Council President Darius Pridgen has political problems with the base of support that elected him.
A wealthy pastor of one of the poorest congregations in the city, the Councilman’s expensive tastes, flamboyant style, and coziness with the city’s most wealthy real estate interests have alienated him from the voters and congregants who elected him. Expensive suits, impressive watches, Cadillacs, and worldly travels have come off as distasteful to the worshipers who attend his sermons in their Delavan-Grider neighborhood.
Pridgen lives on the Erie Basin Marina with sweeping views of the Canadian shoreline and waterfront sunsets that are unrivaled on the east coast. His exclusive Waterfront Village neighborhood — home to judges and some of the most connected economic actors in the region — is seemingly worlds away from the abject poverty of his Ellicott District.
Pridgen was elected to the seat four years ago in a three way race. Soon thereafter, he conspired with then Council President David Franczyk to adopt one of the most egregious gerrymandering schemes seen anywhere in the country.
Over three decades in office, Franczyk oversaw the collapse of his Broadway Fillmore district, and the ethnic Polish population that was once his base is nearly nonexistent. They have either moved to the suburbs or died. Fearing the district’s large black community, the Councilman was scrambling for a base of white voters, so he redrew the district into Allentown. And in order to do so, he divided the Latino community into three Council districts, effectively denying the community from gaining any political clout in the region.
In one swoop, Pridgen allowed Francyzk to steal a black district from the Eastside and a Latino district from the Westside so that he didn’t have to represent the gay community in Allentown — and could continue to represent the poorest neighborhood in the city from his waterfront condo.
But that didn’t seem to unsettle his largely black constituency, which at the time was seemingly mesmerized by his charismatic delivery of biblical references and sermons which were often delivered with a theatric flare.
His marriage to a 24 year old woman who grew up in his church did. The marriage continues to raise the ire of some prominent older black women, who form the backbone of the east side’s political power structure. They view the role of “the pastor’s wife” as an important and pivotal figure in the community — someone who is expected to be an older, wiser, calmer woman.
Since the marriage, the community has been more willing to look at the pastor critically.
They say that his close relationship to the city’s real estate developers is unseemly, while he continues to refuse to speak publicly about the dysfunctional management of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority. BMHA manages several large properties in the Ellicott district. Some even speculate that Pridgen’s support of millions of dollars in state subsidies for high end luxury housing in historic buildings could be a result of his cozy relationship with those developers.
Just last week, Pridgen and the Council authorized BMHA to transfer ownership of AD Price Courts, the first African American public housing complex in the nation, in a privatization scheme advanced by housing authority officers and a firm named Northstar.