PUSHin’ the Envelope – Sowing Seeds at 19th St. Block Party This Saturday

By Lonnie Barlow, Organizer, PUSH Buffalo

They say that when you plant seeds that one day they begin to grow.

19th St on Buffalo’s West Side is an interesting place; in some ways, it’s the street that time forgot.

The street itself is only 2 blocks long, but over the years it has seen its ups and downs. Those in the fashion and music industries say that things go in cycles; maybe the same could be said about sustainable community development.  

Back in the day (in about the 1940’s & ‘50’s), this street was a part of a burgeoning, more prosperous Buffalo. This part of the West Side, like most of the rest of this neighborhood, was populated by working-class Italian-Americans. The local economy was much better. People lived, worked, and raised their families in the neighborhood.

In 2013, the local economy is not what it once was. Closings of the large mills and factories that once employed thousands of local people have in a large way negatively impacted the local economy. With the earlier neighborhood residents migrating elsewhere or growing older with no relative to take over their properties, housing neglect has plagued the street over long stretches of time.

They say that when you plant seeds that one day they begin to grow.

In the new millennium, residential makeup of this street consists of different types of people. Many work and make do with what they have in a down economy. Many want their piece of the “American dream” – that is to live in peace and raise their families in a good neighborhood that has the amenities they need to survive close by.

PUSH has made a substantial effort in the Green Development Zone. This is our example to the world – a living laboratory, if you will, of what sustainable community development looks like. One of our organization’s first lower-income living developments (a cooperative housing unit) is located right at the corner of 19th and Massachusetts Avenue. So we’ve had a front row seat of the development of the street for a few years. We also own a lot which has become a garden on the street.

We’re not the only ones doing community-changing work on the street. In addition to some private homeowners doing their part to create a sense of community on the street, organizations like Homefront have been creating community one house at a time. Homefront is an organization that acquires vacant houses, redevelops them, and makes them affordable for first-time homeowners. They devised a plan for this street a few years ago, and Lori Willoughby is a planted seed that has now begun to bear fruit.

Lori Willoughby

Lori Willoughby

They say that when you plant seeds that one day they begin to grow.

Lori Willoughby has been a welcome addition to 19th St.

A year ago, Lori became a first time homeowner thanks to Homefront, LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), and the City of Buffalo. Single at the time, the hard-working mother of 2 girls believed that this was something that could only happen in the movies – owning a home was something that she thought would never happen for her. She moved from an East Side neighborhood that she loved, but she felt that she needed to make a change for the sake of her family. She hasn’t been disappointed. Lori has organized the street’s first-ever block party and she hopes to make it an annual affair.

The event is free with food and games. It runs from 12pm to 6pm this Saturday, July 20th, on 19th Street between Mass Ave and West Ferry Street. Local organizations and businesses such as PUSH Buffalo, Homefront, La Nova Pizza, Corner Stop #2, City Swagg Fashions, and Ogoni Advancement Organization, Inc. have donated for the event. Sound system and entertainment has been donated by Ismail & Company.

They say that when you plant seeds that one day they begin to grow.

Lori Willoughby has been a welcome addition to 19th St. She was planted on 19th a year ago and is now helping to bloom this street into the beautiful flower that it is.

19th ST block party flyer

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