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HUD giving Buffalo's Southside some TLC

Mike Desmond
Much of Buffalo's Niagara Street is no longer elgiible for HUD block grants because of the progress made.

In the long debate about who in Buffalo is benefiting from the major economic boom, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says the Niagara District is and the South District isn't.

HUD gives away billions of dollars through its Community Development Block Grant Program. To help divvy up the cash, the federal department analyzes communities and neighborhoods to see if they have improved or if others have declined.

This year, Buffalo gets just over $20 million from the program, which is heavily spent on streets and sidewalks to improve communities.

"There's activity going on throughout the City of Buffalo at this point of time," said city Economic Development Commissioner Brendan Mehaffy. "On Jefferson, a significant People Inc. project that's building on 1490 that was finished a few years ago. There's the activity at Broadway Forge. So the narrative that there's only one part of the City of Buffalo that's seeing this investment, we are seeing investment throughout the City of Buffalo, at this point in time. But we obviously recognize that there's more that needs to be done."

One area now eligible to be in the HUD  program is the city's south end.

"There are areas in South Buffalo that weren't, that are, at this point in time. So that gives us the ability to potentially fund improvements on streets, sidewalks and/or buildings in South Buffalo that we couldn't have done before," Mehaffy said.

Common Council Majority Leader David Rivera said much of his district getting off the block grant list shows some solid economic improvement on the West Side, exemplified by the long-running $40 million repaving of Niagara Street and the array of developers who have rehabbed old industrial buildings to now house hundreds of people.

"That's the sign of progress," Rivera said. "I mean, the money is designated for areas of low poverty, even though there are pockets of poverty within the Niagara District. There are areas that aren't CDBG-eligible and so, unfortunately, we lose out a little bit on some CBDG block grant money, but I guess that's the cost of success."

He said there is still plenty of need for sidewalk and street repairs and that will have to come out of the regular budget, no longer from block grant allocations.