Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact

McCarley Gardens Tenants Say No To Gentrification

Click here to download your very own postcard to mail to HUD, supporting the 150 families who would be displaced by SUNYAB’s plan to buy 14 acres of prime downtown real estate through the UB Foundation, with money donated by their alumni and others.

The group will hold a meeting at 6pm on Thursday, August 19, at the well-kept apartment complex, which was the vision of the late Burnie McCarley, former Reverend of St. John Baptist Church. He obtained the land when nobody else—including UB—believed in downtown and the Fruit Belt. Today it stands as a success story for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.


  • Kate

    I still don’t know how I feel about this. On one hand, much of the city is a disaster area and could use a little gentrification, and I think the UB2020 plan will be good for the city. On the other hand, anyone with McCarley Gardens on their daily commute can tell what a success story it is just by looking at it. Both McCarley Gardens and the UB plans are things we want to encourage in Buffalo. It’s a shame they’re in conflict. I hope they can find a way to satisfy both groups, somehow.

  • UB Professor

    I am a faculty member at UB, and am ashamed to see my institution involved in a real estate deal that pushes poor people of color out of their homes in the name of “progress.” It is especially appauling to see this happening when the homes UB plans to demo are among the most livable in the City and located on a rail line with access to critical services to residents.

    The involvement of a church sponsored development organization in this process is equally appauling. There is NO guarantee that replacement housing will be built, especially since the financing tool proposed to replace the homes is not in place.

    This whole “deal” is even more sick, since UBF money if being used to underwrite the deal. Money that is collected by students, alumni, faculty and staff at UB to be used for the betterment of the community (university and otherwise). I gave money to UBF last year, and am unhappy to see that it is being used to pursue Negro Removal in UB’s footprint.

    Everyone should download the postcard and send it to HUD. I am going to. I will also be suspending my contributions to UBF until I see some changes in how that “nonprofit” is governed and until UBF adopts a policy of giving donors input in its decision-making. I encourage others to do the same.

  • Kate

    I’d also like to know, what is UB going to do with the site? Could they do it elsewhere, maybe at the nearby Trico building? UB Professor makes a lot of excellent points. I don’t want to see anyone kicked out of their home, nor do I want to see this project held up. They say they’re doing it partially to put people back down there, which the area needs, but there are already people down there and they have to be considered too, poor or not.

  • betty Jean Grant

    Kate:
    you have made some excellent points. I have friends who used to live in Harlem at a time when it was not attractive (before Bill Clinton’s move there) to live in Harlem. After Clinton’s move, real estate prices went through the roof. Poor people had to leave or were evicted and the businesses that catered to them closed up shop. When you remove one set of individuals or make room for a more monied set of individuals, one could denoted a racist or elistist slant to the whole scenario. When the ones who are doing the moving are the ones who should be protecting the tenants from this sort of classism move, the whole situation becomes pathetic. Progress should not be compromised but nor sould the rights of the tenants, as well.

  • Kate

    It shouldn’t have to be an “us vs. them” thing, though. Too many things in this town are reduced to that. Many of the residents of McCarley could benefit from a revitalized area, and if this project is supposed to drive more business in the area, they’d probably be avid customers. I submit that if McCarley was just a regular apartment complex, not a low-income complex, UB would probably want the land just the same, people would be seeking new homes just the same, it just wouldn’t make the news. I don’t think UB’s willfully trying to displace anyone, it’s just that the property’s there and they want it.

    I still wonder: why can’t they take the Trico building? There are few sadder symbols of Buffalo’s economic decline than that boarded-up factory with its faded ads and fenced-off sidewalk. Do they really want that creepy thing sitting in the middle of their 2020?

  • UBProfessor

    I guess you missed the last few weeks in the Buffalo News. UB2020 us DOA, or at the very least now UB2030, according to the UB President. Using UBF dollars to buy McCarley gardens is even more pointless now. UB just wants to buy the place, board it up, and land bank it indefinately.

    The Trico building is an eyesoar, and should be torn down, just like the Aud was a year ago, and like other dead space in the city should be (i.e. the Statler). But, why should UB do it with its only source of funds, the UBF bank account. Is UBF just a slush fund for real estate developers? Is the board at UBF so slanted that it only operates as a real estate holding company now?

    Teating down the Trico building and making it shovel ready is not a university’s responsibility, it is the responsibility of the City or State. That is what CDBG money is for. The City could tear down the Trico building and turn the land over to BMHA or some other group for developement.

  • jhorn

    UBProfessor- agree with much of your commentary but shouldn’t a professor know how to spell appalling and eyesore?

  • Save Trico

    I guess that is why s/he teaches at UB and not Harvard. And, what unnecessary disdain for Buffalo’s architectural heritage, Professor. I would expect more from someone as enlightened as you are.

    Find a reuse for the Trico-it is an incredibly significant barometer of Buffalo’s past, and should (like the Statler and other “eyesores” be preserved and reused.

  • Kate

    I’d just like to see *something* happen on the Trico site. One of the other Trico plants has been creatively reused as the Tri-Main Building, so to me, their heritage in WNY has been partially preserved. It would be neat if UB could realize their plans on that site with remnants of the old building mixed with something purpose-built. Unfortunately, the BC/BS building has sort of given that a bad name in the area, but if you go inside the Hyatt, you can see it done well.
    What is UB’s interest in taking over McCarley just to let it sit, undeveloped, as UB Professor claims? Why do they want another eyesore adjacent to their project, and why would they choose to use their funds to just maliciously kick people out of their homes? I don’t get it. And yes, I know that they won’t be able to finish on deadline now, I do read the papers thank you, but I also haven’t seen mention of them firing everyone they hired on for 2020, nor does work on the new campus seem to have come to a screeching halt. And if the future of McCarley is still at stake, some of their plans must still be rolling forward.

  • UBProfessor

    Stop dwelling in the past people. Clear those delelict sites for new development. Can’t anyone embrace a vision for Buffalo that doesn’t conform to a horse and buggy economy. It is time to move forward. Sinking money into an effort to rehab a shell of an old factory is a waste of time. The people who built those monuments to the past pulled up stakes and drained the region of all of their wealth decades ago. Why enshrine their legacy. It would be like canonizing BP on the Gulf Coast.

    So, let the City figure out how to tear down the abandoned properties of companies that have cut and run from the region, and then transfer them to agencies that can develop them for the people who actually live here.

  • Please stop dwelling on the past. Trico did not Care about Buffalo, if it did it would not have jumped to South America. It left empty buildings all over the city, with out a concern of what they would become or not become. All that area needs to be cleared out. It time for a new vision for this area. Let the past stay in the past. UB is the Architect school, let them come up with some designs for the 21 century that would stand the test of time. What great building or buildings has this school come up with in the last 50 years of Buffalo’s history. Lets challenge them, where is there vision?

  • Kate

    Why is it the city’s sole responsibility to tear down all abandoned buildings, though? They don’t have the money, that’s why so many of them are still standing. Demolition of something large and sturdy like the Trico building is costly and time-consuming. Anyone remember driving by the site of the old Westinghouse plant in 1999 and 2000? It took a long time to get it demo-ready, torn down and cleared. You can’t expect a city with such precarious finances as Buffalo to go around taking on projects like that in the hopes that someone would want to build on the land left behind. Also, some developers like the industrial or historic feel of some of the buildings and would prefer to adapt rather than demolish.

    I agree that the city should work with businesses and NPOs that want to build on properties like the Trico site. But you can’t expect them to make everything in the city shovel-ready.

  • Buffalo-Builder

    I have been following this discussion for a couple days. It does seem unusual that there is an effort to take over a functioning project, McCarley Gardens, while vacant properties sit idle. St. Johns has a contract with HUD to maintain McCarley Gardens and they need to get HUD to release them in order to sell the property to UB. St. Johns plans to take the money from the sale of that property and invest it in the church and market rate housing (as well as apply for LIHTCs, which are very hard to get following the mortgage crisis). The McCarley residents will end up being dispersed all over the city in Section 8 apartments. That is the plan.

    It is a monumental effort, and even if UB can tear down McCarley gardens and builds something new on the site, the Trico building and many more will be sitting there empty. The City of Buffalo should focus on either renovating vacant property or clearing the sites in order to stimuilate development. Tearing down occupied property adjacent to empties is a bad economic development strategy.

    What is happening on the waterfront should be seen as a model for the rest of the city. First, there was an attempt to rehab the Aud, then it was deemed economically impossible, so the building was demolished (very quiclky too). Now there is a shovel ready site that will likely be built upon withing a year or two. The City should focus its resources on vacant property like the Trico building. If it can’t be fixed, move without haste and demo it. Even if it is a paking lot or a green space for a few years, it will be viewed as useable real estate by developers, rather than an obstacle to progress.

  • Warren

    There was no such hand-wringing when the land was handed over to St. John the Baptist Church to build the HUD subsidized housing, no thoughts of the impact it would have on the existing housing projects, how it would change the character of the neighborhood, etc. The Church had the juice, so they got their development funds.

  • wny

    not to mention tis “deal” has made Byron Brown’s own church one of the wealthiest off the taxpayer in Buffalo’s history? More dirty deals from the Brown camp of rotten boy scouts who can[t plan a thing except how to grab money and lie to the public. Why should a church make such a profit from something that was built and managed by public monies? Good for Rev Stenhouse, thick as thieves they are…..