The CopperTown Court Battle: One Block Club’s Quest for Power and Respect

By Gail Wells

above photo:CopperTown residents and supporters in front of County Court following the recent court hearing. The  community is invited to attend the next block club meeting at Compass East, 425 Michigan, from 6-7p.m. on Tuesday, August 27th where the block club will be sharing a draft Declaration of Green Code rights and much more. Challenger Photo

Buffalo East Side citizens want power and respect! To get the power and respect citizens know they deserve, the CopperTown Block Club filed a 78 petition against Ellicott Development and the City of Buffalo Planning Board. The Honorable Judge Mark J. Grisanti heard the case on August 1st.

CopperTown lost the court battle but not because our cause was unjust, to the contrary, who with any conscience would deny Montessori school children the right to walk to the public library in safety? Who would put their own financial gain above the health of residents? Who would be so arrogant as to ignore the voice of a community and assume they should be happy about extractive development that will hasten gentrification?

We lost because the developer and city argued that we the petitioners would not be directly harmed by the proposed project. So we are asking Challenger readers to ascertain the validity of our struggle for justice!

Financial harm:

Besides paying our taxes, we also improved our property with renovations and landscaping. Unlike other parts of the city, we have seen very little return on our real estate investment. We believe the major reason for that small return has been the lack of reinvestment by others in the CopperTown neighborhood.

Imagine this!

What if the CopperTown Block Club was allowed to invest the city and county taxes that were paid from 1989 to the present? We probably could have built a neighborhood supermarket (we still won’t have one after 201 Ellicott is developed), provided startup money for development of the African American Heritage Co-op, enhanced The CopperTown neighborhood with public gardens, signage and art, been able to spur economic development by giving micro loans to encourage small business development on Broadway/William/Clinton and created an incubator for young entrepreneurs in the Towne Gardens Plaza.

Harm to quality of life (health, happiness, and safety)

But instead of development that improves our lives we are still looking at the city garage and smelling garbage! What development have we gotten after living in the area for 30 years? A liquor store that sells low grade alcohol, a gas station that charges a fee if you use anything but cash, a market that is dirty, noisy, a visual eyesore and is open 24 hours a day seven days a week! What do we have to look forward to? a Tim Hortons that will have a drive through parking lot that is too small for the project, has too many curb cuts and is not safe for other drivers, pedestrians, those using alternative transportation like a bike or scooter and those taking public transportation. This project will cause congestion, increase the number of accidents (currently we have about one a week), generate more garbage, increase air pollution due to idling cars, increase vehicular traffic, decrease walkability and add to adverse health outcomes by providing fast food like doughnuts and microwaved sandwiches rather than nutritious food options.

All of this is a zip code (14204) that has a documented life expectancy that it is 5-12 years shorter than Whites who live in other zip codes. This area has approximately 8,691 residents, who are predominately African American (75.4%) and consists of 2,385 children from 0-19 and 1,649 seniors from 60-85+(both groups total almost 50% of the population). Children and seniors are our most vulnerable populations! Shouldn’t we protect them!

Conclusion

Those in power act as if our money doesn’t matter, our votes don’t matter, our lives don’t matter! But to the contrary we believe we do matter! The CopperTown neighborhood will continue to fight for power and respect for all 14204 residents! Others have heard and support us! You are invited to our next Block Club meeting at Compass East, 425 Michigan, from 6-7pm on Tuesday, August 27th. We will be sharing a draft Declaration of Green Code rights and much more. Don’t be silent…speak up and step up! It’s a new day!

Our final word…unanswered questions and waiting for answers!

Others get it, so why did the city side with the developer and not the citizens? Why wasn’t the owner of the Mandela Market denied a Tim Hortons franchise after getting a loan for a drive-thru from M&T Bank? We demand full transparency to have Ellicott Development come before the Block Club and the Community with project details such as, What are the proposed hours of operation? We asked, the reply…we don’t know! Why not give the project to the owner of the Mandela Market? The response…He needs to apply? The result…he did and his application was denied? Why?…no reason was given. Just remember, we said all along it ain’t about coffee. The judge agreed, it’s about money, power and respect!