Tag Archives: HUD

One Region Forward – Likely Without You

30 Jan

Last night, something called the “Community Congress” as part of a new regional planning effort called “One Region Forward” was held at Babeville. First I heard of it was when I started seeing pictures and Tweets about it as it was going on.

Admittedly, this is partly my own fault, since both the Buffalo News and Buffalo Rising had regurgitated key points from its press release in the last week, but regionalism and regional planning are things that I’m extremely interested in – I think it’s a huge component of what may be WNY’s improvement, if not renaissance. 

So, given that I pay at least marginally more attention to this stuff than the average person, I was genuinely disappointed that I knew nothing about it, and had no idea that it was going on. It was, however, well-attended, so that’s why I’m so surprised. One way the effort could have gotten the word out would have been to follow lots of people on Twitter – the moment you get followed by a local regionalism congress, chances are you’d check it out. Instead, as of this morning, it’s following 39 people. On Facebook, it has a paltry 208 followers.  That’s a crappy job getting the word out, if you ask me. Given that we have more marketing, PR, and social media experts per capita than we deserve, this is amazing to me.

UPDATE: I learned today that no one at the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation knew about it at all. 

So, what’s this all about? 

 One Region Forward is an effort to better plan how we grow or shrink western New York through a collaborative process; a way to reduce wasteful sprawl without population growth that wastes resources and empties existing communities, rather than trying to repair or reverse their stressors. It is a huge issue that is fraught with difficulty related to racism and classism. From the press release, 

The regional vision will help guide development of One Region Forward, an initiative aimed at ensuring long-term economic prosperity, environmental quality, and community strength across the two counties and 64 municipalities of the Buffalo Niagara Region.

“We will face enormous challenges as a region in the 21st century,” Hal Morse, executive director of the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council said. “Where we work, how we get around, what kind of neighborhoods we live in, and many other aspects of our daily lives – even where we get our food and water – will be under pressure. One Region Forward is about repositioning our assets to support long-term sustainable growth and development.”

The One Region Forward effort is building on a series of recent planning initiatives aimed at reviving the Buffalo Niagara economy, reducing our regional “carbon footprint,” regenerating core cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, developing the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and growing the University at Buffalo, among others.

“We’re not starting from scratch,” Howard A. Zemsky, chair of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, a leading partner in the effort, and co-chair of the Regional Economic Development Council, said. “Our commitment is to make sure that all the plans for our region are working toward the same ends.”

Discussions at the Community Congresses will build on recent planning work in the region – not just the Regional Economic Development Council strategy, the “Buffalo Billion,” the Buffalo Green Code, and others – but others including more than 160 regional, municipal, and special purpose plans throughout Buffalo Niagara.

“We’ve read all of these plans and abstracted a series of statements about what values are common across them – statements about economic development, parks and recreation, transportation, housing and neighborhoods, climate change, water resources, food access, and more,” continued Shibley

“It will be up to citizens participating in the Community Congresses to tell us whether or not we got these right,” Shibley added, “and how we have to change them if we didn’t.”

Based on this direction from the general public, detailed implementation strategies will be developed by a series of working teams on land use and economic development, housing and neighborhoods, transportation, food systems, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. A subsequent Community Congress will review these strategies later in 2013. Further work will produce a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, a document that will give our region priority status for funding opportunities today and into the future.

One Region Forward will develop more than just a plan, it will build capacity and tools to support local decision-making, conduct public education activities, and launch implementation campaigns for prototypical projects around key issues such as redevelopment of suburban retail strips, strengthening village Main Streets, or rejuvenating urban neighborhoods.

The effort is led by a broad-based steering committee that includes representatives from both counties; mayors and supervisors from across the region, the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, major community based organizations, major public agencies in housing, education, and transportation, and the leading business sector organization in the region.

One Region Forward is funded by a highly competitive, first-of-its kind, $2M federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities Initiative, an interagency partnership among HUD, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is administering the program through our region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council.

 One Region Forward is sponsored by the following entities: Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC), Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), Erie County, Niagara County, City of Buffalo, City of Niagara Falls, Association of Erie County Governments, Niagara County Supervisors Association, University at Buffalo Regional Institute and Urban Design Project (UBRI/UDP), Daemen College Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement (CSCCE), VOICE Buffalo, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Buffalo (LISC), The John R. Oishei Foundation, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), Belmont Housing Resources for WNY, Inc. (Belmont), Buffalo Niagara Partnership (BNP), Empire State Development, Niagara County Department of Social Services, and Niagara Falls Housing Authority.

There will be a second congress held in the Niagara Falls Conference Center on Saturday February 2nd from 2pm – 4pm.  

Wanamaker’s One Sunset

30 Nov

Former Buffalo economic development czar Timothy Wanamaker returned to town yesterday to be convicted by Federal Judge Arcara for charging $30,000 in personal expenses to his BERC credit card. Wanamaker left Buffalo in 2008 to fail as city manager in Inglewood, CA.

Wanamaker has yet to be sentenced, but the Buffalo News alludes to the possibility that Wanamaker’s plea deal is part of a larger, ongoing investigation into mismanagement and embezzlement of HUD funds at City Hall.

Stealing economic development money from a struggling city – it doesn’t get much lower than that. One wonders why CitiStat didn’t pick up all of it, and one wonders how cooperative and informative Mr. Wanamaker will be with federal investigators between now and his March sentencing.

 

$5MM in Poverty-Reduction Funds to Statler?

24 Mar

Poverty Reducer

Local restaurateur, developer, parking lot owner, and friend-of-Byron’s Mark Croce famously announced that he would commence an incremental rehabilitation of the Statler Towers. For the time being, only the first two floors will be rehabbed to re-enable the ballrooms to be used for events. The upper floors will be rehabbed as the market demands. The deal amazingly closed for only $700,000; in order to make the Statler commercially viable, he will have to repair of the exterior details, many of which have decided to plummet to the ground in recent years.

In order to do that, Croce has applied for a $5.3 million grant from the City of Buffalo, which would likely come from its Community Development Block Grant funding. That money, however, arises out of a HUD program to provide affordable housing and jobs for poverty prevention. Its purpose is to directly benefit low and middle-income people and reduce neighborhood blight. What that has to do with rehabilitating a millionaire’s $700,000 hotel rehab is beyond me.

Add to that the fact that it was announced just yesterday that a Croce LLC just closed on a $1.2 million Orchard Park mansion. I’m sure congress had in mind that CDBG money would go to help develop a crumbling downtown hotel owned by someone who can afford to plunk down $1.2 MM for a nice 12,800 SF house in a tony suburb. Right?

Quick Random Thoughts

2 Nov

I’ve been laid out the last couple days with a nasty swine flu & pneumonia mix, and therefore haven’t been eating, much less blogging. I’m still not totally with it, so here are just a couple quick ideas that have rattled through my fever soaked brain.

1) The Yankees are about to win the World Series. Sure, they’ll lose the next game in Philly so they can win it all t the new Yankee Stadium, but we all know where this going. How can anyone, even Yankees fans (I grew up as one) get excited about this? Seeing overpaid superstars on the most bloated lineup in any major sport merely do what they are supposed to do doesn’t fill me with warm feelings. Damon works a pitcher to a full count, A-Rod drives in two runs. . . seeing them get excited in the dugout is almost obtuse. That was a $250M hit, A-Rod. Its about time you showed up. Yay.

2) Is there a better example of the mess of Buffalo than the FAILed community block grant program? This is free money. We get to decide where it goes. And we get more, per capita, than just about anywhere. What do we do with it? Hand out patronage jobs, fire the couple overworked competent administrators as scape goats, award grants based on political affiliation, mis-spend huge chunks, and lose the rest. There is no one else to blame for this mess. This isn’t Albany, or New York City, or Washington, or anyone else screwing us. This is us screwing ourselves. Good job.

3) As Pundit points out, this may be one of the more boring and uninspired elections at the county level in some time. Its not like everything is all roses in Western New York – anyone got some ideas on how to do the job better? The only fireworks are self-inflicted implosions of Sherriff Howard and Michele Iannello. I predict low turn everywhere, not just in the city. And that bodes well for the union and special interest based candidates – their over-the-hill machines have more and disproportionate power when the general public doesn’t vote. Once again, we screw ourselves.