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Monday, June 24, 2024
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Housing a Concern for Callers of WBFO


Addressing concerns about UB's plans for housing expansion, UB President William R. Greiner and Vice President for Student Affairs Dennis Black held their monthly 'Talk of the University" on WBFO Monday night.

Greiner and Black answered questions on issues ranging from affirmative action for construction workers on campus to parking concerns. However, the majority of the callers wanted to bring up problems with housing in and around UB's North and South campuses.

Black began the discussion on housing by clarifying the plans for Goodyear and Clement halls on UB's South Campus.

"Students' living arrangements and needs have changed since the halls were developed, so we have a study underway today on how do we take those towers and upgrade one of the two for continued residence hall living (Clement Hall). The other is: How can we take Goodyear Hall and make a conversion there into apartments?" explained Black.

Under the proposed plans, Clement Hall would be modernized and renovated, featuring improved interiors and furnishings, new ventilation and heating systems and new windows. Goodyear Hall would be converted into traditional apartments similar to Hadley, Flint and South Lake villages on the North Campus.

Black said the study currently being conducted will determine how feasible the Goodyear conversion would be. "Is there a way to take the existing bed space and create apartments for our students that would provide kitchen, dining, living space as well as separate bed space?" he said.

Construction on the two halls can begin as soon as the two-year study period concludes. According to Greiner, "The delay is due to the repayment of the bonds on the existing buildings."

The university also plans to build a housing complex for graduate, professional and married students on Skinnersville Road, located at the northern-most point of the Amherst Campus. The building plans have been a cause for concern to many neighboring residents.

"I personally think it's unconscionable and outrageous that UB, which is the pillar of intellectual activity, would be stupid enough to put a housing development in an environmentally exciting and sensitive area that supports a variety of wildlife," said one caller, infuriated with the idea of construction on Skinnersville Road. "I think the university should be a little bit more sensitive to the environment."

Greiner was taken aback by the caller's characterization of the initiative as "stupid."

"There is nothing wrong with us building some housing on some open land adjacent to other such housing when we have a very significant need for housing for graduate students and married students," said Greiner in reply.

"[The Letchworth Woods] will be a viable ecosystem for a long time to come because one of the things we have discovered as we build out here in suburban America is that wildlife adapts very well to living around human beings."

Greiner said the housing on Skinnersville Road would not infringe on Letchworth Woods and would not in any way disturb Visor Creek, which would run through the housing complex.

The rumored abandonment of the University Heights district by the university has also been a subject of heated debate between residents, city leaders and the university. Greiner discussed the ill-fated attempt by the university to purchase houses, renovate them and then allow the students to rent or buy them from the university.

"It is just simply not in the cards for a public university without a state mandate to effectively pull that off in an urban neighborhood," said Greiner. "Especially since we were advised by two other community-based groups who are in the housing development, the Ken Bailey Association and the Gloria Parks Association, that they were already in that business and they preferred that they [renovate and sell houses in University Heights]."

Greiner said there was very little local or state financial support for the project and without that it was simply too costly an investment for the university.

"We're going to concentrate our efforts instead on providing employee-assisted housing, subsidized mortgage loans, for people who will buy and live in a house in the city of Buffalo and we'll try to encourage our people to take a look at University Heights as a preferred neighborhood," Greiner said. "So, the university has not abandoned the University Heights district, but instead has just changed the way in which it will support that area."

Many decisions remain to be made regarding the topics discussed during the broadcast and many of the issues raised will be considered before any further actions are taken.




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