Ever since ArtVoice broke the news about the suspicious ousting of West Side housing activist Harvey Garrett from the board of West Side Neighborhood Housing Services, everyone has been wondering: What will happen next? Will this stick? Will there be some kind of investigation? When will the other shoe drop?
One dropped yesterday. In a letter to board Chairman Ramon Morales, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt announced his intention to pull his legislative initiative funding from West Side NHS—funding which has amounted, according to Hoyt’s office, to tens of thousands of dollars in just the last five years. In his letter, Assemblyman Hoyt openly questioned the independence and effectiveness of West Side NHS. Hoyt also cited the suspicious circumstances of last week’s board election, especially the unusually large number of absentee ballots, and the eleventh-hour addition of many City Hall employees to the membership roll just before the vote.
What will be the next development in this situation? Stay tuned.
The full text of Assemblyman Hoyt’s letter is below:
December 1, 2008
Ramon Morales, Chairman
West Side Neighborhood Housing Services
c/o Riverside Federal Credit Union
245 Vulcan St.
Buffalo, NY 14207
Dear Mr. Morales:
I write regarding several concerns I have about recent changes at West Side Neighborhood Housing Services (WSNHS). As you know, I have long supported WSNHS and its mission of improving housing opportunities on Buffalo’s West Side.
I am deeply disturbed by the manner in which Harvey Garrett was voted off of the board at the last membership meeting, which I attended. Mr. Garrett has been a staunch advocate for better citywide housing policies, and has done much, both as part of the WSNHS and as the executive director of the West Side Community Collaborative (WSCC), to revitalize the west side. Mr. Garrett is also the housing liaison for the Niagara District in Buffalo’s Housing Court, and a member of both the Preservation Council for the City of Buffalo and the Landmark Society of Western New York. Clearly, Harvey Garrett is a man with outstanding housing credentials who has played a very active role in west side housing concerns.
While I understand that I may not have all of the information regarding why Mr. Garrett was ultimately voted off of the board, it appears to me that it was a result of the politicization of the WSNHS membership. While only 17 members were present at the membership meeting, I understand that 37 people—many of whom had joined on the last day they could join and still vote, and who also happen live outside of the west side and work for the City of Buffalo—submitted absentee ballots to remove Mr. Garrett from the board. It is this politicization that troubles me most of all. WSNHS was created to be an independent housing agency serving a community in need. If WSNHS will now be dominated by a political faction more concerned with its own agenda than what is best for the original service area that seriously undermines the mission of the organization.
Though many of the individual programs WSNHS offers are worthwhile, WSNHS has now put itself in a position where WSNHS’s continued ability to be independent and effective must be seriously questioned. Therefore, I will no longer be providing the legislative initiative funding that I have secured for WSNHS—which has equaled tens of thousands of dollars in the last five years alone. There are other housing organizations that remain truly independent and focused on revitalizing the neighborhoods on the west side that would benefit the most from additional resources.
If you would like to meet with me to discuss these concerns further, please contact Michelle at my office at 716.885.9630 to set up a time and date. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
MEMBER OF ASSEMBLY
cc: Commissioner Deborah Van Amerongen, Division of Housing and Community Renewal
Deborah Boatright, NeighborWorks
The Honorable David Rivera
The Honorable Maria Whyte