Jay Rey and Patrick Lakamp, Buffalo News, April 10, 2011
White flight during the first decade of the 21st century changed the complexion of Buffalo, and for the first time in modern history, minorities are the majority in the city.
But in a reversal of a decades-long pattern, African-Americans also left the city, although not at the same rate as whites.
And while those two groups were leaving, the city’s Hispanic and Asian populations grew.
As a result, Buffalo’s minority population increased to 54 percent in the 2010 Census from 48 percent in 2000.
“The area with the biggest gains in the black population also had the biggest losses for the white population,” said Wende A. Mix, an associate professor of geography and planning at Buffalo State College.
In the end, the Buffalo Niagara region, consisting of Erie and Niagara counties, is more diverse, but blacks and whites generally still live in two very separate worlds.
The region remains one of the most segregated in the United States.
Black migration to the suburbs is changing neighborhoods in such places as Eggertsville and Snyder in Amherst, Kenilworth in the Town of Tonawanda, and Pine Hill and Cleveland Hill in Cheektowaga.
Ten years earlier, roughly 14 percent of the students in the Cheektowaga Central School District were minority, Superintendent Dennis Kane said.
“Last year,” Kane said, “four of every 10 kids was a minority.”
Many of these students live in Cheektowaga’s Pine Hill neighborhood on the Buffalo border.
This section of the town gained 584 blacks the past decade–the most of any suburban tract in the county. But it also lost 1,271 whites.
“This is a perfect example of white flight,” Mix said.
The city is losing not only its middle-class whites, but now its middle-class blacks, as well.
A key issue for Buffalo, Taylor said, is how to prevent large chunks of the East Side from becoming “zombie” neighborhoods–streets where entire populations have moved away, leaving behind only two or three houses.
“I think it says how disappointed people are with the education system in Buffalo,” said Warren Galloway, an aide to State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti. “I think most of the people who are moving out in the suburbs, especially African-Americans, are looking for better education.”
City becoming poorer
Buffalo’s racial makeup now looks like this: 46 percent white, 37 percent black, 10.5 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian and 3 percent of other minorities.
Still, studies based on the census rank the Buffalo Niagara region anywhere from the sixth to 11th most segregated region in the United States on a list that includes such metro areas as Cleveland, Milwaukee, Newark, St. Louis and Detroit.
Logan’s analysis showed black-white segregation in Buffalo Niagara declined slightly during the decade of the 2000s, dropping the region to the 11th from the eighth most segregated.
“That’s really a small shift,” Logan said.
Those neighborhood patterns–rooted in decades of history–have been slow to break down in older metropolitan areas, like Buffalo, particularly when no large number of middle-class blacks move into white neighborhoods.