History of the GDZ

A Radical Vision for a Community-Controlled Economy on the West Side

Since its founding in 2005, PUSH Buffalo - People United for Sustainable Housing – has worked with residents of the city’s West Side to bring resources back into the neighborhood. For decades, corporations and governments took more out of the West Side than they put in.

The consequences of this neglect and exploitation were similar to those found in urban neighborhoods across the country—deteriorating housing, hundreds of vacant lots and fewer and fewer jobs for local residents.

PUSH’s vision started with the idea that a grassroots movement based in the neighborhood could grow a thriving local economy, expand the community’s power and create positive cycles of success.

West Side residents did not wait long to show what they could accomplish with their organized power. From 2005 to 2006 neighborhood leaders and PUSH organizers launched a militant campaign targeting a New York State housing agency that was using its control of vacant houses and lots in Buffalo to speculate on Wall Street. The residents of the West Side won a decisive victory that resulted in millions of dollars for the state’s neighborhoods through the Block by Block Program. Because of this victory, PUSH was able to start rehabilitating neglected housing on Buffalo’s West Side.

In 2007, PUSH, along with its growing base of trained neighborhood organizers and leaders, brought together neighborhood residents in the West Side’s first Community Planning Congress, whose goals was to instruct local officials and professional planners on a vision for a concentrated redevelopment effort in a core area along Massachusetts Avenue.

In later Planning Congresses and in a series of community meetings with other West Side community organizations, supported by LISC Buffalo, PUSH created two development plans–Building for the Future and the West Side Sustainable Communities Plan.

That vision and those plans became the basis for today’s Green Development Zone. Inspired by the Green Jobs movement and other local initiatives, PUSH has launched other victorious grassroots and legislative campaigns to bring more government and corporate-controlled resources to the West Side.

These campaigns include the ongoing National Fuel Accountability Coalition Campaign, the Green Jobs – Green New York: PUSH Green program; the Massachusetts Ave Park Campaign; Sustainable Neighborhoods; and other national campaigns in alliance with organizations like National People’s Action and Green for All.

In these campaigns, PUSH has recognized the synergy that exists between the environmental movement and the movement to create jobs and alleviate poverty in low-income urban neighborhoods.

Insulating and weatherizing older homes like those on the West Side, developing new green affordable housing units and harvesting local sources of energy, like the NetZero Energy House, all significantly reduce community residents’ energy bills, making housing in the neighborhood more affordable.

By making productive uses for vacant lots unsafe eyesores can become sources of healthy and affordable local food, and safer and more accessible recreational opportunities. It can also reduce exposure to environmental toxins in the community’s water, earth and air.

All of this activity, in turn, can create quality local jobs, which is the bottom line of the new community economy nurtured in PUSH’s Green Development Zone.