BY TERRENCE ROBINSON
Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) Commissioner Joseph Mascia, who is currently suspended from acting in an official capacity by order of Mayor Byron Brown, is outraged that the Development Committee of the City of Buffalo Common Council (Council) has approved the request of the BMHA to act as Designated Developer for a site at 124 Maryland St.
The site is adjacent to the Belle Center, a West Side community services location, long-managed by Erie Regional Development Corp., a subsidiary not-for-profit corporation of the BMHA. Commissioner Mascia claims that proper authorization for the Designated Developer request was never given by the BMHA Board of Commissioners. Mascia also expressed concern that the proposal has not been reviewed or approved by federal Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) officials. Mascia stated that submission of the proposal to the Buffalo Common Council for approval was a complete surprise.
The proposal wasn’t included in annual or 4 year plans that were prepared by the BMHA for Housing and Financial agency oversight. Mr. Mascia was extremely irate about what he termed “another secret insider deal”. Mascia claimed that, had he been given the opportunity, he would have offered comments and factual documentation to the Committee, but the Development Committee wanted no comments on the record. He said that it is his hope that the Council as a whole sends the project back to Committeee where it can be properly evaluated. Mascia felt that it was unlikely there would be a proper review prior to a Council vote on Tuesday, since “the fix is in”.
Commissioner Mascia questioned the $1.3 million cost of the proposed development project. He also challenged the rationale for BMHA subsidizing an Americorps training facility and its relationship to the residents of the BMHA. He called attention to the fact that the Authority is being considered for receivership and that routine maintenance and capital projects are being deferred as staff is downsized.
Commissioner Mascia claims that the only positions at the Housing Authority that are immune from cuts are patronage positions. Commissioner Mascia has stated that it is the responsibility of the Development Committee to exercise due iligence in its review of projects. He believes that the Committee should thoroughly vet the proposals that come before them and not act as a rubber stamp for unsound, politically favored proposals. The Commissioner stated that approval of the Designated Developer designation for the Belle Center, in coordination with BMHA and Erie Regional is outside the proper scope of the Authority’s mission. Mascia raised several other issues regarding BMHA, the Belle Center, Erie Regional, and funding. Those issues will be addressed in later editions of the Mascia Chronicles.
This article was originally published in Buffalo Planet.