Triptych Tuesday: A Legacy of Inequitable Infrastructure

If the people centered-transportation movement can become a champion for racial and economic equity, it will play a direct an important counter-point to 20th century infrastructure decisions.

A major feature in Slate last month, the past and present of auto-centric infrastructure pockmarks nearly all U.S. cities with the brunt of the externalized consequences being shouldered by communities of color. Unfortunately, Buffalo is no exception.

As described in the One Region Forward Fair Housing Equity Assessment, from Interstate 190 to NYS Route 33 and NYS Route 198, in green lighting these highways:

“Public officials leveraged massive public works projects aimed to facilitate the rise of the automobile and expedite suburban commuting to additional end: the construction of highways through urban neighborhoods served to displace and disconnect emerging bases of African-American political power. At the same time these interventions undercut economic opportunities and activity within neighborhoods by allowing traffic (and customers) to quickly bypass city neighborhoods for new auto- centric commercial development. The legacy of these roadways has further created communities of environmental justice concerns where low-income and minority populations are now subjected to high volumes of car and truck emissions. 

Nowhere in Buffalo was the intrusion of highways on neighborhoods more apparent than the construction of Route 33. Also known as the [Kensington] Expressway, this highway was named after the grand Olmsted-designed Humboldt Parkway that was torn out for its construction. Humboldt Parkway was the spine of emerging black middle- class neighborhood of Hamlin Park and its link to the great public spaces of The Parade (now MLK Park) and Delaware Park. However, the local (white) power elite welcomed the destruction as a sign of progress. In fact, as New York State footed the lion’s share of the bill for the project, Buffalo’s then-mayor Steven Pankow reportedly proclaimed, “Never has Buffalo been offered so much for so little”.

humboldt pkwy with trees

humboldt pkwy trees cut  Streets_Humboldt_Mudpit_construction_1960s_B.jpg__320x259_q85

The Restore Our Community Coalition was formed in 2010 with a vision for restoring the grand parkway that was once the central defining and unifying element of this neighborhood. They are building a strong cohort of organizational and individual stakeholders to rally momentum for beginning to right the wrong done to this neighborhood. More information about this important work and more back story about the Parkway and ways to get involved can be found on their website.

The Bike Movement & Racial Equity via the Center for Social Inclusion

“We define racial equity as both an outcome and a process. A racially equitable society is one in which race no longer determines one’s life outcomes and in which we recognize that when we address inequity, we all share in the benefits of increased fairness and justice.”

For today’s post, Make Communities is going to cede it’s time to Simran Noor, Director of Policy and Strategy at the Center for Social Inclusion.

As mentioned briefly in Friday’s post, the National Bike Summit this year focused on Bikes+.

For many, this “+” is equity.

US Biking Boom
From People for Bikes Building Equity Report

In developing nations, the bike is very consciously seen as a tool for liberation and uplifting people in poverty, in ways not that dissimilar to the impact that bicycles had toward “free, untrammeled womanhood” in the early 20th century here in the States. As Ms. Noor points out, though, as it is swiftly gaining traction in this country the Bike Movement is too often seen as a white, middle-class, male phenomenon even though stats consistently show that people who ride bikes do, in fact, represent a broad demographic cross-section with the steepest increase in riding coming from communities of color.

In her excellent summary of her comments to the National Bike Summit, she highlights five places that the bike movement can focus to demonstrates a commitment to racial equity. The bullet-points are listed below, but to do them justice, click through and read the full post:

  1. Interrogate Root Cause of Disparities
  2. Lift up Leadership of Color in Your Movement
  3. Reframe the Message
  4. Engage with Communities
  5. Share Power and Resources

Complete Streets Plus ____(?)_____

Forgive us if the mind wanders a bit on a chilly spring Friday morning… but this is one of those posts about Copenhagen.

We spend a lot of time thinking about Complete Streets here at Make Communities. Not only is it part of the day job to work to help communities make their streets safe, accessible and equitable for all users – young and old, rich and poor, weekend warriors and those with mobility impairments — but it’s also a big part of how we try to live when (ok, if) we put the work away come Friday evening.

Getting around by bike or on foot, sometimes it can be frustrating enough just to overcome the challenges of infrastructure that doesn’t fully support getting from here to there while leaving the car at home. When your thoughts are focused on getting from A to B, though, it can be difficult to consider that our streets can be both places for transportation and be places of fun and even whimsy.

Which brings us back to Copenhagen…

Not far from the main drag of touristy Nyhavn with crowds embarking on canal tours or taking in the action from dockside cafes, is an incredible and incredibly simple piece of outside-the-box urbanism. Behold: the sidewalk trampoline!

CPH trampoline1Now, we haven’t checked in the index, but we’d bet our bike shorts that the sidewalk trampoline doesn’t show up in even the most recent version of the NACTO guidelines.

CPH trampoline3

Thanks to Google Maps, you can actually get a great before and after of this site. Which was part of a larger promenade project that installed a cycle track, benches, pavers and trees.

Take away the trampolines and this is still a great project.

Add the trampolines, and this is an experience that people will remember for a lifetime.

Though your local DOT may actually black out a little bit if you suggest a trampoline in your next street reconstruction initiative, what other ways can you think of to add the unexpected, the unforgettable and the fun into your community’s next project?

CPH trampoline4


*And, no, bike helmets aren’t required, or even recommended. In fact, there’s no signage or supervision at all. The helmets are just the result of a quick transition out of the cargo bike and onto the trampoline.


**Also, the name of this post is a play on the from the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit’s theme “Bikes+” earlier this month. Check out the great responses the conference attendees came up with here.

A Legacy of Segregation and Discrimination: Redlining

…the housing sector is a prime example of the confluence of influences, often working together, to tilt the playing field away from communities of color.

In Tuesday’s post, we alluded to the multiple institutions, agencies and individual actors that contributed to the development of racial and geographic segregation and discrimination in the Buffalo Niagara region.

When it comes to the shape of our communities and the vast geographic disparities that exist, the housing sector is a prime example of the confluence of influences, often working together to tilt the playing field away from communities of color. In the 20th century and through the subprime lending crisis that still reverberates today, the federal government, private lending and real estate industries each played explicit and interconnecting roles in the decline of urban areas, particularly in communities of color.

We can see the seeds of the de-urbanization and sanctioned housing segregation that was rampant throughout the middle 20th century planted in the tail end of the Great Depression. Redlining, the practice of denying one group of people equal service, terms or access, became an official federal housing policy beginning in 1937, and the trajectory that it established for communities throughout the city has continued to this day. Based on this policy, the federal government would not insure mortgages in areas they deemed prone to “adverse influences”, with those influences being defined almost entirely on the presence of residents of color.

HOLC redline map

As described in the One Region Forward Equity Assessment (FHEA):

“[The] practice of redlining restricted the flow of capital to many neighborhoods, essentially sealing their fate as communities of decline. Terms such as “protection from adverse influences” and “infiltration of inharmonious racial or nationality groups” were at best thinly veiled phrases used to delineate of minority neighborhoods where banks were advised or self-determined not to lend or to lend sparingly… [It has been] argued that the Federal Housing Administration “did more to institutionalize redlining than any other agency by categorizing mortgages according to their risk level and encouraging private lenders who wanted insurance for their mortgages to do the same”… the harm caused by this [ensuing] decline was both individual and collective, immediate and long- term, impacting at first housing but eventually nearly every facet of access and opportunity for communities of color across the country and specifically in Buffalo Niagara.”

A City of Buffalo neighborhood conditions analysis shows 60 years after the institutionalization of redlining shows how government created maps became a self-fulfilling prophecy for communities of color.
A City of Buffalo neighborhood conditions analysis shows 60 years after the institutionalization of redlining shows how government created maps became a self-fulfilling prophecy for communities of color.

[Recently, CityLab highlighted mapping work done by Evan Tachovsky at Belt Magazine revealing similar lasting impacts of redlining in Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland.]

Combined with other federal policies, such as suburban mortgage incentives through the Veterans Administration, the interstate highway system, the HUD – Neighborhood Composition Rule used to segregate and ultimately stigmatize public housing and, later, the exclusion of single and two family houses from fair housing laws, helped dramatically fueled and, arguably, created white flight. Again from the FHEA:

“While some of the residents of diversifying city neighborhoods were content to live in integrated communities, others fled because they did not want to live near blacks. And while some preferred the allure of the white picket fence, others’ hands were forced by a slew of programs and regulations that severely restricted their options. White flight from the city was aided and abetted by the previously mentioned government backed mortgage insurance providers, with additional FHA policies drove investment away from home renovation projects, multiple unit dwellings, attached housing and houses on small lots – essentially most forms of urban development. The combination of low interest rates, low down payments and new construction techniques additionally made it cheaper in many cases to buy a home in the suburbs than to rent a home in the city.”

Far from acting alone, these government policies were extremely lucrative for many in the private sector, especially the finance, real estate and construction industries. Real estate and financial industry manipulation, restrictive race-based housing covenants, blockbusting, steering, speculation and unfair and exploitative lending practices all played a role and fostered a geographic imbalance and generational wealth gap that still exists today.

The One Region Forward Equity Assessment goes into these practices in greater detail, but it also outlines a history of resistance of everyday citizens — such as the early efforts of the Masten District Community Relations Council, and the ongoing efforts of Housing Opportunities Made Equal — fighting for ethical business practices and equal treatment under the law.

It’s available here.

Today It’s All About You

PB March-25th-postcardIf you’re in Buffalo, then hopefully you know about the great work that Clean Air Coalition and the Common Council’s Participatory Budget Committee have been doing to bring direct democratic control to the people of this city.

For those of you who have been following this exciting progress, tonight’s open house is a great opportunity to learn more. And to those of you that participatory budgeting a new concept, tonight is a great chance to get acquainted.

From the Clean Air website:

Community Control Over Public Dollar$ is an informational Exposition on Participatory Budgeting in Buffalo. Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a fairly new way to make decisions about publicly funded projects. Participatory Budgeting gives ordinary people decision-making power over real money. PB is already working in over 1,500 municipalities around the world. It includes everyone in the community – especially those who are often excluded from the political process or feel disillusioned with current political structures and institutions.

Participatory Budgeting began in Brazil in the late 1980s and has spread to communities worldwide, helping to determine allocation of municipal and agency capital budgets, special funds, and legislative discretionary funds. In New York City, several Council Members have disbursed millions of dollars in discretionary spending through a broad based Participatory Budgeting process – gaining notoriety from the White House as a leading Open Government “Champions of Change” initiative. The White House has also included Participatory Budgeting in the 2014 Open Government National Action Plan, specifically citing HUD Community Development funds as a potential funding source.

The Participatory Budgeting Project, a New York city based 501(c)(3), has provided assistance to various projects throughout the continent, including local partners. Participatory Budgeting’s highest local profile to date has been Clean Air’s large scale public process and voting to gauge community support for the distribution of funds from the Tonawanda Coke environmental violations settlement.

Participatory Budgeting follows five basic steps:

1) rule setting

2) public ideation

3) project refinement and evaluation

4) public prioritization

5) award allocation

In a pure Participatory Budgeting process, the amount of funding available is established and communicated at the outset and projects are funded in the order of priority assigned by the community through the voting process until the funding is exhausted. On many occasions, though, by raising the profile of and interest in community needs and opportunities, even projects not funded through the Participatory Budgeting process have been taken on by other funding sources.

Traditional planning processes disconnected from the budget process can often create “planning fatigue” particularly in low-income communities where residents may succeed in having their knowledge and vision reflected in planning documents, but these have rarely resulted in direct, tangible neighborhood investment. This cycle has created distrust, suppressed engagement – particularly among low-income families and people of color – and produced a cadre of “usual suspects” that tend to dominate public process.

At the same time, capital investment for community development has too often benefited private interests without fundamentally addressing the concerns or needs of a neighborhood or catalyzing spin-off investment and long-term improvement.

Participatory Budgeting is a clear and direct way to engage communities and live into a planning practice that puts local first and reflects that fact that communities members know their neighborhoods better than anyone else. And the direct link from community to on-the-ground change creates a snowball effect of increasing community pride and civic engagement.

Come out tonight and learn more…

Thanks to Clean Air and the Common Council PB Committee for leading this charge!



Separate and Unequal in Buffalo Niagara

“The consequences of racial and ethnic segregation and discrimination directly impact individuals, neighborhoods and the region as a whole.”

In the 120 years since the case of Plessy v. Ferguson — which established the doctrine of separate but equal — morality, experience and, eventually, the law have proven time and again that separate can never be equal.

Yet in Buffalo Niagara we struggle, as do nearly all U.S. regions, with intense racial and ethnic segregation.

From the opportunity gaps that we experience, and that our research verifies, it is clear that Buffalo Niagara is also intensely unequal.

A Statistical Explanation of Segregation  SOURCE: Brown University US2010
A Statistical Explanation of Segregation
SOURCE: Brown University US2010

The stats can get complicated but simply reinforce what we have known to be true for too long. For instance, the Regional Index of Dissimilarity measures how one racial or ethnic group is distributed throughout the region as compared to another racial or demographic group. On a scale of 0-100, with 60 generally being considered a very high level of segregation, this measure conveys the percentage of one group that would need to move in order to achieve perfect integration with the other group. The divide between black and white is largest of any differential in Buffalo Niagara at a striking 71.

The “Main Street divide” is real, and it is stark. Nationally, the Buffalo Niagara Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) ranks high in segregation – as 6th most segregated on the White-Black index of the 102 largest metros, 21st in White- Hispanic segregation and as the most segregated on the White-Asian index.

Far from just dictating what sign of a geographic line people live on, the divide also greatly affects the access to opportunities and to services that people have on a daily basis. This unequal access leads to employment and achievement statistics that are skewed against people of color. The poverty rate of the white population in the region, then, is only 9.6%, but for African-Americans it is 36.1%, for Hispanic/Latino populations it is 35.8%, Asian/Pacific Islander 25.6% and Native Americans 23.5%.

An On-the-Ground Explanation of Segregation East Ferry (above) One Block East of Main Street West Ferry (below) One Block West of Main Street
An On-the-Ground Explanation of Segregation
ABOVE: East Ferry One Block East of Main Street; BELOW: West Ferry One Block West of Main Street via Google Maps

Because this inequality is widespread, pervasive and long standing, many of the factors contributing to segregation are buried under assumptions, stereotypes and misinformation so that the victims of an unequal system are too often blamed for its outcomes. Yet this imbalance continues to hold back individuals and region as a whole. As further described in the One Region Forward Equity Assessment:

…populations [of color] in the region suffer from reduced opportunity and outcomes in academic and occupational achievement, suffer poorer personal health and reduced quality of life.

The lack of economic vibrancy in poor neighborhoods reduces the municipal tax base making it more challenging for local governments to provide adequate levels of services, amenities and infrastructure throughout the region.

The inability to access employment, or additional challenges faced in accessing employment, in economically isolated neighborhoods means direct costs to government in the form of increased public assistance.

Concentrations of poverty and lack of mainstream economic opportunity have also led to higher areas of crime, reflecting an increased burden on the criminal justice system. However, disparities in law enforcement skewed against minority populations have also created huge familial and social strains within minority communities as a disproportionate number of families lose loved ones to incarceration.

Sanctioned and covert institutional financial policies and practices and the distorted economies of low-income neighborhoods further restrict access to the main stream economy and compound the difficulty of breaking the generational cycle of poverty.”

In short, there is a high universal cost of concentrated and racialized poverty. In fact, the The Equality of Opportunity Project has found that both whites and non-whites have lesser chances of escaping poverty and climbing the economic ladder in regions that are more highly segregated.

There is a distinct advantage to the region in addressing these issues and, as mentioned in an earlier post, a host of individuals and organization are working on these issues, growing a large and inclusive movement to achieve racial equity in Buffalo Niagara, but the work is far from complete.

In future posts, we’ll delve into both some of the root policy and practice causes of segregation and inequality in the region, as well as the recommendations coming out of the One Region Forward Equity Assessment.

Mapping Western New York’s Changing Population

Since 1990, Buffalo Niagara has seen a marked increase in diversity, but, at a macro level, the region remains more homogenous than New York or the U.S. as a whole. At a micro level, the diversification is not uniform across municipalities or throughout Buffalo Niagara’s communities.


As noted in the regional FHEA, Buffalo Niagara has seen an overall decrease in population, but the increase in populations of color “actually masks a larger population decline among the white population throughout the region. From 1990 to 2000, for instance, the White population of Buffalo Niagara dropped nearly 61,000 people, but the overall loses were offset by a total increase of 41,550 people in Black, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander and Other Race categorizations.”

Demographic trends in Buffalo Niagara 1980-2010 SOURCE: Brown University US2010 Discover America in a New Century
Demographic trends in Buffalo Niagara 1980-2010
SOURCE: Brown University US2010 Discover America in a New Century

Every municipality in the region now has a higher share of populations of color than in 1990. But delving into the details within communities, it is clear that there are concentrations of diversification, while many communities remain almost entirely white.

change in racial composition by muniAt a neighborhood level, the highest increases in populations of color are occurring throughout Buffalo’s west, north and far east sides and in central Niagara Falls. In the first ring suburban communities, are diversifying mainly nearest their borders to the city of Buffalo: western Cheektowaga, south and west Amherst and portions of the southern end of Tonawanda.

change in racial composition by tractThe traditionally African-American neighborhoods on Buffalo’s near east side and the region’s Native American Nations represent the only communities in the region that have a smaller percentage of people of color than in 1990. On the near east side this is largely driven by an outflow of African-American residents throughout the 2000s, but development pressures along Main Street and around the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus are also fostering fears of displacement as property values and real estate speculation increase.Black - African-American population change 2000-2010Though overall level of segregation throughout the region are trending downwards, segregation levels are still disproportionately high in Buffalo Niagara, and population of color are largely geographically concentrated: African-Americans in and near Buffalo’s east side and in Niagara Falls, Latino/ Hispanic populations along the Niagara River in Buffalo, and Asians on Buffalo’s west side and in southwestern Amherst.

racial and ethnic distribution in buffalo niagaraThough economic arguments are often cited as the reason some communities have low shares of populations of color, a test that controls for economic factors actually reveals that these arguments cannot account for the segregation that we observe and experience in Buffalo Niagara, with larger than expected shares of white population — and lower shared of persons of color — in the majority of Buffalo Niagara’s municipalities with very notable exceptions in and around the core cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

deviation from predicted racial shareTomorrow we’ll take a closer look at how this racial and ethnic segregation manifests itself throughout the region.


Special thanks to Brian Conley from the UB Regional Institute who created these maps, all of which can be found in the One Region Forward Fair Housing Equity Assessment.

Friday Finances: Buffalo’s City Inequality Rank

Buffalo ranks very low in income at the top and the bottom ends of household earnings, ranks high in inequality.

Buffalo skyline from 1832 LIghthouse Though it may not have been big news in the mainstream press, if you run in policy wonk circles, you’ve probably seen the recently released Inequality Rankings from Alan Berube and Natalie Holmes at Brookings.

Their study only encompasses the 50 largest cities in the country, so Buffalo doesn’t make the cut.

However, fear not, we at Make Communities went wading through the American Community Survey stats so you don’t have to.

The headline here is that Buffalo ranks very low in income at the top and the bottom ends of household earnings, and yet also ranks relatively high in inequality.

By Brookings measure, if Buffalo had been among the top 50 cities in 2013, it would have ranked #18 in inequality – with an inequality ratio of 10.6 — that is those households in the 20th percentile income strata (earning $11,794 per year) make less than 1/10 of the earnings of those at the 95th percentile (earning $125,551 per year). For comparison, Brookings benchmarks the national ratio at 9.3.

Also of note, of these cities Buffalo would have ranked as the 4th lowest income level for residents at the 20th percentile, with these households bringing in more than only their peers in Detroit ($8,982), Cleveland ($9,371) and Miami ($11,497).

As for those at the 95th percentile, Buffalo ranks low there, too. This time at 3rd lowest, behind only Detroit ($107,521) and Cleveland ($116,034).

Though only one measure, and though Buffalo compares poorly to most other major U.S. cities, there is some hope in these numbers.

…clearly much work to be done to raise the income’s of Buffalo’s households, particularly as major investments are being made in the city’s 21st century economy.

Looking at raw data from before the Great Recession, in 2007 Buffalo would have ranked last when compared to every one of the 50 largest cities for income at the 20th percentile, and second lowest – in front of Cleveland – for income at the 95th percentile.

Since 2007, Buffalo’s low income households fared better than the lowest income earners in most other big cities, experiencing an increase of a little more than $1,000, behind only Denver and El Paso. In fact, only 6 of the 50 largest cities saw incomes appreciate for the bottom 1/5 of households from 2007-2013.

While less than $12,000 is certainly too low to lift a household out of poverty, the early post-recession trend in Buffalo appears to be heading in the right direction. However, there is clearly much work to be done to raise the income’s of Buffalo’s households, particularly as major investments are being made in the city’s 21st century economy.

Brookings points to some measures that cities are beginning to take to tackle inequality, including raising the minimum wage. Though Governor Cuomo has launched a campaign to raise the state’s minimum wage, Buffalo and other cities and counties across New York currently lack the ability to set a higher local wage standard. A number of Buffalo based organizations, including the Coalition for Economic Justice, have been active in pursuing Local Wage Authorization, but the prospects in the near future seem dim.

Buffalo, however, does have a Living Wage Ordinance, which sets a higher floor for municipal employees and employees who who work for contractors doing business with the city. Though additional research would need to be done to see how much this ordinance has contributed to the positive trends for Buffalo’s low-income households when other city residents across the country were struggling, this is certainly a tool to consider for those interested in reducing the large income gaps across we see in U.S. cities.

American Community Survey Estimates, Buffalo, New York
Quintile Upper Limits: 2013 2012 2007
Lowest Quintile $11,794 $10,608 $10,759
Second Quintile $24,819 $22,320 $22,343
Third Quintile $41,378 $39,776 $37,024
Fourth Quintile $71,311 $68,948 $61,297
Lower Limit of Top 5 Percent $125,551 $122,616 $119,035


Implementing Complete Streets in Rural Upstate NY Communities

 IMG_7617I spent St. Patrick’s Day in the Adirondacks working with the North Country Healthy Heart Network implementing Complete Streets training. This was not the first time visiting, in fact I was in Malone, NY back in 2010 helping them develop a complete street policy. It is exciting to see the progress that the North Country Healthy Heart Network has achieved since then establishing local policies, developing plans and creating an inclusive process that engages citizens in the decision making process. This is the path seen in communities across the state but it doesn’t end there. The need to train citizens, policymakers, business leaders and our public employee implementers is a crucial next step to help institutionalize complete streets for all projects from maintenance to full reconstruction and that’s what I was doing on this trip.

IMG_7611The workshop was well attended by town and village highway departments, code enforcement officers, planning board members, traffic safety coordinators, community development professionals, public health officials and members of the local bicycle and pedestrian advisory boards. The training program included a strong background on “why” complete streets are important through the benefits they can provide for the community, including information on the health, safety, mobility, environmental and economic outcomes provided. The focus of the training was on specific infrastructure elements as identified by the community to provide an understanding on their use, considerations for implementation, and maintenance. An important aspect was identifying the short-term low-hanging fruit opportunities that can be made available through road-diets and paint, which can lead to larger community buy-in and ultimately long-term infrastructure investments.

IMG_7615The challenge faced by the villages of Malone, Saranac Lake, and the city of Plattsburgh are not much different then many other communities in the North Country and across the state. Budget constraints, capacity and figuring out how to work with the NYS Department of Transportation to make complete streets commonplace are resounding themes. The energy and enthusiasm of the participants truly demonstrated a commitment towards overcoming these obstacles to create healthy and vibrant communities. I look forward to my next trip to witness the change they will surely succeed in creating.

Defining an Equitable Community

Buffalo Niagara will be an equitable community when all people – regardless of how they look, who they know or who they love, what language they speak, what they believe, whatever their level of means or ability, when or where they were born, where they live, where they go to school or why or how long they’ve called this place home – have the opportunity, resources and tools needed to achieve their potential, to lead healthy and fulfilling lives with rewarding work, and to access, experience, and participate in all our region has to offer while ensuring others – now and in future generations – can do the same.

Buffalo Niagara just completed its first regional plan in decades, and as the name implies the plan has pulled innumerable stakeholders together to create a singular vision: One Region Forward.

Though the effort may be united, that should and does not imply a vision of homogeneity.

In fact, amidst unprecedented demographic change, the plan takes an explicit and intentional look at the unequal conditions between racial and ethnic groups and how geographic inequity has reinforced disparities over decades.

The somewhat clumsily titled (*cough* HUD requirement *cough*) Fair Housing Equity Assessment explores the past and present challenges to equity and opportunity and makes recommendations for future actions to create a united and inclusive region.
To help guide and inform this project, Make Communities and the UB Regional Institute assembled an equity stakeholders committee, whose first task was to define a vision of an equitable community.racial and ethnic distribution in buffalo niagara


The necessary legal structures and protections of equity have developed a complex and jargonistic language, one that is not only hard to understand on its face, but also has become weighted through decades of ideological battles on the right and left. Words like ‘protected classes’ may resonate with those steeped in the struggle to ensure civil rights are upheld on a daily basis. However, this is not the language that average Buffalonians — whether white or people of color — use to define or to talk about their own experiences.

The equity stakeholders committee, with decades of experience in community, non-profit, government and business turned away from language that has the potential to divide.

The collective vision of an equitable community aimed, instead, at the heart of the equity issue in terms that everyone can understand and relate to: all people should have the opportunity, resources and tools needed to achieve their potential, now and in future generations.

With an straightforward, common sense approach to talking about those opportunities we want for our own families and our neighbors, the next step was then able to dive deeper into the the conditions on the ground to see if Buffalo Niagara is living up to this vision.

Unfortunately, the research shows that there are large gaps in opportunity, influenced by how people look, where they were born and where they live.

The team at One Region Forward is united, though, around the belief that this should not be the case, and future posts will unpack how we got to where we are and what we can collectively to do live into the vision of an equitable community.