Some tenants, homeowners and taxpayers near the burgeoning Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus want their voices heard when it comes to redevelopment projects in their neighborhood.
Several aired their concerns Tuesday afternoon in both County Hall and City Hall. They will have another opportunity to speak at a Common Council meeting later this month along with representatives from St. John Community Development Corp. The corporation is a development arm of St. John Baptist Church that sold McCarley Gardens Apartments to the University at Buffalo for the Medical Campus expansion.
The Council’s Community Development Committee meeting Tuesday focused on a petition submitted earlier in February calling for a moratorium on future development in the McCarley Gardens/Fruit Belt community until a master plan is developed by a panel that includes a majority of people who live and work in the neighborhood.
“We want to actively be at the table and participate in the process. If we were allowed to help structure a master plan, we can actually give a lot of positive information,” said Veronica Hemphill-Nichols, founder of the Fruit Belt Housing Task Force.
“We are the people that live in the Fruit Belt, and we should have the most say” regarding development plans in the community, said Harvill Hill, who has lived in the Mulberry neighborhood of the Fruit Belt since 1992. “We have not been listened to at all. Give us a chance. Listen to us. We might have something good to say.”
The homeowners and tenants at the meeting said they support progress and change but want development in the neighborhood put on hold until an impact statement is done.
“We’re not against development. We are against being locked out,” Hill said.
An impact study might show the negative impact that neighborhood development associated with the Medical Campus expansion is having on the community, they said. “It is plaguing our quality of life,” said Hemphill-Nichols. “For instance, a McCarley Gardens woman resident told me construction workers were working overnight because they couldn’t stop traffic during the day.”
There are also parking issues caused by workers from the Medical Campus parking about four blocks into the residential area because they do not want to pay for parking, she said.
At County Hall, County Legislator Timothy Hogues, D-Buffalo, invited the same community group to speak before the Economic Development Committee. The group raised similar issues in the neighborhood.