Walking the Talk in Buffalo

July 23, 2018
Jean Rios

Buffalo has been my home for almost fourteen years now. I still remember when I first arrived here from Puerto Rico, and instantly feeling like I belonged. Growing up in a predominantly hispanic part of Buffalo, the West Side, a part of home was always present here. Believe it or not, Buffalo felt so much like home that I did not miss “La Isla del Encanto” one bit. Buffalo gave me a breath of fresh air while maintaining that Puerto Rican culture I grew to love. I will forever be grateful to this city for opening my eyes to real people and real situations. Living in a city like Buffalo provides you with a spectacle of perspectives that allows you to see life in a variety of different angles. I only hope that I can grow and help the city of Buffalo as much as it has helped me throughout the years.


Why am I a High Road Fellow? Well, to get closer to my mission. My mission to give back to the city of Buffalo and understand what the real issues are and how I can be a part of the solution. Over the last four years we have seen Buffalo go through what it seems to be a pretty positive shift. With the help of the Buffalo Billion we have seen major development in infrastructure, especially with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. On the outside, all of this development happening in Buffalo looks great; promising an increase in land, labor and capital which ultimately may lead to an overall increase in economic development. But will we actually achieve this goal? We have seen other cities revitalize their downtown area, making it attractive to the naked eye while having no real impact in the betterment of the city as a whole. The last thing we want is Buffalo to become a tourist city where people come and leave all the time, eliminating real economic growth. My major concern is that having such a main focus on the Buffalo Medical Campus may blind people from the real issues that are destroying communities little by little. The Eastside communities, which includes places like the Fruit Belt, are suffering the most by not seeing any reinvestment in their communities while the prices of property have been slowly increasing. But it’s not just the Eastside of Buffalo, the Westside of Buffalo will also be affected by this “growth” happening around the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.


Now the real question is: How can we fix this issue? Honestly, there is not one specific answer to this question. There are many different views on how we should go about this and how we can solve this issue. However, we should focus on making people aware of these issues. We should focus on holding the people in power accountable and putting people in office that relate to the issues that are happening in the struggling communities. The biggest issue in Buffalo is the fact that people that do not live in these struggling communities are making decisions that in their eyes seem so great but in reality are destroying communities. I have been in too many situations where people just complain about what’s happening in Buffalo day after day yet they just let it happen. They become comfortable with what has been going on that they normalize the situation. We as a community must get out of our comfort zone and understand that we deserve more than just the minimum.


We have such a beautiful and diverse community here in the city of Buffalo. The vast amount of cultures gives us that authenticity and realism that I so proudly embrace. The city of Buffalo has made me who I am today—through this Fellowship I hope to grow with my city, and to do something more than just talk.