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Newly formed Crossroads Collective seeks green economy for Buffalo

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Eight local agencies who advocate for community causes are launching a new partnership that will push for economic, social and racial equality through the development of a green economy in Buffalo.

What is known as the Crossroads Collective was introduced in a Thursday morning news conference on West Utica Street at the "Five Points" intersection. The alliance will seek to raise grassroots support for the transformation of Buffalo's economy by creating jobs with "fair pay" and promoting self-sufficiency through investments in renewable energy, urban agriculture, water management and weatherization.

Several structures within the West Side neighborhood where the news conference was held underwent recent rebuilding to become more green-friendly. Members of this new coalition insist it can work elsewhere in the city, too.

"The fact is, if you look around this community, we've proven that there are real solutions," said Aaron Bartley, executive director of PUSH Buffalo, one of the eight participating agencies. "We can take our old housing stock, we can create a job in every one of these houses that needs lower utility bills, that needs solar on the roof, and we have model we can take citywide, statewide and create the jobs that our communities need."

Advocates with the Crossroads Collective say lower-income homes end up paying higher utility bills because the quality of their housing stock forces them to consume more energy.

Skeptics might suggest that the conversion to renewable energy sources, particularly solar, has one major obstacle: the high cost of refitting a home or building. Members of the collective say that's changing.

"The cost of wind and solar have been just plunging in the last five years," said Sam Magavern, co-director of the Partnership for the Public Good. "In a lot of parts of the country, they're cheaper than coal. That's why you see things like the Huntley coal plant being retired here in Western New York.

"Already, long term, it's cheaper to have solar on your roof than not. It's just been a challenge to get the up-front costs paid for. Now there are new financing techniques for that."

The PPG details their beliefs that state energy policies can lead Western New York's green and just economic transition in a newly released report, "Buffalo Niagara at the Crossroads."

In addition to the PPG and PUSH Buffalo, agencies participating in the Crossroads Collective include the Coalition for Economic Justice, Massachusetts Avenue Project, Open Buffalo, Public Accountability Initiative, Ujima Theater Company and WASH Project.

Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
Lorna Hill of the Ujima Theater Company speaks during Thursday's news conference to announce the launch of the Crossroads Collective.

The Ujima Theater Company's Lorna Hill explained how the arts plays a role in the collective and in its campaign. 

"The Crossroads Collective recognizes arts and culture as an essential component of any initiative which intends to spread the urgent message that we do have the power to bring an end to structural racism, economic inequality, environmental degradation and all the failures of the corporate-led extractive economy," Hill said. "The Crossroads Collective values the power of the arts and creativity to change our sense of what is possible in the world."

Buffalo Common Council members David Rivera and Ulysses Wingo were present to lend their support.

"There's an adage that suggests that a wise man leaves an inheritance for his children's children," said Wingo, who represents the city's Masten District. "What I think about what we're trying to do here, what we're trying to accomplish, I think about how we're trying to leave this world and make this world better than when we found it." 

Helping the new alliance get started is a financial gift from Boston-based Chorus Foundation, which has committed an eight-year, $500,000 grant to the Crossroads Collective.