03.22.22

SCHUMER SECURES $800,000 FOR BUFFALO’S MICHIGAN STREET AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE CORRIDOR TO REVITALIZE HISTORIC BAPTIST CHURCH, PRESERVE LANDMARKS TO WESTERN NY’S CIVIL RIGHTS HISTORY, & SPUR ECONOMIC GROWTH IN BUFFALO’S EAST SIDE NEIGHBORHOOD

The Michigan Street Baptist Church Has Been At The Heart Of The African American Community For Nearly 200 Years; But Blight, Red Lining, And Underinvestment Caused The Surrounding Neighborhood, Including The Baptist Church & Other Culturally Significant Landmarks, To Fall Into Disrepair

Senator Delivers $800k To Restore Historic Sites, Create Jobs, & Boost Investment Along The Corridor

Schumer: Buffalo’s Michigan St. Corridor Is A National Treasure, And This Funding Will Help Preserve Its Legacy For Generations To Come

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that following his personal request he has secured $800,000 for Michigan Street in Buffalo as a part of the recently unveiled bipartisan omnibus spending package for Fiscal Year 2022. Specifically, Schumer said that $500,000 will go to the Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition for renovating and revitalizing the Michigan Street Baptist Church, a historic Buffalo landmark. The Freedom Station Coalition is an anchor partner of the larger Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission (MSAAHCC), which will receive an additional $300,000 to develop a strategic plan to bolster investment, entrepreneurship, redevelopment, and job creation along the Corridor and across Buffalo’s African American community.

“Investing in the Michigan Street Heritage Corridor is not just preserving the past; it is investing in Buffalo’s future,” said Senator Schumer. “I am proud to have secured $800,000 to finally repair and restore the historic Baptist Church, and to develop the strategic plan to create new jobs, and spur economic growth for Buffalo’s East Side and across the region.  This funding is a down payment and investment for helping the long held dreams and visions for this crown jewel of the Queen City finally become a reality.”

"On behalf of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission (MSAAHCC), and our Founding Cultural Anchors, I would like to thank Senator Schumer in supporting those historic neighborhoods and residents that are connected within and beyond our Heritage Corridor,” said Terry Alford, Executive Director of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor. “We are ecstatic knowing of his confidence in our continued growth and momentum. Economic development is a critical component that drives economic growth in any economy, creating new start-up businesses and moderate-to high wage jobs and facilitating an improved quality of life, which is desperately needed in the historically distressed areas of the City of Buffalo--most notably on the city's east side where Michigan Avenue is located. These allocated funds ($300,000) will encourage economic development efforts that will increase entrepreneurial opportunities outside of tourism along the Heritage Corridor, including innovative technologies and digital media, life sciences & healthcare, manufacturing, and business services."

“We are so pleased and excited to receive such tremendous support from Senator Schumer,” said Lillie Wiley-Upshaw, Chair of the Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition. “This funding will help the Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition make the Michigan Street Baptist Church accessible for all visitors.  The BNFSC has been working diligently to save the 1849 church in order to share the historic significance of the African American members who were actively involved in national civil rights issues starting with the abolitionist movement and who helped to shape the Buffalo community. This substantial contribution will help significantly achieve our 1.4 million dollar goal to make the church accessible. On behalf of the entire BNFSC Board and our community partners, we are very grateful and ready to continue our work.”

Starting with the formation of the Michigan Street Baptist Church in 1836 as the epicenter of the local abolitionist movement, Buffalo’s Michigan Street Corridor quickly became nationally-recognized as a center for the civil rights movement and the city’s rich African American culture. Unfortunately, as time progressed, redlining and underinvestment led to the disrepair or even loss of many historic buildings and sites in the neighborhood. Since then, community leaders have been fighting to restore the Michigan Street Corridor and its surrounding East Side neighborhood in order to preserve the immense historical and cultural value of these areas, also bringing new job and investment opportunities to this part of the City. The MSAAHCC is primarily focused on protecting and promoting the richness of African American culture in Buffalo across a wide variety of sites, not just along Michigan Street. The Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition was created in 2001 to protect the Michigan Street Baptist Church and other sites critical to the abolitionist and civil rights movements in Western New York.

Schumer said that this funding is a critical piece of the puzzle for one of the essential components of this revival – the final, full repair of the Michigan Street Baptist Church. In March 2020, one of the church’s walls collapsed and required an emergency intervention to rebuild, with engineers determining that the structure was at risk of total failure. This Schumer-secured funding will finally help restore the church to its former glory and help to transform it into a visitor-ready historic destination to help further preserve and celebrate the cultural heritage of the Michigan Street Corridor and to serve as a gathering space for the community once again.

In addition, the funding the senator delivered will allow for community leaders to begin work with economic planners to develop long-term strategies to increase blacked-owned business and entrepreneurial opportunities beyond tourism in the surrounding Michigan Street neighborhoods. The MSAAHCC has already had success in increasing the area’s prominence as a heritage tourism destination, and this federal funding will not only encourage that work, but also will spur the crucial next phase in development of the local neighborhood’s economy.

 

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