Transforming East Side focus of UB symposium

Published February 20, 2024

How to transform the neighborhoods of Buffalo’s Black East Side will be the focus of a symposium on Feb. 26.

“How We Change the Black East Side: A Symposium” will bring UB faculty, staff and students, community partners and members of the public together to learn about and discuss the East Side Neighborhood Transformation Project, a new approach to neighborhood development that is geared toward radically transforming neighborhoods on the Black East Side.

It will take place from 6-8 p.m. in the M&T Auditorium of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

The event is free and open to all. Register at this link.

The report, How We Change the Black East Side: A Neighborhood Planning and Development Framework, was issued late last year by Henry-Louis Taylor Jr., professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the School of Architecture and Planning, director of the Center for Urban Studies and associate director of UB’s Community Health Equity Research Institute.

The result of extensive community input, the report was a response to the Buffalo Center for Health Equity’s request for a conceptual framework for a neighborhood demonstration project following Taylor’s 2021 report, “The Harder We Run: The State of Black Buffalo in 1990 and the Present.” That report showed that not only has Black Buffalo not made progress during the past three-plus decades, but that new threats, such as gentrification, have since surfaced.

At the symposium, five census tracts that have been selected as finalists for the first pilot neighborhood will be announced.

Taylor explains that the ultimate goal of the pilot neighborhood project is to comprehensively address the social determinants of health.

“We are hosting the event at the Jacobs School to stress that neighborhood development is interlocked with the struggle to improve health outcomes in the Black community,” Taylor says.  

“We want to illustrate that the social determinants of health are rooted in the underdeveloped neighborhoods where people live,” he continues. “Therefore, we cannot eliminate health disparities and inequities without transforming the neighborhoods where Black people live. Urban health and neighborhoods are interconnected.”

The symposium will help identify community and city partners, as well as potential funders. It will also launch several months of research into each of the neighborhoods identified as finalists; the results of that research will then be submitted to a Community Advisory Group that will solicit broad community support and select the first East Side neighborhood to undergo transformation.

Panelists include Buffalo Common Council member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt, who represents the University District; Tim Murphy, SUNY Distinguished Professor and director of UB’s Community Health Equity Research Institute; Athena Mutua, Floyd H. and Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar in the School of Law; and Mike Lamb, environmental psychologist and director of surgical education in the Department of Surgery in the Jacobs School.

Allison Brashear, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, and Pastor James Giles, president and CEO of Back to Basics Ministries Inc., will deliver opening remarks.