July 8, 2008

Mayor Defends City’s Demolition Program

By Brian Meyer, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Jul. 8--As crews began tearing down a decaying structure on the East Side today to make way for new homes, Mayor Byron W. Brown used the event to defend the city's demolition program.

An entire city block will soon be demolished and replaced with "West Coast suburban-style" homes that are being built by the development arm of True Bethel Baptist Church. The project represents the type of coordinated development that is being linked to demolition blitzes in many other parts of the city, Brown insisted.

Flanked by officials from the True Community Development Corporation, Brown rattled off projects that are under way or being planned on the West Side, near numerous public schools, and in neighborhoods that include Cold Springs and the Fruit Belt.

A series of articles published in The Buffalo News this week documented widespread criticism of the city's handling of vacant properties.

By next year at this time, land currently occupied by six dilapidated homes on Woodlawn Avenue and two structures on Kehr Street will be replaced with four single-family homes. They will have abundant green space and many other suburban-style amenities, said the Rev. Darius Pridgen of True Bethel Baptist Church. Some of the homes will be subsidized. He said the existing structures had too much asbestos and lead paint to make them viable prospects for rehabilitation. So the entire block is being demolished.

"That's how extreme the problem is that we've inherited in the city," Brown said.

Neighborhood residents said the demolitions and planned new housing are sorely needed in an area that has far too many vacant structures. Some of the empty buildings have been targets of vandals, copper thieves and other types of crime, they lamented.

"You're afraid to go to sleep at night," said one Woodlawn Avenue woman who asked that her name not be used.

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