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BMHA receives $16M to rehab Frederick Douglass Towers

Frederick Douglass Towers is located at Spring and Clinton streets in Buffalo.

After years of effort, the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority has received $16 million from Washington for a complete overhaul of the 87 housing units at Frederick Douglass Towers. Many residents are worried they will be pushed out of the renovated units.

Authority Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett says the rehabs will be starting within months and will require constant shifting around the complex of tenants because they cannot stay in the units while they are completely rebuilt. She says the key is the current eight vacant units.

Speaking to the Common Council Community Development Committee Tuesday, she says there has been a constant series of notices and letters to tenants, with some residents saying they were never delivered and are stacked up in a downtown post office.

"Now we're getting the last certified letter. This is the most important letter. This is the letter that gives you the date, your time to move out," said resident Sherry Crofaery. "But if you go to that post office behind City Hall, you will see don't nobody. How can we get this out to the other people. I just found a way to get mine and that's my concern."

Sanders-Garrett says the authority paid the extra fee for registered letters to make sure the letters were delivered to each apartment, not to the mail boxes. She promised to check into the issue and says there is an elaborate plan.

"It won't happen at one time. We'll do 10 families at a time," she says. "We'll rehab the first 10 units, then we'll move the families there. Then we'll do the next 10, until the entirety of the 87 units are rehabbed. So that way, the families will be able to stay on the property."

Residents say they are concerned the property is worth much more because of the surrounding development than as housing for them. Rev. Rudolfus Boans Jr. says there is a degree of "paranoia" because some residents or their parents were pushed out of what was then the Dante Project, which became Marine Drive for higher-income people.

"When everybody left the city and we stayed here and paid the taxes and did everything that a good citizen should have done, I think that we should be just as eligible as anybody else, for some of the best real estate in the city," Boans says. "Just because you're poor, doesn't make you a bad citizen."

Residents appeared skeptical when Sanders-Garrett said relocation would not happen.

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