Principles of the GDZ

At the core of it all

The Principles of the Green Development Zone have deep historical roots: they go back to the Depression-era neighborhood organizing to stop housing evictions and unemployment. They also strongly draw on the ideas of one of the greatest community organizers, Saul Alinsky, whose community organizations and coalitions remain a strong force in communities nationwide.

Other inspirations include: the green jobs movement, led by Van Jones and his organization Green for All, which sees investment in green energy and conservation as the most effective anti-poverty strategy for our era; and the Sustainable Communities movement, popularized by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and adopted in a different form by the Obama Administration.

All of PUSH Buffalo’s activities in the Green Development Zone start with a few basic principles:


The Green Development Zone is first and foremost the creation of an accountable, democratic social movement that is lifted up by the campaigns that PUSH’s Organizing Division has lead and won. The people who live on the West Side make the Green Development Zone possible.

They are the source of the community’s power and leadership. By working together as part of a fearless grassroots social movement, there is no limit to what we can accomplish for the neighborhood.


Local knowledge is central to the vision of the Green Development Zone. All development efforts in the Zone begin with surveys of residents as well as extensive discussions between residents, PUSH staff, local officials, and professionals at annual Community Planning Congresses held each month.


The voices of neighborhood residents have been ignored for far too long. Outside experts, government officials and corporations should not have a monopoly on policy making that affects those that live in our community.

We believe that neighborhood residents have the ability and the power to make policy for, by and of our neighborhood. Their local knowledge makes them the community’s most effective policy makers.


To exercise power effectively, community leaders need to build experience. PUSH campaigns and leadership development meetings offer extensive opportunities for on-the-job training of emerging community leaders, both young and old.

Leaders acquire skills in community organizing, facilitation of meetings and congresses, public speaking, negotiation, and in putting the principles that guide the projects of the Green Development Zone into action. PUSH Buffalo cultivates the new generation of West Side community leaders in daily programming at the Grant Street Neighborhood Center (GSNC) and through its partnership with the Massachusetts Avenue Project’s Growing Green program.


Above all, the Green Development Zone shows what we can do when we bring neighborhood resources under community control and stewardship. These resources include: land, homes, environmental assets, job opportunities, organizations, and carefully worked-out plans for the future.

By controlling these resources ourselves we can fight back against the forces of neglect and exploitation. More importantly, community control is extremely effective – just look at what has happened since the community began making its own decisions about the neighborhood.

And, that’s not all. Learn more about PUSH Buffalo’s founding principles.