People United For Sustainable Housing incorporated also known as PUSH Buffalo is a landlord (especially these days) more than they are an ‘activist’ or community advocacy organization.
PUSH owns hundreds of parcels
of land not only on the city of Buffalo’s West Side, their main organizing area, but in other parts of Buffalo as well. They own properties including vacant lots and housing on Buffalo’s East Side as well. What have they done with all this land? What are they going to do with all this land? Nobody really knows.
We talked about one of PUSH’s first and most admirable campaigns, the “Block By Block Campaign
.” Spearheaded and organized by PUSH co-founders Aaron Bartley (a white man) and Eric Walker (a black man), the campaign targeted the State of New York who PUSH found out owned multiple “zombie properties” across the city of Buffalo. These were vacant properties including houses, apartment units, and empty unkempt lots that fell into limbo because of New York State’s wicked foreclosure practices. These zombie places were many of the properties turned eyesores throughout the hood that people wondered; “Who owns that? Why is that just sitting there? Why isn’t anyone doing anything with that?” PUSH found out that the State of New York actually owned many of the properties. They spray painted stencils of then New York State governor George Pataki’s face on the front door board ups of many of these properties and held press conferences outside of them to get media attention. That’s what’s up. We don’t have a problem with that. What we have a problem with is what happened next and what is happening now.
Fast forward 15 years later, and the original mission and vision of PUSH and for the community has been lost. This may be because many of the visionaries that made it work are no longer with the organization. Walker was forced out and Bartley is semi-retired. Many of the people who run it now, members of PUSH’s Senior Management Team as we have been documenting don’t know what they are doing, don’t care, or have ulterior motives that have nothing to do with PUSH’s stated mission which is working on job and housing issues for disadvantaged people of color.
Don’t get us wrong, PUSH’s strategy of land banking and acquisition of properties from New York State and private owners to develop quality, affordable housing has worked to a certain extent, but we believe that they have run out of gas. They don’t have any good gas anymore. They’re smoking Reggie Miller. They haven’t conducted any comprehensive community engagement around their development projects in years as evidenced by the public controversy
surrounding their latest project. They really aren’t interested in community control of land, they want to control all of the land. Many people over the years have inquired and/or asked PUSH about how they can own a home or property instead of being warehoused in essentially an attractive, ‘green’, affordable housing project. Without ownership it is almost impossible to build generational wealth for strong families and communities. But, unless you’re inside the PUSH inner circle, you’re out of luck. You will not get the secret to the power of community land acquisition and ownership. The attractive projects will help speed up gentrification, the community will not have the generational wealth they need to survive it, but PUSH keeps getting good press and grant money. Meanwhile the community is stuck again, wondering: “Who owns that? Why is that just sitting there? Why isn’t anyone doing anything with that?” Maybe PUSH doesn’t know – or care- what WE need where we live.
We think that outside of the PUSH land designated for an affordable housing project that isn’t already in the works, they need to come up off of all that land in Buffalo that they own, are just sitting on, aren’t doing anything with, and give it to people who have the movements, the energy, the people power, and the better ideas that can actually do something with it. After all, this is the same thing PUSH said to the State of New York. We have some ideas and people lined up that do that we will eventually reveal. They need to come up off of all that land. What do you think?