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Young Citizens to ECC: Downtown or bust!

Young Citizens for ECC, a regional advocacy group for Erie Community College, is bringing a message to ECC President Jack Quinn and County Executive Chris Collins: Build downtown!

The group addressed the Buffalo Common Council on Tuesday to develop support for constructing ECC’s proposed $30 million Health Sciences Center for Excellence at the college’s City Campus, not at its isolated Amherst campus as currently planned.

“We think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Bernice Radle, chair of Young Citizens for ECC. “It deserves to be downtown where all the opportunities are, and where there’s plenty of space and plenty of opportunity to build.”

President Jack Quinn was also on hand to defend the college’s bizarre plans to build its health sciences center miles away from the job and internship opportunities of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Young Citizens for ECC appear to have given Quinn a run for his money.

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Holding signs reading “downtown or bust,” the young citizens zinged Quinn with point after point on their push to expand ECC’s City Campus. Here’s a few stand-outs:

Jason Kulaszewski: “I’m an alum of ECC. I also took public transit to school. Almost one-third of citizens in the City of Buffalo rely on public transportation, and without this access to the school there’s zero access to jobs and economic development opportunities for this 31 percent. The Center for Excellence needs to be located downtown which is more accessible to the community at large.”

Greg Conley: “This issue isn’t about ECC competing with NCCC. This is how Buffalo can compete nationally with the cities that are taking away our talented young people. Let’s look at another region. San Diego. San Diego has the third largest health sciences industry in the United States. The chancellor for the San Diego Community College system sits on the board of the San Diego health sciences industry association, yet here in Buffalo not even a single ECC trustee sits on the board of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The medical campus has 21 board members. Think about that. Where’s our region’s vision? Fifty percent of all health sciences employees in our country were educated at community colleges, yet ECC’s participation in the development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is zero percent. The thousands of jobs being generated at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus are not largely the star researchers. They’re the nurses, lab technicians, research assistants, people disproportionately educated at community colleges, not Ivy League graduate schools. If we’re going to connect our region’s young people with the jobs of the future, Erie Community College must move in a new direction.”

Samantha Fuszara: “I’m a Williamsville resident. 18,500 cars pass by Main Street every weekday and traffic is a nightmare. This proposal would make the matter worse. We need to start making smart decisions, smart choices, and we need to build ECC downtown.”

Sarah Caputi: “I’ve actually taken a bus from Buffalo State to ECC North and it took me over an hour and three buses to get there. The bus routes do not follow class schedules. It seems to me that it would be very difficult for students to try and coordinate their schedule and make it to the North Campus from the City if they don’t own a car. So transportation is essential, and why not put this investment where it is most accessible for all students?”

Approval for the $30 million, 100,000 sq. ft. campus building was recently stalled in the New York State Assembly, which declined a $15 million funding request from County Executive Chris Collins in part due to controversy about the proposed location for the facility. The delay, says Young Citizens for ECC, is an opportunity to get things right.

They also appear to have an ally in former county executive Joel Giambra, who also made an appearance at Tuesday’s hearing.

“How can we justify continuing the status quo and accepting mediocrity?” said Giambra. “People in this community rue the day that the decision was made to build the University at Buffalo campus out in a swamp instead of the fertile soil here in the City of Buffalo. That was a mistake that we will all regret for time immemorial, but we cannot allow another mistake to made again.”

Councilmembers Joe Golombek and Darius Pridgen introduced a resolution in April calling on ECC to reconsider its plans. Now the topic is in the hands of the Western New York state delegation, which holds the keys to half the project’s funding.

For more information about Young Citizens for ECC and its mission to build up the City Campus, contact Bernice Radle at youngcitizensforecc@gmail.com.

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