Mayor promises more responsiveness as he announces BMHA choices

Jul 25, 2017

Buffalo's Common Council holds its last meeting before the summer recess Tuesday. On the agenda: Mayor Byron Brown is hoping it approves his latest appointments to the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority so the authority board can operate in a more responsive manner.

Membership on the BMHA board had dropped to three commissioners, which is not a quorum.

On Monday, the Mayor announced his choices to fill vacant board seats. They are former BMHA General Counsel David Rodriguez, former Deputy Corporation Counsel David State, Urban Renewal Agency Executive Director Nona Watson and Deputy Public Works Commissioner Rishawn Sonubi.

He also brought in two financial advisors - former First Niagara CEO Gary Crosby and Buffalo Local Initiatives Support Corporation Executive Director Michael Clarke - to help increase revenue.

Brown said the board has to change with the times.

"The days of public housing authorities relying primarily on the federal government, HUD, for funds to operate and maintain their properties and provide affordable quality housing to all who are income-eligible while providing wraparound services are over," he said.

Brown said there also will be major changes in the way the authority treats residents.

"Responsiveness to Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority tenants is critically important," he said. "Everything that we do is going to be very tenant-centered. The tenants are our customers. They are residents of the City of Buffalo. They are our family members. They are our friends. They are our neighbors."

Common Council President Darius Pridgen said changes have to be made to make BMHA tenant life better.

"We are opening up some of these closed apartments," Pridgen said. "And I know that there are limits on the funds that are available, but I think one of the things that the mayor said that was so important today was about the innovation. You can't just sit around and go, 'Washington isn't giving me anything else.' You got to say, 'How else do we bring in income?'"

Neither BMHA Executive Director Dawn Sanders Garrett nor Assistant Executive Director Modesto Candelario was at the City Hall news conference, begging the question of what their futures hold.