Millions Committed to the African Heritage Food Cooperative, the State’s First-Ever Investment in a Community-Led Food Access Initiative to Fight Food Insecurity
New Free Shuttle Provides Direct Access to Price Rite, NFTA to Suspend Bus Fare Collection on Certain Routes to Facilitate Increased Food Access
Local Small Businesses Eligible for Major Capital and Operating Support; Career Builder Support through Workforce Investments
Wealth Building Measures through Foreclosure Prevention Investments, Home Repair Assistance, First-Time Homeowner Program
State, County, and City to Pilot Direct Engagement Program to Increase Access to Benefits, Services, and Programs
State Commits to Coordination with City, County, Philanthropic and Business Partners, and Grassroots Leaders to Address Long-Term Needs
City of Buffalo to Launch Memorial Commission in Partnership with State
Resource Council of Western New York Chosen as Victims’ and Survivors’ “Resiliency Center”
Builds Upon State’s Immediate and Emergency Response Actions Following the Shooting
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced new, $50 million of targeted investments as part of the state’s ongoing efforts to address the immediate needs of East Buffalo community in wake of the white supremacist terror attack at Tops Supermarket on May 14, 2022.
“East Buffalo and communities like it have for decades suffered from significant disinvestment, neglect, and the failure of government policy,” Governor Hochul said. “We are not afraid to take on these systemic challenges, and together, with the City, the County, community members, and other partners – we’re going to do that. Today’s announcement is a down payment on the much larger amount of work that lies ahead.”
“New York joined today in unity and compassion to support the grieving community of East Buffalo with investments that will help empower this community that has experienced so much pain,” Lieutenant Governor Delgado said. “Nobody is born to hate. It is a learned behavior. Today we brought love to this community that was the victim of hate in the form of these new investments, love that will help it flourish and grow.”
These measures, crafted as a result of extensive engagement with community leaders and service providers, as well as with the City of Buffalo and Erie County, are intended to help stabilize and strengthen the community in the short term, as the State commits to close coordination with government partners and grassroots leaders to determine the scope of longer-term economic development and empowerment strategies. The more than $50 million investment includes the State’s first-ever investment in a community-led food access initiative to fight food insecurity in East Buffalo, an expansion of free transportation services to additional food access options for the residents of the community immediately surrounding Tops, major capital and operating grants for local small businesses, support for job training efforts, and tens of millions for foreclosure prevention, home repair assistance, and access to capital for first-time home buyers. In addition, the State, County, and City will be launching a direct public engagement pilot program that intends to offer door-to-door education and access to benefits, services, and programs.
The Governor also announced a $3 million investment in the Resource Council of Western New York, one of the primary organizations providing daily services and food access to the East Buffalo community following the attack, that has been chosen as the State’s candidate to be a “Resiliency Center,” a federally-designated organization that becomes eligible to apply for and receive additional federal funding to provide social, housing and healthcare, and mental health services to the survivors of the attack and the family members of victims for up to three years.
The investments build upon the state’s immediate and emergency response actions following the shooting and are the direct result of working with community leaders, elected partners and service providers to determine the long-term needs of the community.
East Buffalo and communities like it have for decades suffered from significant disinvestment, neglect, and the failure of government policy.
Food insecurity remains the most immediately urgent and clearly the longest-standing systemic issue in East Buffalo. The closure of Tops has severely exacerbated the pre-existing food insecurity and food access issues, and it is imperative that there is notable investment in community-based and community-led food access.
In a first-of-its-kind State investment in East Buffalo, Empire State Development will invest $3 million in the African Heritage Food Cooperative, a collection of organizations that will create a locally-owned and operated food co-operative that will ensure the community has access to affordable and healthy food options.
In addition, to facilitate access to more food options for the residents of the neighborhood immediately surrounding Tops, the State will be providing a free shuttle from outside the Merriweather Library and the Resource Council of Western New York to the Price Rite grocery store on Elmwood Avenue until the re-opening of Tops, which is scheduled for late July 2022. The shuttle service will begin on Sunday, June 19. The shuttle will run every 30 minutes from 10 AM until 7 PM daily starting Monday, June 20. On Sunday June 19, the shuttle will run from 10 AM until 4 PM.
This service builds on the NFTA’s existing fare holiday, which has also been extended until the end of July (including for associated paratransit service) for the following routes:
- 12 – Utica – Connects the East and West Side of Buffalo with the Utica and University Metro Rail stations.
- 13 – Kensington – Connects East Ferry Street and Bailey Avenue with Erie County Medical Center and Utica and University Metro Rail stations.
- 18 – Jefferson – Connects Cold Springs/Hamlin Park with the Masten, Fruit Belt and Emslie neighborhoods along Jefferson Avenue.
- 24 – Genesee – Connects residents of the East Side of Buffalo to Downtown and the Airport along Genesee Street.
Small Business and Workforce Development
Decades of disinvestment and the lack of community wealth have created severe challenges for East Buffalo small businesses. In order to help area small businesses stabilize and ultimately thrive, the State is investing $7 million in both capital and operating grants for businesses in the 14208 and 14209 ZIP Codes. Capital grants will be made up to $100,000, and operating grants for up to $50,000.
The State will also invest $1.5 million to partner with Goodwill to expand the ‘Goodskills’ Career Builder Program for East Buffalo. This program will build off the Goodskills pilot program launched in 2021 and will equip individuals from communities in East Buffalo with the skills employers seek to fill higher-paying, in-demand jobs in manufacturing, technology, healthcare, and sales and services. Goodwill plans to open a new ‘Goodskills’ facility directly down the street from the Tops.
Housing and Social Services
Historic redlining and modern predatory lending practices have significantly destabilized housing in East Buffalo and stymied the ability for individuals, families, and the community to build wealth. As a down payment on a longer-term investment in housing, the State is taking immediate steps to assist struggling homeowners in East Buffalo.
The State will invest $34.5 million, including:
- $20 million for New York State Homes and Community Renewal and the Department of Taxation and Finance to serve up to 4,000 homeowners in need of tax, water, and sewage arrears assistance with an average award of $5,000;
- $10 million to serve up to 1,000 homeowners with homes in need of serious repairs with an average award of $10,000; and
- $4.5 million to serve up to 150 homeowners who will have access to down payment assistance with an average award of $30,000.
In addition to assisting homeowners, the State is announcing a $2 million “Public Engagement Unit” pilot program with Erie County and the City of Buffalo to contract with one or more local organizations to provide direct, one-on-one intensive benefits access and case management services, as local service provider organizations have identified a notable gap between the availability of benefits and services and their utilization. The underutilization of services can often prevent low-income residents from being able to work towards economic stability and security.
The unit, which would launch later this year, is intended to consist of a highly-trained, specialized case management specialists that can identify specific social services, housing, and similar needs, take immediate action to address these needs, and make referrals (and track progress) of benefits cases. When possible, specialists will conduct door-to-door outreach to ensure residents have direct access to assistance. Examples of benefits and services that the team would provide direct access to include, but are not limited to:
- SNAP, Public Assistance
- STAR exemptions
- Medicaid, Medicare, and other Health Exchange options
- Children’s Health Insurance Plan and State Children’s Health Insurance Plan
- Assistance with arrears
- Assistance with programs related to home code compliance
The Governor, along with Mayor Byron Brown, also announced today the launch of a Memorial Commission, to be convened by the City, in partnership with the State, and with State financial support. The Commission will be tasked with working directly with community members to collectively ideate and create a 5/14 Memorial, one that is reflective of the community’s perspective on how the post-attack trauma must be addressed.
Longer Term Investment
The combined $50 million investments represent only a first-step response to the needs of East Buffalo, which has suffered from decades of systemic disinvestment and failure of government policy. In order to address the long-standing, deeply-rooted systemic challenges faces by the residents of East Buffalo, the Governor also announced today the State’s intention to convene a community-led, and data-driven partnership between the State, the County, the City, academic institutions, philanthropic partners, the business community, and grassroots organizations that is intended to empower the community to identify the most important long-term priorities with respect to economic development, health equity, and education (among other topics), and determines the best multi-pronged, collaborative approaches to address these issues.
State Senator Tim Kennedy said, “Inequities in Buffalo have been around for decades and correcting them requires significant resources and investment. Today's announcement of a multipronged approach is a powerful step in righting these historical wrongs. From easing the strain of food deserts, to increasing transportation options, to addressing the significant housing needs in the community, this holistic approach will make a real and lasting difference. I applaud Governor Hochul for her leadership in assembling this package, and I look forward to working with her to continue to address these needs."
New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “As a Buffalonian, Governor Hochul truly understands what disinvestment, neglect, and the failure of government policy have meant for East Buffalo and other low-income communities of color, and she is the first leader of our State to truly engage our communities directly to understand what our needs are, and how we believe we should build our futures – her investment in the African Heritage Food Coop is a reflection of just that. I know that today’s investment is a down payment on the Governor’s long-term commitment to us, and I thank her for leadership and partnership in addressing both immediate needs and systemic issues facing our communities head-on and with a deep love for our city.”
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said, “I want to thank Governor Hochul for the comprehensive investment she is making in Buffalo’s East Side. Erie County, through our Live Well Erie initiative, is proud to be the State’s partner in the effort to help the East Side recover from the horrific events of May 14th and the white supremacy that made it possible.”
Mayor of Buffalo Byron Brown said, “I'm honored to continue working closely with Governor Kathy Hochul as we partner on short term and long term needs of East Buffalo and Buffalo's Black community. I'm also very pleased that we will establish a 5/14 Memorial Commission, that I will lead, working with the Governor, other partners in government, families of the victims and the community to build a memorial to permanently remember the ten innocent members of our community that were killed in this racially motivated mass shooting.”
Chair of the Erie County Legislature April Baskin said, “Only a Buffalo native would be able to understand just how extreme the needs are in East Buffalo, and I am very proud to call Kathy Hochul our Governor – because she is working directly with our communities to understand what we need and how to deliver on our needs. On behalf of the Erie County Legislature, I sincerely thank the Governor and her team for this major $50 million investment, which will begin to help stabilize our communities so that we can work towards building back stronger.”
Catherine Roberts, President and CEO of the Resource Council of Western New York, said, "Though I wish we’d never have to the be the organization providing services to survivors and family members of a white supremacist terror attack, we at the Resource Council of Western New York cannot express how deeply grateful we are to Governor Hochul for the State’s truly meaningful investment in our work, and for our selection as the Resiliency Center to continue to serve our community. Governor Hochul has a genuine love for all of us in East Buffalo, and under her bold, principled, and compassionate leadership, we will be able to start the process of repairing our hearts and rebuilding our community so that the unity in our hearts will become unity between all of Buffalo’s communities.”
Alexander Wright, Founder of the African Heritage Food Coop said, “It is refreshing to be working with Governor Hochul, whose administration is taking the time to do the real work and support businesses owned and operated by frontline communities. We are excited to build and immediately employ people within walking distance of 238 Carlton. This is what it looks like when the people and government work together.”
Today’s announcement builds on major, historic investments in East Buffalo secured by Governor Kathy Hochul in the Enacted Fiscal Year 2023 State budget, including:
- Up to $1 billion to reconnect neighborhoods across the Kensington Expressway in Buffalo.
- $55 million for Northland Corridor Redevelopment Area Phase 3
- $55 million for improvements to Central Terminal
- $37 million for Broadway Market
- $30 million for the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor
- $21 million for Northland Workforce Training Center
- $6 million in support for MLK Park
- $3 million for Bus Rapid Transit on Bailey Avenue