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Monday, December 11, 2023
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

UB 2020 goes downtown

University's new privileges would come with new responsibility

UB 2020 may be reeling, but it's not dead yet.
The State Legislature has the power to save President John B. Simpson's ambitious plan, despite the current budget crisis. To advance its goals, UB is not looking for funding but is instead asking for policy reforms to the state's public university system. The state government can easily grant UB its wish, so long as politicians are willing to cooperate.
If passed, these policy reforms would give the university important new powers, including the ability to enter into partnerships with private sectors. UB would use this power to expand its three campuses, most notably its fledgling downtown campus.
Plans are already in the works.
UB has offered approximately $15 million to the St. John the Baptist Church Fruit Belt Community Development Corporation to buy a plot of land currently occupied by McCarley Gardens, a federally subsidized, low-income housing development. For years, families have lived safely in the tight-knit community, which is in an otherwise destitute part of the city.
McCarley Gardens is conveniently located near the current Downtown Campus, and its proximity to the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and a host of other medical institutions make it an ideal candidate for the relocation of UB's medical facilities from South Campus.
Though the current residents of McCarley Gardens have a right to be worried about their futures, UB and the Fruit Belt's development organization have promised to provide for them if they are forced out of their homes. Plus, the huge economic influx that an expanded Downtown Campus promises to provide would be extremely beneficial to the neighborhood and community at large.
UB's project would create 6,700 jobs at the school in addition to over 20,000 construction jobs, not to mention the estimated $2 billion that would be pumped into the area's economy as a result of the expansion.
The university has repeatedly maintained that the UB 2020 plan would not only be beneficial to the university but to the entire Buffalo-Niagara area. That's the way it should work—if the state legislature grants the school additional privileges, the school has a responsibility to use those privileges to better the city for which it is named.
It remains to be seen whether the McCarley Gardens project will reflect that vision, or whether it will simply thrive on its own as the surrounding community continues to suffer.
There's a way, however, for the university to prove once and for all that it actually cares about improving the city of Buffalo.
The Statler Tower is one of the most historic buildings in Buffalo. Originally the Statler Hotel in 1907, the building's success sparked a chain of similar Statler Hotels around the nation in cities like New York, Detroit, and St. Louis. The building was converted to office space in 1984 and continued to give the city character by playing host to many events and banquets.
The building closed recently after going bankrupt and now one of the city's landmarks is being boarded up. However, Congressman Brian Higgins has proposed a way in which UB can solve the problem.
Higgins has suggested that the university move its law school into the Statler, where it would be extremely close to the city's legal establishments, including the federal court building. The same logic of putting the medical campus near Roswell Park applies here. The university, law students, the Statler and the downtown economy in general would all greatly benefit from Higgins' proposal.
If the state passes the legislation that UB needs to proceed with UB 2020, the school needs to prove, whether by moving into the Statler or in some other way, that it does indeed want to improve the city of Buffalo in addition to pursuing its specific interests.



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