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April 2012 Column - Land Bank will Help Curb Blight


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oneilj - Posted on 10 April 2012

Last month provided further evidence of the good that can result when people in local government work together.  This proof came in the form of our community’s proposal to the state for creation of a land bank.  If approved by Albany, the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation would be one of only ten such organizations in the entire state.  This is because the state legislation authorizing the formation of land banks limited the number of such entities to ten.


If approved, the land bank will provide us with another tool to combat the blight that has decimated many neighborhoods in Buffalo and has been creeping into the first ring suburbs.  The bank will work with municipalities to take over abandoned properties and formulate a strategy to put them back on the tax rolls.  Such a comprehensive solution to this growing problem has been a long time in coming.  The fact that it has finally come together, however, is a sign that leaders throughout the county are beginning to realize the benefits of cooperation.


At one point, it appeared the City of Buffalo was preparing to go it alone and submit its own land bank application to the state.  This would have probably meant that the county would have been competing with the city, as it is highly unlikely the state would award two of the state’s ten land banks to entities in Erie County.  Fortunately, the city was convinced that a joint application would have a greater chance of getting approved.


It is my sincere hope that the cooperative nature of the application process carries over to the operations of the land bank, itself.  There are dozens of streets in Buffalo that can be redeveloped with the aid of the bank.  It is certainly in the interests of everyone in Erie County that Buffalo reverse the deterioration that has plagued so many of its neighborhoods.  Nobody in the county benefits from being associated with a decaying central city. 


In like manner, city representatives on the land bank’s board should be willing to help the suburbs address their abandoned properties before the problem gets out of hand.  The bottom line is that we are all in the same boat, one that has been slowly sinking for decades.  We can continue to argue over whose side of the boat the leak is on or we can work together to plug the leak and right the ship.  Last month we chose to work together.   We must continue to do so, as together we can make Erie County an even nicer place to live, work and raise a family.


If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you.  I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at kevin.hardwick@erie.gov.