University Heights, Buffalo, NY

Monday, July 16, 2012

Housing in the Heights


The following article was composed by David Heraty of VOICE and posted to Buffalo Rising on June 21st.  The article does a great job highlighting the efforts of many dedicated individuals who are committed to improving housing conditions in the University Heights neighborhood.

The city's troubled University Heights neighborhood has been seeing positive change at the grassroots level.  At the hands of negligent absentee landlords, crumbling housing stock has hollowed out the core of the neighborhood.  From Englewood and Merrimac on the west to Lisbon and Minnesota on the east, the first few blocks in from Main Street were in pretty rough shape.  A student housing unit was taken down by a fire.  Tragedies have resulted from student party violence.  The problems remain, but in 2011, the downward spiral began to reverse its course.

Working through VOICE-Buffalo, a faith-based social justice organization, a handful of committed citizens decided to confront the problem head-on.  They identified the problem, crafted a solution, and went to work - and ended up being the catalyst for a change in housing conditions.  A trip through the neighborhood revealed dozens of houses which were in a state of disrepair.  These properties were evaluated from a public vantage point for housing violations such as peeling paint, broken windows, and unsafe porch balconies, among others.  A list of problem properties was compiled and, along with a detailed list of violations, was submitted to City Hall's 311 complaint system.

The results were seen even more quickly than expected.  As the neighborhood's most problematic landlords were issued letters of violation, many of them went to work making the necessary repairs.  The landlords who failed to fix the violations found themselves in Buffalo City Housing Court.  The inspector's efforts to work with the landlords paid dividends, and within a few months, substantial exterior improvement was noticeable.  However, there was still the question of interior violations such as faulty wiring and unsafe living quarters.

Working with UB, the city's Inspections Department developed a pilot program called Operation Student Safety.  Its purpose is to obtain access to rental housing units and conduct interior inspections.  For the past three semesters, sweeps of the neighborhood have covered every street that is plagued by problem properties.  Several of the property owners have found themselves in Housing Court.  The most egregious example was a property on Lisbon, which had to be condemned due to the magnitude of the violations.  The organizers from VOICE-Buffalo still play a part in the process, submitting fifteen problem properties to City Hall each semester for special attention.  Once a safe haven for negligent landlords, University Heights has become a model for effective enforcement of the housing code.

The success in University Heights has been a joint achievement of the university, city inspectors and VOICE-Buffalo.  There's much more work to be done to rebuild the neighborhood, but an improvement in the inspection process - and by extension, the housing conditions - was an important first step.  It's also an example of how ordinary citizens can achieve social change by acting locally.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Free Homebuyer and Homeowner Workshop
                   provided by KeyBank

Ideal for first time and experienced homebuyers or homeowners looking to refinance.

KeyBank will be presenting the workshop Thursday evening June 14 at the Gloria J. Parks Community Center.

Workshop topics:
  • Understanding your credit score
  • Refinancing your mortgage
  • Pre-approval vs. pre-qualified
  • How much house can you afford?
  • Mortgage loan options
  • 100% financing available
  • Understanding the mortgage closing process
Learn how you can get a FREE pre-approval.

When:  Thursday June 14, 2012 from 5:30 PM until 7:00 PM

Gloria J Parks Community Center
3242 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214

Presentations by:
John Whiting of KeyBank Mortgage
Gail Plato of the University District Community Development Association

Seating is limited;  Be sure to register ASAP.

To register:
Contact Cassandra L Vito at 716-871-4265 or

KeyBank (R)
Unlock your possibilities (R)

This program is for information purposes only.  It does not constitute an application nor does it guarantee loan approval.  It does not constitute/cover the homebuyer education required for many loan programs.  All loans and lines are subject to credit approval. (C)2012 KeyCorp.  KeyBank is Member FDIC.  ADL4803    Equal Housing Lender

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

St. Joseph University Parish


 St Joseph University Catholic Church, located at 3269 Main Street, is a treasure of the University Heights neighborhood.  Unlike the average Catholic city parish, St. Joseph has experienced an increase in membership over the last two decades, with a current total membership of over 1800 households coming from over 50 different zip codes.  The parish has dedicated itself to the neighborhood and to community outreach.  One of the more prominent efforts of the parish has been its school.  The St. Joseph University School is the oldest continually operating Catholic elementary school in the city of Buffalo, first opening in 1850.  The school reflects the diversity of the parish and the neighborhood with a student body that is 63% minority and non-Catholic.  This institution provides quality education for its students, as reflected in 100% of graduating eighth graders who were accepted to their first choice high schools in 2012. 
In addition to its school, St. Joseph University Parish takes seriously the Catholic Social Justice Teachings: staffing two soup kitchens on the second Saturday of each month, one located in Black Rock at Assumption RC Church and the other downtown at the Friends of the Night People; providing monthly donations to four different food pantries in the city; collaborating with Sts Columba-Brigid Church on Hickory Street in hosting homeless families through Family Promise; establishing a Habitat for Humanity crew; forming an active VOICE core team dedicated to neighborhood improvement; and organizing a Social Justice Concerns Committee, which educates and works for change at the national and international levels.  St. Joseph also has a variety of social and liturgical ministries that provide parishioners with other opportunities to participate in the work of the parish.  
St. Joseph University Church is an English Gothic building designed by a Buffalo architect, Duane Lyman and built in 1925.  The parish is known for its hospitality, its outstanding music, and it’s challenging homilies.  The Sunday morning 10:00 am service features a traditional church choir and organ; the 11:30 am service has a more contemporary sound with a mix of gospel and jazz.  The parish also provides religious services for students of the University of Buffalo’s South Campus.  
The mission of the pastoral staff and the congregation is “All Are Welcome!”