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Video Presentation: Examining the Social and Economic Benefits of Bills in Buffalo

Author: Ryan Miller

  • 0:00 Introduction
  • 2:55 Poverty in Buffalo 
  • 7:22 Causes of Poverty in Buffalo
  • 17:30 Consequences of Poverty in Buffalo
  • 28:33 Solutions to Poverty Buffalo
  • 32:14 Public Transportation as a Solution to Poverty in Buffalo
  • 37:29 Bills in Buffalo as a Solution to Poverty in Buffalo
  • 59:34 Summary 
  • 1:06:39 References
  • Link to the slides used in the presentation

Next Steps

Tell Our Politicians How You Feel at the Upcoming Erie County Legislature Public Hearings

  • Monday, December 6, 2021 at 6:00 pm, Erie Community College City Campus Auditorium, Old Post Office Building. Buffalo, NY.
  • Tuesday, December 7, 2021 at 6:00 pm, Erie Community College North Campus.
    Auditorium, Gleasner Hall (adjacent to Youngs Road). Williamsville, NY.
  • Wednesday, December 8, 2021 at 6:00 pm, Erie Community College South Campus Lecture Hall Room 5102, Building 5. Orchard Park, NY.

Below is a text version of the slides used in the presentation:

What are we getting for our money?

  • On average, the public finances about 57% of the total cost when a new NFL stadium is built.1
  • Based on the November 2021 AECOM Report commissioned by NYS, the cost of building in Orchard Park is $1.4 Billion, whereas the cost of building in the city is $1.8 billion.2
  • Extra $300 million to create a dome in either location.2
  • Using those figures above to give a rough estimate, we are looking at spending between $800 million to $1 billion in taxpayer money on a football stadium.
  • Given this massive taxpayer investment it is imperative for this project to benefit the community at large that is financing it, beyond just preventing the football team from relocating.

Buffalo: A City on the Rise?

  • For first time in 70 years, we are growing.
  • Buffalo’s population increased from 261,310 people in 2010 to 278,349 in 2020.3
  • Erie County population also increased by 35,196 people during that time span.3

Buffalo: A long way to go…

  • Buffalo’s poverty rate in 2006 was 29.9% (2nd highest in the US).4
  • Thirteen years later in 2019 it was nearly unchanged at 28.8% (3rd highest in the US).4
  • In 2019, the childhood poverty rate 43.4% (2nd highest in the US).4
  • Roughly 16% of Buffalo Public Schools students have experienced homelessness.5
  • A recent report by a team of researchers at UB titled The Harder We Run: The State of Black Buffalo in 1990 and the Present, examined the socioeconomic trajectory of black people in Buffalo over the past 30 years
  • In 1990, the unemployment rate for blacks in the City of Buffalo was 18%.
    • As of 2019 it was 11% for blacks versus just 4% for whites.6
    • In 1990, the average household income for blacks in $39,350 (inflation adjusted).
      • Today it is essentially unchanged at $42,000.6
  • In 1990, approximately 38% of blacks had an income below poverty line.
    • Today approximately 35% of blacks have income below poverty line.6
  • In 1990, 33% of black people owned the home they lived, the majority of blacks lived on the east side, and there were more blacks without a high school diploma than with a college degree.6
    • Today approximately 32% own the home they live in.
    • The majority of blacks still live on the east side.
    • There are still more black people without a high school diploma than with a college degree.
  • Only 14% of white people in the Buffalo Niagara region live in areas of concentrated poverty, while 64% of people of color do.5
  • In 2019, the median household income for blacks in Buffalo was $28,320 with 35% living below poverty line
    • Compared to $50,249 and 20% for whites in Buffalo.6
  • “The real Buffalo story is that a few have advanced and their lives have gotten better, but too many have been left behind.”4
    • Quote from Reverend George Nicholas of Lincoln Memorial Methodist Church on Masten Avenue.

The Harder We Run

Causes of Poverty in Buffalo

  • Not enough income
    • High unemployment rates/lack of jobs
    • Not enough stable jobs that pay living wage
      • Housing
      • Expenses
      • Childcare
      • Transportation
      • Lack of access to quality jobs and educational opportunities

Consequences of Poverty in Buffalo

  • Poor health outcomes
  • Poor educational outcomes
  • Higher rates of crime and homelessness
  • More Poverty

Causes of Poverty in Buffalo: Jobs

  • According to a 2018 report, the Buffalo-Niagara region has seen a decline manufacturing jobs at a rate higher than most other areas in the country.5
  • Approximately one third of the jobs in WNY are service sector jobs that pay less than $26,000 per year.5
  • These jobs pay less and are less secure.

Causes of Poverty in Buffalo: Housing

  • Homeownership is the primary way to accumulate wealth in the US. 
  • In 2019, 32% of blacks living in Buffalo own their homes, compared to 52% of whites.6
  • In Erie County, 33% of blacks own their homes compared to 73% of whites.6
  • 55% of East Side residents pay 30% or more of their income on housing, and 36% spend more than 50%.6
  • Example from The Harder We Run
    • A person making $11,000 should spend $275 monthly on living.
    • Average rent in this neighborhood is $671 monthly ($8,052 yearly).
    • The median value of an owner-occupied unit in this neighborhood is $54,000.
    • If a renter lived in this house for seven years, paying a monthly rental of $671, they would expend $56,364 over that span, enough to purchase a median-valued home in the neighborhood. 
  • According to The Harder We Run for many black people owner-occupied homes produce debt, not wealth. 
  • This is due to a lack of investment in the area on the part of local government which has led to poorly maintained rental properties and unkept vacant lots that depress property values in many East Side neighborhoods.6
  • The result is racial residential segregation, which “traps Blacks in low-value, marginalized, and underdeveloped neighborhoods. These neighborhoods, in turn, become the sites of predatory inclusion, public sector underdevelopment, profiteering, and exploitation.”6

Racial Residential Segregation

      • 73% of blacks in Buffalo reside on the East Side.6
      • Blacks comprise 68% of the Quadrant 4. 6
      • Quadrant 4 median household income is $24,000, and only 12% of its residents have college degrees.6
      • A City Divided

Causes of Poverty in Buffalo: Transportation

  • 21% of black workers, 15% of Latino workers, 26% of Pacific Islander workers commute to work by bus.
    • Compared to only 5% of white workers.7
  • The average black worker in Buffalo who rides the bus spends.
    • 59 more hours in transit per year than a white bus rider.6
    • 174 more hours compared to whites that drive.6
  • “Time-travel penalty”
    • Less time available to pursue other jobs, educational opportunities, and family life.
    • May serve as a barrier to people being willing and able to work.
  • The existing NFTA public transportation offering that includes buses, metro rail, etc. only physically reaches 42% of jobs in Erie County.8,9
  • Study comparing 100 US cities across 17 key metrics for public transportation. With a total score 53.91, Buffalo came in 63rd out of 100.10 
  • Despite the poor quality of the existing public transportation system, Buffalo ranked 90th out of 100 in terms of annual ticket price for public transportation as % of median annual household income.10

Consequences of Poverty in Buffalo: Healthcare

  • In Erie County, 60% of black people die before age 75
    • Compared to 36% of white people3
  • In Erie County, black babies are twice as likely to be born at a low birth weight as white babies.3
  • In Erie County, the infant mortality rate for black babies is 11.3 per 1,000 live births.
    • For white babies the rate is 4.7 per 1,000 live births.3
  • In Erie County, cervical cancer incidence is twice as high for black people in Erie County compared to white people.3
  • In Erie County, the female late-stage breast cancer incidence in black people is 61.1 per 100,000.
    • Compared to 41.4 per 100,000 for white people.3
  • In Erie County, black people
    • Are four to five times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma and COPD than white people.3
    • Are four times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for diabetes and its complications than white people.3
    • Have higher rates of obesity, heart disease, and strokes than white people.3

Social Determinants of Health

  • Refers to the conditions in the environment where people are born, live, work, play, and age that affect their health.
  • Sequelae of poverty and an underinvestment in education and supporting infrastructure.
    • Poor housing conditions.
    • Lack of access to affordable, healthy foods (“food deserts”).
    • Lack of transportation options to and from doctor appointments, tests, procedures, etc.
    • Lack of access to a quality education and employment opportunities.
    • Poorly kept sidewalks and neighborhoods with higher rates of crime.
      • Limits healthy recreational activities like walking and bicycle riding.

Food Deserts in Buffalo

  • 51 Census block groups in Buffalo have limited access to supermarkets. Every single one is located east of Main Street.8
  • Buffalo’s African-American residents are six times more likely than whites to live in a neighborhood without access to a grocery store.8

Consequences of Poverty in Buffalo: Poor Educational Outcomes and Crime

  • In the US, students in the bottom 20 % of family incomes are five times more likely to drop out of high school than those in the top 20 percent of all family incomes5
  • According to a 2018 report, 73.9% of the variation in test scores between schools in Western New York can be explained by the difference in their poverty populations11
  • People living in poverty are twice as likely as those with high incomes to experience violent crime.5
  • In 2015, Buffalo was ranked 15th for violent crimes among major cities.12

Solutions to Poverty in Buffalo

  • In 2014, 72% of youth in the City of Buffalo were people of color, compared with 41 percent of seniors.7
  • “A large racial generation gap often corresponds with lower investments in educational systems and infrastructure to support youth. These are key areas where Buffalo needs to improve.”7
  • Advancing Health Equity and Inclusive Growth in Buffalo
  • The authors of The Harder We Run defined progress as
    • The “movement of Blacks in Buffalo toward a status where most African Americans receive a good education and have jobs that pay a livable wage”. 
  • This, the authors argue will 
    • “Enable Blacks to live in high-quality and affordable houses in safe and vibrant East Side neighborhoods”
    • “Attend and graduate on time from excellent neighborhood-based schools”
    • “Experience social well-being, joyfulness, love, and support”.
  • To counter racial residential segregation, the City and County governments must
    • “Fight to open all neighborhoods throughout Erie County to low-income residential development”
    • While “simultaneously transforming and turning the East Side into a desirable place for everyone to live, work, and raise a family.”
  • In article for Investigative Post examining Poverty in Buffalo, 
  • Reverend George Nicholas of Lincoln Memorial Methodist Church brought up the Bills Stadium
  • It would be “laughable,” if it wasn’t so “painful” to consider what that kind of money could do to help address poverty locally. 
  • “The answer isn’t just to keep feeding these systems that are going to feed people who are hungry.” 
  • “It’s going down the line and finding out why they’re hungry and then addressing those issues so they don’t have to be in that position for a long period of time.”

Solutions to Poverty in Buffalo: Public Transportation

  • For every $1 communities invest in public transportation, approximately $4 to $5 is generated in economic returns.13-15
  • Approximately 60% of the GDP comes from effects on “productivity”.14-15 
    • Savings for households and businesses on travel and vehicle ownership costs
      • $10,000 per year to own and maintain a vehicle,16 versus $900 for 1 year NFTA Metro pass
    • 87% of trips on public transit have a direct impact on the local economy.
    • Reduced traffic congestion
    • Enhanced productivity for businesses due to access to broader labor markets with more diverse skills
  • For every $1 communities invest in public transportation, approximately $4 to $5 is generated in economic returns.13-15
  • Approximately 40% of the GDP from creating additional jobs in
    • Construction
    • Manufacturing equipment: trains, light rail cars, buses, etc.
    • Management positions in local transportation organization
    • Vehicle operations
    • Maintenance of trains, light rail cars, buses, etc. and facilities at transportation hubs 
  • Public transportation investment leads to private investment.13 
    • It is estimated that for every $1 billion of continuous public transportation spending, 50,000 jobs (mostly private sector) are created.
  • Additionally, it is estimated that every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business sales, and every $10 million in operating investment yields $32 million in increased busines sales.14
  • Home values are up to 24% higher near public transportation than other areas.14
  • Hotels in cities with direct access to airports raise 11% more per room than those without.14
  • Research has shown that high-tech, high-value industries are attracted from other US and international locations to geographic clusters that utilize on public transit to provide access to the work force.18,19
  • Example: public transportation was a critical component of Amazon’s selection process for choosing a city for their 2nd headquarters.20

Solutions to Poverty: Bills in Buffalo

  • Infrastructure improvements including massive public transportation upgrades are critical to addressing many of the root causes of poverty and inequity in Buffalo
  • Many of the same changes are also necessary to support a Bills stadium at the South Park Site, particularly expansion of public transportation
  • Can we improve public transportation without moving the Bills stadium to the city?
  • Possibly, but these infrastructure improvements have been needed for a long time and seem to be a low priority for many state and local government officials
  • Building the stadium in the City forces the issue at hand by requiring government officials to finally address the inadequacy of the public transportation offering in Buffalo, and with the recent passing of a $1 trillion dollar federal infrastructure bill, the timing couldn’t be better
  • Citizens for Regional Transit has put together comprehensive plan for public transportation expansion in Buffalo that uses rail tracks that already exist.24
  • They are a grassroots organization seeking to improve “creating a broad base of support for the improvement and expansion of bus and rail transit for all citizens of the Niagara Frontier.”25
Credit: Citizens for Regional Transit. View on Google Maps here

East Side-Airport Extension

  • CRT’s proposed East Side-Airport Extension travels from downtown Buffalo past the Central Terminal, along existing rail rights of way to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport.26

Southtowns Extension

  • CRT’s proposed Southtowns Extension has potential to be one of the longest corridors.27
  • It serves the First Ward, South Buffalo and Lackawanna. 
  • The route begins on the old City Branch from the DL&W Terminal (Metro Rail Yard and Shops) along South Park Avenue.26
  • After crossing the Buffalo River, the route splits into two branches.27
  • The downtown portion of the corridor is co-located with the Heritage Trolley Corridor, which traverses the City Branch to Lee Street, where the Western New York Railway Heritage Society’s Discovery Center is located.27
  • In the event the Skyway is torn down at some point, this would provide Southtowns residents with an alternative way of getting in and out of the city

Bills in Buffalo: Effect on Public Transportation

  • This expansion in public transportation can be financed by the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill, which promises $39 billion towards expansion of public transportation
  • Light rail expansion would be directly through many of the neighborhoods that have the highest rates of not owning a vehicle, which are most dependent on the city’s existing inadequate public transportation system for access to quality jobs, educational opportunities, and healthcare for many Buffalonians

Federal Infrastructure Bill: Amtrak

  • $66 billion to Amtrak to help enhance, improve, and expand.28
  • Plans to Extend 6 New York-Albany round trips to Buffalo and reduce trip times.29 
  • 5 round trips extend from Buffalo to Niagara Falls, of which 1 further extends to Toronto.29
  • 1 daily round trip extends from Buffalo to Cleveland.29
  • Putting the Bills stadium in the city will could help ensure the Buffalo to Toronto train ride mentioned in the Amtrak plans above a reality. 
  • This would be an alternative way of getting Canadians in and out of town on gameday, and would also connect our region to a whole new workforce.
  • Imagine the economic benefits of a cohesive, shared, connected infrastructure system moving people between Buffalo-Niagara and Southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area.

Bills in Buffalo: Effect on Jobs

  • The construction of the new stadium and the associated infrastructure changes would create jobs in an area of Buffalo that has the highest unemployment rates.
  • This would also bring long-term jobs in facility operations, concessions, etc. to this area.
  • Furthermore, an entertainment district with hotels, restaurants, and local businesses would surely pop up around the new stadium creating even more new sources of employment (conveniently accessible by the new public transit upgrades).
  • Furthermore, the East Side-Airport extension would help re-connect residents of the East Side to the rest of the city as well as the surrounding suburbs.
  • This would greatly expand access to the area’s job opportunities. 
    • 4 of the 5 largest employment centers in Erie County are located outside of the City of Buffalo.8
  • In addition to physically providing residents of the City of Buffalo and Erie with better access to quality jobs, expansion of public transportation would also require the creation of more jobs within the NFTA in:
    • Management
    • Vehicle operations
    • Maintenance of trains, light rail cars, buses, etc.
    • Maintenance and operations of facilities at transportation hubs/rail stations
  • As previously mentioned, public transportation investment leads to private investment. 
  • It is estimated that for every $1 billion of continuous public transportation spending, 50,000 jobs (mostly private sector) are created.13
  • Transit oriented development along the course of the East Side-Airport extension could lead to an influx of private investment in the area, leading to creation of additional jobs and long-term revitalization in areas of need that have long been neglected.
  •  Additionally, these improvements will help Buffalo have a much better chance at being able to consistently attract young minds and high-tech, high-value industries to the area.
  • The economic potential of a more connected, accessible, and equitable Buffalo cannot be understated. 
  • It is estimated that Buffalo’s annual GDP could be increased by $4.3 billion (more than the double the combined annual budget of Erie and Niagara Counties) if it were able to eliminate its racial disparities and divides.7

Bills in Buffalo: Effect on Property Values

  • Multiple studies have shown that new stadiums actually improve housing values in the surrounding area.30, 31
  • The South Park Site is in an area of Buffalo that has the lowest median home values. 
  • Not only could it benefit the surrounding First Ward neighborhood, but also the lower East Side.
  • The recent NYS AECOM Stadium study even estimated an extra $53 million dollars over 30 years in property tax collections based on increased property values around downtown stadium.2
  • As previously mentioned, home values are up to 24% higher near public transportation than other areas, so homeowners along the East Side-Airport Extension and Southtowns extension would be expected to benefit as well.14

Displacement Concerns

  • Extremely valid concern of displacing over 600 residents currently residing in BMHA housing on the proposed South Park Site.32
  • We need to ensure that anyone who is displaced is compensated in such a manner that their life ends up being better for it.
  • BMHA commissioner Renato Graham said he believes relocating the residents is an opportunity for them to get better living conditions.32
  • There are over 16,000 vacant lots in Buffalo, about 94% of these are on the East Side.6
  • The City of Buffalo owns about 59% of the vacant lots, 7,217 of which are residential.6
  • Instead of relocating the 600+ residents to other BMHA housing, what if we built them a house on of the city owned vacant lots?
  • Not only would this help displaced residents by giving them a long-term path to wealth accumulation as a homeowner, but it would also help many homeowners on the East Side who currently have their property values negatively affected by proximity to unkept vacant lots. 
  • Could be a catalyst for the long-term revitalization of many East Side neighborhoods.
  • The $1.8 Billion estimate for the South Park Site in 2021 AECOM report already includes $100 million for relocating residents and business.
  • Even if the cost is more than the $100 million figure proposed in the AECOM report, we have to do right by any resident that would be displaced, and it is worth the price because of all the other net benefits that we have discussed to the area as a whole from this project.

Summary: Orchard Park

  • $1.4 Billion total cost per NYS AECOM Study
  • Funded by $700-900 million in taxpayer money
  • No tangible social or economic benefits to taxpayers for their investment

Summary: Buffalo

  • $1.8 Billion total cost at South Park Site per NYS AECOM Study.
  • Between tax credits and the $1 trillion dollar infrastructure bill, possibly requires less taxpayer investment than Orchard Park.33
  • Even if the cost to taxpayers were higher, it is worth it because of the countless immediate and long-term social and economic benefits for WNY.


I encourage everyone to think critically about what is at stake here for the long-term future of Buffalo and Western New York at large. We are at a watershed moment. The zeitgeist is ripe with progress, change, and growth. Longstanding city planning errors are on the verge of being corrected, and the city and its surrounding areas are growing for the first time in 70 years. Let’s not look back in 30 years and wonder what could have been like we do now with UB’s North Campus.

A Bills stadium built in the city, along with the associated investment in public transportation and infrastructure improvements that would come with it, has the power to transform our city back to its former turn of the 20th century glory and promote social progress and economic growth for all Western New Yorkers.

Look past the fact that taxpayer money is being used- because like it or not-that is the reality of doing business with the NFL. Instead, focus on demanding that our elected officials fight to use our money to create a stadium and city planning project that best serves the needs of the community at large that is paying for the it both now and for generations to come.

Clearly, there is only one option that does that, and that option is Bills in Buffalo.

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Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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