In the twelve years that he has lived in Buffalo, Harvey Garrett has made a tremendous impact on the city. Garrett, originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, came to Buffalo for a corporate job at a high tech company but has become, in a short time, one the cityâ€™s greatest community organizers.
Garrett is an early founder and the Executive Director of the West Side Community Collaborative (WSCC). The group began with a focus on the Mid-West Side, but it has broadened its scope and now has an impact throughout the city. Over twenty community members, including students from Buffalo State College and UB, attended a recent meeting of the group, held at West Side Community Services on Vermont Street.
The meeting yielded updates from member/residents from individual neighborhoods as the group addressed vacant properties, drug activity and quality of life issues, block by block. It became clear that Garrett and the WSCC believe in taking action, rather than waiting for the problem to be solved by someone else. As Professor Timothy McCorry from Buffalo State College stated: â€śHarvey has an ethic that says 'weâ€™re not going to wait for the city or the government.' Heâ€™s going to try to solve that problem.â€ť
At the same time, Garrett also works closely with local government, particularly housing court, in order to effect positive change in local neighborhoods by making homeowners culpable for their actions. In addition, the introduction of students from local colleges to the West Side seems to be of critical importance to Garrett. He is working with 80 UB Honors College freshmen, who will assist the WSCC with various projects including property condition surveys, educational programs, refugee work and creating asset maps of available resources in the community. Listening to Garrett and the members of WSCC makes it clear why Buffalo Spree named it Best Activist Group in WNY â€“ 2008.
In addition to his involvement with WSCC, Garrett also serves on the boards of Buffaloâ€™s West Side Neighborhood Housing Services, the Landmark Society of Western New York, the City of Buffalo Preservation Board, the City of Buffalo Citizen's Planning Council for Capital Projects, the Preservation Coalition of Erie County, the Olmsted Park Conservancy Advisory Board, the Daemen College Advisory Board, the Buffalo State College Service Learning Advisory Board, the Graycliff Conservancy Board, the Richardson Center Complex Advisory Board, the Service Learning Coalition of Western New York and the Buffalo Jobs Initiative Board, along with being the Niagara District Housing Court Liaison.
A typical day for Garrett includes six to seven meetings with the various groups he is involved with. Add to that the fact that he often gets calls from community members who need assistance that he must address. He clearly acts as an advisor and soundboard for numerous people in the community.
When asked about his favorite thing to do in Buffalo, his response was to â€śmake it a better place.â€ť In recognition of all he does, Garrett was named Outstanding Citizen of 2005 by The Buffalo News, 2006 Community Activist of the Year by ArtVoice, and one of the top forty â€śmovers and shakersâ€ť in Buffalo in 2008 by Buffalo Spree.
Garrettâ€™s message for our area is that, â€śThe West Side is coming back. Weâ€™re taking it back, and itâ€™s fun to watch.â€ť He would encourage anyone who is interested in getting involved to do so. Feel free to contact him directly via email at email@example.com.