Development is usually an imposition. It's imposed on a community, and the community's reactive to it. And so we tried to flip that process.
There isn't really any technical or engineering or architectural reason that communities can't have much more leadership in the development process, as well as this pretty futuristic vision of what a community can be when it comes to its energy resources, food resources, water resources.
From PUSH's early days, we had a strong relationship with Cornell. And for PUSH, that's meant a whole bunch of things. It's meant having access to best practices from around the country that have been written up really on a monthly basis by PPG.
One of the most impressive documents that I think PPG's produced for PUSH was a look at green infrastructure and what do you do to improve water quality in a city like Buffalo that has really old, decrepit sewer systems without digging those systems up, which is a billion dollar project. And PPG took an interest in that work and really systematized what we were doing.
That report got circulated far beyond our initial distribution. I was getting calls from a lot of foundations-- Rockefeller, Ford-- wanting to learn specifically about green infrastructure, how communities can create jobs. We were able to take that document and leverage it to get additional investment, additional contract. It gave us the confidence that we were doing something pretty special and unique and that we could go out and do it at an even bigger level.
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Aaron Bartley, the first activist scholar in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a co-founder of People United for Sustainable Housing Buffalo, speaks about Cornell’s partnerships with local Buffalo organizations.