Since mid-May, Buffalo has been in the national news due to a hate crime that tore at the city’s soul. The event cast a negative light on the East Side and the city as a whole. A New York Times story by C.J. Hughes has gone beyond the grief to take a look at the positives happening locally, particularly on the East Side. While Buffalo’s resurgence has been largely concentrated elsewhere, public sector funding is laying the groundwork for an East Side rebirth:
Buffalo was riding a decade-long economic turnaround when a racially motivated attack by a gunman killed 10 people in May, overshadowing the progress. While the city grieved, it also had to reckon with unflattering portrayals of the East Side, the impoverished neighborhood where the massacre took place.
Those harsh takes tell only part of the story, say residents, business owners and city officials. Now, they are determined to put the focus back on the recovery.
Major efforts to improve the East Side have been afoot for years, like new job-training facilities and the overhaul of a deserted train station. And citywide initiatives to pour billions into parks, public art projects and apartment complexes have made Buffalo a more desirable place to live, advocates say.
The Times points to Census figures as proof that things are rebounding as the city’s population has increased for the first time in 70 years and the number of new apartments is further evidence of positive change:
Perhaps the most visible sign of Buffalo’s changing fortunes are its new apartments, which turn up in empty warehouses, former municipal buildings and longtime parking lots converted into much-needed housing. In the last decade, 224 multifamily projects — encompassing 10,150 apartments, most of them rentals, the equivalent of about $3 billion in investment — have opened or are underway, according to the office of Mayor Byron W. Brown.
And the pace of new housing appears to be quickening: A third of the total, or 78 projects, were unveiled just in 2020 and 2021, the mayor’s office said.
The story also highlights:
- Douglas Development’s redevelopment of Seneca One and purchase of 20 other local properties and its residentially-focused plans
- Niagara Street streetscape project
- Recent downtown renters
- LaSalle Park’s future makeover
- $225 million in State funding for the East Side including the African American Heritage Corridor and Central Terminal reuse
- $50 million for East Side home repair
- Northland Workforce Training Center
- Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
“The other story about Buffalo needs to be told, that investments are being made,” said Brandye Merriweather, the president of the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, a nonprofit group that works to repurpose empty city-owned lots.
The piece concludes with an interview with artist Muhammad Zaman, who immigrated to Buffalo from Bangladesh in 2004, in part because the city has one of the few Islamic grade schools in the United States.
“When we first moved here, I felt like we were the only Bangladeshi family,” said Mr. Zaman, who noted that there wasn’t a single halal-style restaurant in Buffalo in the mid-2000s, versus about 20 today. “Now, people are coming here from all over the place.”