Buffalo, NY


Buffalo Gangs and Buffalo Ghetto Story

Some might know the history of the Buffalo streets and the Buffalo gangs, with the GoodYear Crew, Sly Green, and the L.A. Boys, or the old Juice Crew and Bailey Style Posse.

Neighborhood cliques or Buffalo gangs originated during the late 1950s and grew in the 1970s. The Matadors, Mad Dogs, and Manhattan Lovers were known as the biggest in the city and the three formed the 3M Nation.The Pythons, which had different factions in Cold Springs and Downtown’s Talbort and Ellicott Mall housing projects, Lamp City, Allahturks, and others, were also on the East Side.^

Before the Buffalo streets and the Buffalo blocks and ‘hoods took over the community of the East Side, in the city where Buffalo gangs are just neighborhood affiliations, the Buffalo ghetto and the city’s black population was a small percentage of the East Side.

buffalo gangs

Many people started their days of Buffalo in the downtown area, where the original black community was created around William Street and would slowly expand to places like the Fruitbelt and Cold Springs around Jefferson Avenue, followed by other sections of the East Side as white families were leaving the city.

Even though the Buffalo black population has been around since the city’s early days, many came to the city before the 1940s as African-Americans from southern states moved into the western New York city.


In the beginning, Buffalo was one of the least segregated cities in the country, with white and black residents living together.  But with the newcomers, who arrived between the 1920s and the 1940s, the people’s way of looking at the black population began to change.*

The change was seen with where people could live or the lack of fair job opportunities, as the newcomers, who were recruited by family members or by companies that were in the need of workers, expanded the community and created bad feelings towards the black population.*

buffalo ghetto

In the 1930s, the government created the New Deal Act during the Great Depression, which helped provide housing in cities across the country.

The city of Buffalo, with the help of the federal government, originally built four public housing projects, Kenfield, Perry, Lakeview, and finally Willert Park, the only housing project for black families of Buffalo.  All of the projects were designed to help replace bad living conditions.

Urban renewal of the 1960s, helped the city to build 5 high rise developments, mostly on the East Side, like Kensington Heights, Ellicott Mall, and Talbert Mall.

According to some, the Ellicott and Talbert Malls, built between Michigan and Jefferson, helped changed the East Side by displacing hundreds of people from the community, so the city could build apartments of the two high-rises.

buffalo ghetto

When these projects began to deteriorate, with most of the apartments being vacant in the Buffalo ghetto, the cost of repairs led to the high-rises to either be sold, renovated or closed.

The building of the highway led to many families to leave the East Side of Buffalo and relocated into the suburbs and supposedly, with the people leaving, the tax base of the East Side also left, helping the East Side to become what it is today.

In this short film, Community Organizer Sam Smith recalls the Buffalo gangs situation in the East Side community of Buffalo, during the early 1970s, along with the efforts to initiate a city-wide gang truce. (The video below is created by Urban Legacy Filmworks and provided by Doug Ruffin)


Check out more on Buffalo and the state of New York communities.

*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research.  Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

^Crockett, Sherman. “Cover Your Father’s Nakedness: Forgiving the Father Who Forsook You”- Volume 1.  Xulon Press.

*Williams, Lillian Serece. “Strangers in the Land of Paradise”. Indiana University Press. 1999.