BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Dozens of people protested Carl Paladino’s office in the Ellicott Square Building in downtown Buffalo Friday.
Members of organizations including Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Buffalo, Open Buffalo, and Push Buffalo picketed the developer’s office to bring attention to the impacts of gentrification on low-income residents and communities of color.
With rents rising across the city and thousands of Buffalonians being impacted by an affordable housing crisis, longtime residents and families are being displaced from neighborhoods that they have loved and called home for decades.
Aaron Bartley, PUSH Buffalo’s executive director, called the affordable housing crisis “a displacement machine”, of which Ellicott Development is a part.
“The displacement machine impacts people of color, the working class, small business, artists and underground culture- displacement developers have been able to write their own rules in large metropolitan cities throughout the country, but Buffalo knows better and therefore it must do better,” Bartley said. “This is our city and since we get to write the rules of development, they will include inclusionary zoning, land trusts and community benefits like local hiring and living wages.”
Inclusionary zoning means that 30 percent of the building can be rented to low income families, if the property receives government funding.
Ellicott Development is the largest private landlord in the city, and the company receives millions in rent from public institutions like the city of Buffalo, Erie County and Buffalo Public Schools.
The coalition that spoke out today called for immediate divestment of all governmental agencies from Ellicott Development buildings. Among Paladino’s government tenants are the Buffalo branch of the FBI, the NYS Department of Public Service, the NYS Department of Transportation, the Erie County Water Authority, and the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority. To further this, Paladino brings in just under $200,000 per month in lease payments from six Buffalo charter schools. He has received at least $13.8 million in taxpayer subsidies since 2003.
Representatives of these groups say Ellicott Development’s practices force people out of their homes by excessively raising rents.
They also say that leads to gentrification, particularly in areas like the Fruit Belt, and the east and west sides.
The groups urged the city and Ellicott Development to adopt more inclusive standards for zoning, that would provide more space for low- and middle-income families.
Now, Common Council is moving forward with such inclusionary zoning to prevent people from being priced out of their neighborhoods.
The power structure, led by the developer class, have been able to dictate public policy in this city for far too long,” said Harper Bishop, Economic and Climate Justice Coordinator for Open Buffalo. “It’s past time that our elected officials represented the will of the people, and that our tax dollars were used to invest in family sustaining jobs, affordable housing and innovative solutions to gentrification, which disproportionately impacts low-income residents and communities of color.”
“Buffalo is not for sale,” Maxine Murphy of PUSH Buffalo said. “We want him to take into consideration that everybody in Buffalo is not rich, like him, and we want the Common Council and everybody to know that the citizens of Buffalo are tired of this here, and we’re taking action. This is part of our constitutional right.”
Buffalo remains the sixth most segregated city in the country and the third poorest. The poverty rate in Buffalo is hovering around 30%; that jumps to about 50% for children and homes with single parents. Research has shown that ZIP code is more important to health and life expectancy than genetic code.
Paladino said that he wasn’t in his second floor office during the protest. He was in New York City, and arrived back to Buffalo later in the afternoon.
After about 30 minutes of activity, the protesters peacefully left the building when police showed up.