City StoriesNew York

Buffalo, NY

The Buffalo Ghetto:

The Story of the East Side Buffalo Gangs

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

Buffalo gangs and neighborhood cliques originated during the late 1950s and grew in the 1970s.

east side buffalo gangs buffalo ghetto

The Matadors, Mad Dogs, and Manhattan Lovers were known as the biggest in the city as 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.^

east side buffalo gangs

Before Buffalo gangs took over the community of the East Side, Buffalo’s urban community and the city’s black population was a small community on the East Side.


East Side Buffalo History

African-Americans started their days of Buffalo in the downtown area, where the original black community was created around William Street.

The community 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.

east side buffalo ghetto

Even though the Buffalo black population has been around since the city’s early days, most moved into the city during the great migration of African-Americans moving from southern states.

In the beginning, Buffalo was one of the least segregated cities in the country with white and black residents living together.*

As the newcomers came into the city, the people’s way of looking at the black population began to change.*

The change was seen with where people could live at or the job opportunities one could receive.

As newcomers, who were recruited by family members or by companies that were in the need of workers, expanded the black community people started to have bad feelings towards the black population.*


The East Side Buffalo Projects

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

buffalo ghetto

The city of Buffalo originally built four public housing projects, Kenfield, Perry, Lakeview, and finally Willert Park, the only housing project for black families of Buffalo.

Supposedly, the housing projects were at first meant for North and South Buffalo, as well as Cheektowaga, but the city decided to have most of them built on the East Side.

Starting in the 1960s, urban renewal 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 the apartment buildings.

When the projects of the Buffalo ghetto began to deteriorate, with most of the apartments being vacant and in need of repair, most were sold, renovated or closed.

After white flight into the suburbs East Side Buffalo slowly declined.

Eventually, the building of the highway led to many white families to leave the East Side of Buffalo and relocated into the suburbs.

Supposedly, with the people leaving the tax base of the East Side also left, helping the transform of the East Side into the label of the Buffalo ghetto.

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)


Click to chheck out more on Buffalo and other communities of New York.

*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.