By Joseph Green-Bishop
Texas Metro National Correspondent
Forty people lost their lives during the recent snow blizzard that paralyzed the city of Buffalo, New York over the Christmas weekend. And while African Americans constitute approximately 15 percent of the population in Erie County where Buffalo is located, they were more than half of the storm-related deaths, according to city residents and public officials.
Some of the deceased were discovered in their homes while others were found in their vehicles, and on the streets. The five feet of snow that struck Buffalo and surrounding areas brought transportation to a halt. Roads were impassable and emergency personnel were unable to reach tens of thousands of people who were in their homes without food, lights, and heat.
A number of Buffalo residents are placing blame for the slow response to the snow emergency at the feet of elected officials, including mayor Byron Brown, who has been in office since 2006.
Myles Carter, a community activist in Buffalo, ventured outside during the storm with his own vehicle to aid people.
The city was ill-prepared,” Mr. Carter said. “I feel like the city was willingly negligent in how they handled the storm.”
The lesson that we have learned from this experience is that “we cannot depend on City Hall,” said Professor Henry Louis Taylor who teaches urban studies at the University of Buffalo.
Mayor Brown said that city officials did all that they could to prepare for the storm. When the city learned of the potential dangers of the storm, it warned residents. “I don’t put out messages lightly,” Mayor Brown said.
India Watson, who lost a 2022 mayoral election to Mayor Brown, said that the area of the city known as the Eastside experienced the most devastation. She said that the section was not a priority in Buffalo because most residents there were Black and poor. That is a charge that Mayor Brown disputes.
“We are committed to learning from this storm,” Mayor Brown said. “We are committed to improving our delivery of services to our community in extreme weather.”
Mayor Brown said that he would not resign his office because of criticism he had received after the storm.
“The police department and the department of public works feverishly attempted to reach people during the storm,” he added.