Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of October 2, 2023

Date: October 6, 2023

By Caitlin Love Crowell

Each week, PPG summarizes important takeaways from the major Buffalo Common Council meetings. We also include information from council meetings related to our Community Agenda items. If you want to learn more about how the council meetings work and how you can get involved, check out our guide.

For this summary, we will focus on the Caucus Meeting and the Regular Meeting.  ‘Council Member’ is abbreviated as CM; ‘Council President’ as CP; and ‘Majority Leader’ as ML.

In the Caucus Meeting, Brendan Mehaffy, OSP (Office of Strategic Planning) Executive Director, spoke about the purchase of the dilapidated, city-owned Mohawk parking ramp by Douglas Development Corporation for $3,155,555. Douglas intends to combine it and an adjacent property; they plan to renovate and expand the parking structure, and to build 450 new rental units, 15% of which will be affordable housing.

In order to accomplish this, Mehaffy explained that the council would need to define the area as “blighted,” a term that means anything from unfit for human habitation to dilapidated to inadequately maintained. Labeling a site as blighted eases the way for developers. ML Rivera wondered if such a finding would expose the city to possible lawsuits, especially given the city’s controversial blight designation at Gates Circle to ease TM Montante’s redevelopment of the old Millard Fillmore hospital.

The OSP is requesting that the council approve the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation (BENLIC) to manage $10 million of affordable housing infill construction projects on city-owned vacant lots.  This funding would be matched with $13 million in Erie County funds. CM Wyatt said that before voting to approve that funding, he would like a list of specific parcels that would be chosen. Mehaffy said that properties were being reviewed, and that the council would be informed and get to vote on the lots later, after the funding had been secured.

In the Regular Meeting, the council sent to the Finance Committee the 2023-2024 Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency (BURA) budgets. These outline the city’s plans for demolitions, and community facilities improvements.  BURA also oversees federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, which they allocate for housing programs that include: down payment and closing cost assistance for first-time homebuyers; acquisition, renovation and resale of existing properties; weatherization; emergency repairs to allow homeowners to address major systems such as roofs, water or sewer lines, furnaces, hot water tanks, and electrical panels; and residential exterior improvements for low-moderate income residents.  Additionally, they administer Buffalo’s HOME program, through which the budget calls for approximately $4 million to finance new home construction and substantial rehabilitation projects for low- and moderate-income people.

BURA is also responsible for managing the city’s $12 million American Relief Plan funds intended to prevent and manage homelessness and reduce evictions.

Council members approved payment of $255,000 to compensate the Drayton family for a police home invasion.

On Tuesday October 24th at 2:00 there will be a public hearing about renaming Broderick Park Freedom Park.