Buffalo Commons



Raising the Minimum Wage: The Impact on Women, People of Color, and Immigrants in Western New York

Sam Magavern, Russell Weaver, Haley Smith — Jan 26, 2023

The New York State Legislature is weighing legislation to raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation and worker productivity. In this brief, we examine the impact of such legislation in terms of bringing workers in Western New York closer to a living wage, which is the hourly wage sufficient to meet basic needs such as housing, food, childcare, transportation, and medical expenses.

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Building “Next Generation” Democratic Workplaces to Reduce Inequality and Empower Workers: Evidence and Policy Implications from Buffalo-Niagara

Russell Weaver — Oct 28, 2020

Within the current political economic system, prevailing cultural norms and institutional infrastructure have forged a business climate that rewards self-interest, growth, and profit-maximization while essentially punishing “costly” actions that enhance the public good at the expense of the private bottom line. As such, entities that exhibit all of the NGE features listed above are extremely rare. And they are under constant threat of being swept away by competitive economic forces …

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Pathways to reparations: land and healing through food justice

Jessica Gilbert, Rebekah A. Williams — Oct 22, 2020

While mainstream efforts for reparations center financial compensation via legislation and litigation, social movements expand this conceptualization in order to address critical and yet often overlooked components of reparations. Equitable access to land and opportunities to heal from intergenerational trauma are two of these reparations demands that social movements prioritize. However, there is a dearth of scholarly literature exploring the role and impact of social movements on reparations. …

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CDFI Ecosystems and Alternate Forms of Lending

Milena Saakyan — Aug 24, 2020

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are entities whose main charge is delivering responsible and affordable lending for low income and other disadvantaged people. This brief explores what CDFIs look like across markets in Detroit, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Rochester as well as noting lack of public awareness for these institutions. CDFIs both combat the harm done by predatory lenders and offer alternative lending solutions.

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Erasing Red Lines: Part 3 - Building Community Wealth

Russell Weaver — Dec 20, 2019

Erasing Red Lines of discrimination and inequality from our map is a monumental task that will require transformational systems-change. As community-based organizations are demonstrating the possibilities of alternative systems in specific geographic places, the questions of (1) how to bring those efforts to scale, and (2) how public policies might change in response to the lessons learned from those efforts, require greater attention. Building on the previous installment of this series, this …

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Erasing Red Lines: Part 1 - Geographies of Discrimination

Russell Weaver — Aug 28, 2019

Since at least the 1930s, the City of Buffalo, New York has been spatially and socially divided. While certain mixed use and residential communities across the map have shown remarkable resilience—and thrived—during the City’s history of deindustrialization and population loss, many communities of color on Buffalo’s East and West Sides have experienced persistent and increasing levels of distress. This series of brief reports examines those patterns and engages with …

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The Eastside-Airport Metro Rail Extension

Citizens for Regional Transit — Aug 23, 2019

This policy brief provides information regarding the expansion of NFTA metro-rail services in east-side Buffalo to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. 

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Perceptions of Residential Displacement and Grassroots Resistance to Anchor Driven Encroachment in Buffalo, NY

Li Yin, Camden Miller, Pascal Buggs, Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., Robert Silverman — Jul 19, 2019

This article examines perceptions of institutional encroachment and community responses to it in Buffalo, NY. Specifically, we focus on residents’ perceived effects of anchor institution (e.g. hospital and university) expansion on core city neighbourhoods. Through this analysis we offer insights into the processes driving neighbourhood displacement in the contemporary period. Data were collected through a series of focus groups with residents and other stakeholders in working class, …

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The Climate Justice Movement in Western New York

Sam Magavern, Lynda Schneekloth — Jul 12, 2017

Although climate change requires an international response and will require national policies and actions, local geographies have to be involved because it that is where the harms are felt.  But how can local and regional areas respond to the climate crisis?  This article offers a story of the emergence of a climate justice movement in Buffalo and Western New York as an example of how one community is addressing climate change and its unequal impacts.

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A Community Benefit Agreement for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

Anthony Hilbert Mar 9, 2016

The BNMC is the region’s largest economic development project.  Clustering health institutions together on one campus creates many collaborations and efficiencies and increases the potential for spin-off job creation.  Inevitably, however, any large scale development also includes some negative side effects for the community, particularly those who live nearest to it.  Traffic and air pollution increase.  Parking becomes a problem on nearby residential streets.  …

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High Road Economic Development: Best Practices

Tina Meyers — Feb 25, 2015

High Road Economic Development is an economic development strategy that emphasizes high quality jobs, environmental sustainability, and broad access to opportunities for a diversity of businesses and workers.  High Road Economic Development prioritizes both a healthy economy and a healthy community.  It ensures that public dollars result in both public good and economic growth, and that economic benefits are distributed equitably.  The following list captures many best practices …

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The High Road Economy: Principles and Practices

Tina Meyers — Feb 25, 2015

The High Road is an economic strategy that emphasizes high quality jobs, environmental sustainability, and broad access to opportunities for diverse businesses and workers.  The High Road prioritizes a healthy economy and a healthy community.  It ensures that public dollars result in both public good and economic growth, and that economic benefits are distributed equitably.  The High Road Economy promotes democratic practices, the Triple Bottom Line (people, planet and profits), …

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The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus: A High Road Strategy to Maximize the Community's Benefit

Open Buffalo — Aug 1, 2013

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (“BNMC”) has become a major hub for private and public investment in Buffalo, an anchor institution that can help improve the quality of life for the whole region.  Strategies to maximize the ways that the community benefits from the BNMC development include: Buying goods and services from locally-owned, independent companies, including minority-owned and worker-owned companies; Focusing economic development incentives and subsidies on the …

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A Public Statement of Principles for High Road Development of Buffalo's Waterfront

Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, Canalside Community Alliance — Jul 11, 2013

The Canalside Community Alliance (CSCA) is a broad coalition of 60 community groups including block clubs, community developers, minority-owned contractors, environmental groups, locally-owned businesses, faith groups and many others with diverse skills, experiences, and knowledge, all committed to successful Canalside and waterfront development.  Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) has demonstrated a willingness to listen to public concerns and to involve the greater …

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Localization in Buffalo

Kathleen Moriarty — Dec 31, 2011

Generally speaking, localization is the idea of keeping as much of a region’s resources and energy as local as possible - business, employment, agricultural yields, and economic goods.  Localization also includes an effort to reduce the distance that goods travel between production and consumption.

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Benefit Corporation Legislation in New York: What's the Benefit

Amanda Dermady — Oct 30, 2011

Formerly in New York State, businesses could operate as one of six different types: a business corporation, not-for-profit corporation, limited liability company, general partnership, limited partnership, or sole proprietorship.  If Governor Cuomo signs the bill, businesses will be given a seventh option – the benefit corporation.  A business corporation can incorporate under New York State law by filing a Certificate of Incorporation under Section 402 of the Business …

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The Triple Bottom Line in Buffalo: Standards for Economic, Social, and Ecological Success

Jeffrey Baker — Jun 27, 2011

In respect to human capital, or people, the triple bottom line requires fair and beneficial business practices towards employees, the community, and the region.  Such practices include offering fair salaries, safe working conditions, decent hours, healthcare, and educational opportunity.  In terms of the environment, or the planet, the triple bottom line requires businesses to engage in sustainable environmental practices. Businesses aim to reduce their carbon footprint by carefully …

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Canal Side: How Will the Community Benefit?

Owen Field Apr 1, 2010

For the last two years, PPG partners have voted to make a community benefit agreement (CBA) for the $300 million Canal Side development a plank in the PPG Community Agenda.  A CBA would include binding guarantees about quality jobs, green design, local businesses, local and minority hiring, and mixed income housing.  Each year, PPG leads its partners and other citizens in crafting a Community Agenda: ten policy actions that government can take in the course of the year to revitalize …

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The Erie Canal Harbor Development: Building on Community Assets for a Sustainable Future

Carrie Weremblewski Apr 21, 2009

This policy brief frames the redevelopment of the Erie Canal Harbor as a tool for building on our existing assets and addressing our chronic challenges.  Ultimately, development of this vital and historic district will be accomplished on public land and with additional public resources and subsidies.  As such, Buffalo's Inner Harbor redevelopment, like and development receiving public funds, should have clear and achievable goals that advance public purposes.

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Community Benefits Agreements

Amy Kaslovsky — Nov 19, 2008

Community Benefits Agreements (CBA’s) are legally enforceable contracts between community groups and developers in which community groups promise to support the developers in seeking approvals, permits, or subsidies, and the developers promise to provide certain benefits to the surrounding community.  CBA’s are outgrowths of the civil rights, labor, and community organizing movements. CBA’s often represent community-based unionism, where organized labor supports …

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Revitalizing Buffalo: Let's Take the High Road

Sam Magavern — Sep 1, 2007

Recently, Buffalo awoke to find that it had become the second-poorest major city in the nation, trailing only Detroit.  We are also second in rate of abandoned properties, right behind St. Louis.  Everyone agrees that we are a city in need of some economic development.  But what type of economic development do we need? As debates about the casino and Bass Pro demonstrate, the answers to this question vary widely.  Most observers, however, would probably agree that the …

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Champions @ Work: Employment, Workplace Practices and Labor-Management Relations in Western New York: A Study

Lou Jean Fleron, Howard Stanger, Eileen Patton — Jan 1, 2000

This study examines private sector employment, workplace practices and labor-management relations in Western New York (WNY) from the mid-1980s to the present.  It is a regional assessment, a benchmark designed to help the public and private sectors make informed decisions regarding enterprise and regional development.  Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations conducted the study as a part of its public service mission, with financial support from New York State.

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