalo commute to the North Campus (2,994 students) than attend the City Campus (2,465 students).
52% of North Campus students live in the City of Buffalo, while only 9% of North Campus students are from Amherst.
Bernice Radle, co-chair of Young Citizens for ECC, set down her book of statistics on Tuesday to speak more directly to her own personal story. “I grew up in extreme poverty,” said Radle. “My only option was a good education.” In a city where 30% of households do not have access to a car and depend on public transit, Radle said that Erie Community College must focus on the needs of low- and moderate-income people who face barriers to obtaining a college education. “City of Buffalo residents who are poor should not have hurdles,” said Radle. “This should be the easiest thing for them. College should be a no-brainer. It should not be an uphill battle for them to go and get a two-year degree.”
The Council urged County Executive Poloncarz to reconsider his endorsement of the North Campus proposal and to take a second look at a County-owned parking lot at North Division and Oak streets that was acquired for City Campus expansion back in 2002. “We have by and large shut down access to a future, to a good future, for many students,” said Ellicott District Councilmember Darius Pridgen. “It is an asinine decision.”
“We also want to hold Mark Poloncarz accountable,” said Niagara District Councilmember David Rivera. “On this particular issue, I think he’s failing, he’s failing the citizens of the City of Buffalo.”
Radle urged Buffalo residents to contact County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz (firstname.lastname@example.org) to express their views on ECC’s expansion.