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Panel says future of city is bright

By Colleen Young
On May 8, 2013


Buffalo State's Year of the City came to a close Thursday with a powerhouse roundtable panel
discussion featuring six distinguished speakers, called "Future of the City."
Students were among a large crowd of residents and prominent community leaders who filled the
Burchfield Penney Art Center auditorium to learn more about the future of Buffalo.
The panelists spoke about the new exciting energy in Buffalo and the city's road to economic
prosperity to overcome its persistent problems of poverty and population decrease.
Panelists focused on neighborhood development, architecture, area waterways, civic
engagement, public transportation development and more as ways to help Buffalo progress.
Susan McCartney, director of the Small Business Development Center, moderated the event and
asked panelists to speak about what they see as the seeds of Buffalo's future.
The first panelist who spoke was the Honorable Joseph Golombek, Jr., North District Common
Council member and Buffalo State faculty member.
"We're reinventing ourselves by being what we once were again," Golombek said.
Another panelist, Donn Esmonde, Buffalo News Writer/ Columnist, spoke about the importance
of maximizing our own resources in Buffalo.
"We're the inventors of our own future," Esmonde said. "We do have a lot of really big things
going for us," noting that Buffalo's waterfront, downtown buildings, growing medical research
facilities and tourism are helping to improve the quality of life of city residents and assisting
Buffalo in reclaiming its identity.
Jill Jedlicka, executive director and Riverkeeper, said that the seeds of the city's future are the
members of the community, focusing on the importance of empowering the young people in the
community, like the students sitting in front of her.
"We need to offer jobs to improve the quality of life, and to reinvent and rebrand our
community," Jedlicka said. "We need the energy of the young people, and people to do what
they love, and contribute to the community."
Eric Walker, energy consultant and co-founder of PUSH Buffalo, expanded on the topic of
reinventing the area. He explained ways that the area can help to move the city forward by
building on preexisting assets.
"We need long term investments to have large return," Walker said. "Never lose sight that places
He said that the development of neighborhoods and job creation can help improve Buffalo's
The Honorable David A. Franczyk, Fillmore District Common Council member and Buffalo
State faculty member said that educating young people about one of the area's biggest problems,
poverty, will also help Buffalo's future.
"Poverty is persistent," Franczyk said. "We need to treat the causes.
"Poverty is with us, and it shouldn't be."
Howard Zemsky, chairman of the Buffalo State College Council, chairman of the NFTA, and
managing partner of Taurus Capital, was also on the panel that educated residents on how to help
move the city forward.
Zemsky, a Buffalo resident for the past 32 years, credited the increased participation in local
economic development for the positive momentum in the city.
"I've never been more optimistic," Zemsky said. "We're in a good trajectory."
Jedlicka said that the community's involvement will help improve the optimism in the city.
"We're at a critical point... in our region's future," Jedlicka said, noting that people need to
"...continue to be engaged to have your voice heard."
This panel discussion concluded the Year of the City, which started in September and was filled
with events ranging from service days to lectures, all in an effort to get the word out about
community engagement efforts.
The events focused on a broad variety of topics, and since they weren't focused on one narrow
discipline, they brought a lot of people together.
Dr. Mark W. Severson, dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences, was the chairman
for the Year of the City. He said that the year's events helped the students by enhancing their
educations and getting them involved in the Buffalo area.
"We're important to the city, and the city's important to us," Severson said.
Severson said that community engagement is important to Buffalo State.
"It's a win-win situation," Severson said. "Students benefit from being involved and the
community benefits, too."
Severson noted that while this year was dedicated to the city, it truly recognized all of the events
that the college already does yearly.
"For Buffalo State, every year is the year of the city," Severson said. "What we do in the city is
always important to us."
He said that the college strives to involve students in community activism. He said that students
should get involved in the city because Buffalo is a great place for young people and for
"...The Year of the City may have ended, but our connection to the city didn't," Severson said.
"It'll keep growing and we'll keep students involved."
Colleen Young can be reached by email at

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