A war vet, college students, teachers and retirees were among over twenty people who attended the Erie County Industrial Development Agency’s public hearing on Monday, April 9 all of whom are affiliated with Occupy Buffalo. One of the eighteen board members were also in attendance.
The hearing was held so the public could speak on the board’s consideration of a series of tax incentives intended to assist Ellicott Development Company’s plan to convert the Graystone Hotel into an upscale apartment building. The occupiers spoke of IDA reform, Buffalo being the third poorest city in the country and explained why hotels should not be receiving tax incentives via an industrial development agency. It was pointed out that the owner of company, Carl Paladino, purchased the Graystone Hotel in 2002 for $150,000, it has been vacant to date, some of the over thirty building code violations are still outstanding and demolition by neglect has occurred due to no attempt to address the massive hole in the roof that has been there since a 2003 roof collapse.
Today local media reported that the Erie County Sheriff’s Department was asked to have officers on site at this Monday’s public board meeting due to “larger than expected crowds at recent meetings and outbursts from the Occupy Buffalo movement.”
People from Occupy Buffalo have been attending these ECIDA meetings since the beginning of the occupation in October. The first time a meeting was disrupted was in February from a mic check about the proposed tax incentive for the Millennium Hotel to do renovations. Surprisingly, the board tabled the proposal and requested more information from the hotel about their project.
The second interruption occurred in March immediately after the board passed the tax incentive for the Millennium Hotel. A mic check was called, then occupiers took turns speaking directly to the board about the absence of transparency and consideration for the public’s opinion. The very recently appointed chair of the board said interruptions from the public would not be tolerated and that we were to be there as “spectators.” Keep in mind there wasn’t a hearing about the Millennium Hotel tax incentive package and the public was never even given access to the additional information the board had requested about the hotel’s project.
Occupiers disrupted two meetings in the six months they have been following the ECIDA and Occupy Buffalo has proven time and time again its commitment to nonviolence yet the Sheriff Department’s presence has been requested for the next meeting on Monday, April 16th.