Genesis of Open Buffalo's Ecology Center
Extreme weather patterns, super storms, drought, and lack of fresh water are currently causing global displacement; forcing people to find safety in places such as Buffalo, New York. However, Buffalo, in particular, the East Side of Buffalo, grapples with its own toxic legacy of environmental issues, and disinvestment. The East Side of Buffalo, where approximately 85% of Black residents reside, has resulted in one of the nation’s highest rates of racialized poverty for a city its size.
As a multi-year development project, our center will be a regional climate asset rooted in environmental sustainability, residential empowerment, and economic development that benefits disinvested community members first.
Our work is rooted in the wisdom of our ancestors. Drawing inspiration from other Just Transition projects across the globe — the Open Buffalo Eco Center's governance model is founded upon Kwanzaa and JT principles, processes, and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy.
This year, we've tasked ourselves with acquiring land and have started engaging with folks who live on the East Side to ensure they're the ones deciding what facilities and programming will be implemented. Our priorities in establishing a location is finding 4 to 10 acres of land on Buffalo's East Side within an existing neighborhood and can be accessed by clean mobility options.
Encompassing 22,000 sq. ft of indoor facilities and expansive outdoor spaces, Open Buffalo's Eco Center will provide much-needed outdoor green space — positively impacting mental health, physical activity, school performance, and overall mood. Our goal is to develop neighborhood-level climate resilience strategies, prepare communities of color for new green sector jobs, and utilize community-building strategies that create more just, and joyful neighborhoods for us all.
Our Eco Center will...
Support a Just Transition in Buffalo and beyond by acting as an established haven for community that models safety beyond militarism, democratic community self-determination, and connection to ecological thinking.
Build our community economy by providing above-living wages, inspiring regenerative economic ventures, and providing training and education while resisting gentrification and displacement.
Revitalize intergenerational collaboration, creating a model for all ages to learn together.
Be a space of healing from deep trauma that creates a legacy of community wellness and implementation of restorative justice and trauma informed principles.
Be a global destination for Black organizational revitalization where the movement will connect, build capacity, find restoration, and take inspiration.
Facilitate transformation of participants from curious engagement to active investment in the center's future.
Potential Features & Community Survey
Envisioned as a 10-acre development, our Eco Center boasts an array of exceptional offerings:
- Highly sustainable architectural design and operations
- Beautiful, natural indoor and outdoor green spaces
- Team-building facilities, including a ropes course, walking paths, and creative play spaces
- Multi-use art spaces for educational events, performing arts productions, and diverse arts programs
- Shared spaces for organizations and individuals advancing Just Transition
- A hub for organizing, strategizing, and consolidating political power
- A community store-style space with quality food and home goods
- Gardens, composting, and a commercial kitchen nurturing a holistic food economy
- Publicly available Wi-Fi, technology access, computer labs, and maker spaces
- A café and co-working space providing healthy fare and a peaceful atmosphere
- Ongoing education on Just Transition, grounded in local examples
- Leadership opportunities for participants and workers
Fill out our community survey and give feedback on the design of the center or help provide resources: https://forms.office.com/r/q3WmAp7fuT
Guidance & Support
In 2022, Open Buffalo was accepted to the Justice40 Accelerator Cohort, which "supports climate and environmental justice organizations in building their capacity, partnerships, and readiness to access government funding to implement community-designed solutions." Over the course of this 12 month program, we developed an 18 person Eco Collective who in conjunction with J. Koeppel Consulting, crafted the strategic direction of our Eco Center. The Open Buffalo Eco Collective is an inclusive, diverse group of local visionaries and ambassadors that work collectively to move our project from ideation to reality.
Our 2022-2023 Eco Collective members are: Athenia Cyrus, Dayatra Hassan, Daycia Clarke, Deirdre Wright, Devon Patterson, Dr. Jim Golden, Dr. Kush Bhardwaj, Franchelle Parker, Gregory Glover, Ladaisha Williams, Leslie Nickerson, Max Anderson, Niasha Hamilton, Rachel Orton, Ras Jomo Akono, Sherman Webb-Middlebrooks, and Win Min Thant.
Additionally, we are guided by local community leaders, activists, academics, and climate justice activists seeking to restore ecological wellness to the Western New York region.
Initial funding has been made available through The Chorus Foundation.