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Revitalizing Older Cities Focus of Hearing in Buffalo

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Last week Buffalo made the Forbes magazine list as one of the 10 fastest dying cities in America. On Friday, a Congressional Task Force on Revitalizing Older Cities is bringing officials together at the history museum to talk about how they can revitalize older cities like Buffalo.

It was not a top ten list any municipality could be proud of. But the designation did bring the problems facing older cities into sharper focus: population decline, aging housing stock, failing water systems and sputtering economic development. The federal task force on revitalizing older cities called for a hearing in Buffalo to begin targeting solutions.

But the problems are bigger - and more far reaching - than some might expect.

Mary Holtz is supervisor for the town of Cheektowaga. She said big cities aren't the only places facing decline.

She said Cheektowaga has about 700 vacant houses and an aging population that could lead to more abandoned homes in the future.

And she said the problems grow from there, spiraling into lower property asssessments in part of the town and higher taxes in other portions to make up the difference.

Holtz said decay doesn't know boundaries. That's why they are talking with the city of Buffalo to find solutions.

But she said they all need financial assistance from the government. And she said inner-ring suburbs are often overlooked when grants are available for distresses areas.

Holtz said sewer reconstruction costs in Cheektowaga alone are more than the town can bear alone - and estimated $60 million.

Federal officials say the hearing will give municipal leaders a chance to help influence national policies that could benefit distressed communities.

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