October 30, 2011

Sustainability on Buffalo’s Lower West Side: Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc.
Michael Jarosz

What is Heart of the City Neighborhoods? Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc Inc. (HOCN) is a 501(c)(3) not-forprofit community development c corporation.1 HOCN was established in order to create, facilitate, and support housing and neighborhood development in Buffalo’s Lower West Side.2 HOCN accomplishes that mission by initiating programs to improve the quality of residential housing and by developing sustainability projects to regenerate the area.3 How does HOCN function? A permanent staff of four individuals operates HOCN HOCN, while a fourfour member board of directors and additional members – community activists as well as professionals – support the organization.4 Moreover, HOCN has a constant supply of volunteers and has steady relationships with many other organizations in the area.5 The primary sources of funding g are 6 grants, donations, , and New York State.

and/or insulating or re-insulating walls and attics. the outer walls are insulated quite heavily and result in the inner walls being nearly 18 inches further in. replacing dilapidated roofs. HOCN acquires abandoned properties within its service area. installing a new roof. fostering anti-crime initiatives.9 Examples of this approach include painting the exterior of a house. healthy. the fixtures 2 . however. With the help of volunteers and the cooperation of local partner businesses and organizations.12 If the house is beyond salvageable quality. planting new trees.11 That is. the structure is still sound.13 If. to lower their thermostats. inside and out. and affordable homes. adding or replacing a house’s insulation.17 How do full-scale house rehabilitations reflect sustainability? Full-scale house rehabilitations – the ones that involve gutting the whole house and leaving just a shell to be entirely rebuilt – promote sustainability even more aggressively than partial home renovations. and affordable housing in the Lower West Side. The first approach involves assisting current homeowners within HOCN’s service area whose homes are in significant need of renovation. Examples include installing new windows. which also reduces pollution.7 But HOCN’s primary objective is increasing the availability of safe.8 In what ways does HOCN achieve its primary objective? There are several methods by which HOCN goes about increasing the availability of safe.10 The second method utilized by HOCN is the full or “gut” rehabilitation of a house. and take other steps toward efficiency in their daily lives serves to further reduce energy consumption. HOCN is a multi-faceted entity. and producing a free video marketing the neighborhood. and affordable homes. the house will be gutted and totally rebuilt from floor to ceiling.15 How does sustainability factor into home renovations? Sustainability is a major part of HOCN’s mission to create safe. healthy. healthy. Making renovations to existing homes lowers utility costs for owners and conserves energy.14 The adjacent picture is of one such house: 251 Whitney Place. Here.What types of projects does HOCN take on? As a community development corporation.19 The windows are all brand new and sealed well. HOCN has tackled a number of projects.16 Educating the homeowners to use energy-efficient light bulbs. and/or performing total lead abatement. including painting homes.18 The new roof is also heavily insulated. it will be razed and the lot will be held for future use.

partnering with other like-minded organizations allows for targeted plans of action that contribute things such as community gardens. and the entire interior of the home is designed to be a more sustainable floor plan – meaning that circulation of air is better facilitated and heating is thus easier and cheaper.21 How else does HOCN advance sustainability? HOCN’s work produces a ripple effect of sustainability.25 Finally. purchasers. Creating safe. HOCN creates a far more aesthetically pleasing. and healthy neighborhood. walkable.26 The end result is a revived neighborhood that is more sustainable on many levels. who boost the city’s tax revenues and economy By making the city a more appealing environment. painting existing homes. 3 .20 On top of that. are educated on how to behave in more energy-efficient and sustainable ways. more public transportation-friendly zones.24 Further. By razing houses that are beyond repair. attractive neighborhoods in the city attracts more people. HOCN’s work promotes density and reduce sprawl – one of the region’s biggest environmental problems. community education.22 HOCN helps recenter our population in dense. safe. bikeable. the combination of all these efforts consistently serves to drive out bad forces in a neighborhood such as drug dealing and gang activity. and to draw in good forces such as active community members and youth organizations.are all energy-efficient. who are all first-time homeowners. and planting trees.23 Seemingly simple changes create a surprisingly effective strategy. and overall safety.

9 Personal communication with Stephanie Simeon.hocn. Executive Director.org/about-us 12 Id. Suite 1200. Executive Director. 13 Personal communication with Stephanie Simeon. _____________________________________________________________ Partnership for the Public Good www. 10 Id. 24 http://www. 20 Id.hocn. Executive Director.hocn. 4 http://www.hocn.org 237 Main St.. 23 Id. 19 Id. 18 Id.org/about-us 8 Id.ppgbuffalo.hocn.org/about-us 25 Personal communication with Stephanie Simeon.hocn. 14 Id.org/about-us Id.hocn.1 2 http://www.org/about-us/team 5 http://www. 26 Id.hocn. 3 Id. 11 http://www. 7 http://www. Buffalo NY 14203 _____________________________________________________________ 4 . 17 Id.org/available-housing/properties-for-sale/251-whitney-place 22 Id. 15 http://www. 21 http://www. Executive Director.org/available-housing/properties-for-sale 16 Id.org/about-us/supporters 6 Personal communication with Stephanie Simeon.