The Buffalo Ghetto:
A History of Old School Buffalo Gangs
Some might know the history of 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 as Buffalo gangs and neighborhood cliques originated during the late 1950s and grew in the 1970s.
Some of the Buffalo’s old school gangs were the Matadors, Mad Dogs, and Manhattan Lovers, who were known as the biggest in the city as the three formed the 3M Nation affiliation amongst the three of them.^
Also, there was the Pythons, which had different factions in the Cold Springs neighborhood and in Downtown’s Talbort and Ellicott Mall housing projects, Lamp City, Allahturks, and numerous others through the Buffalo ghetto of the East Side.^
Old school Buffalo gangs were much different from the gangs, cliques and ‘hoods of the 1990s and 2000s, with less violence and very little affiliation with drugs there was more a community pride than the modern day gangs.
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)
East Side Buffalo History
Before Buffalo gangs took over the community of the East Side, Buffalo’s urban community and the city’s black population was located in a small designated area on the East Side.
African-Americans started their days in the city of Buffalo in the city’s downtown area, with the original black community being centered around William Street.
The city’s black community and black population 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, most moved into the city during the great migration of African-Americans, which occurred between the 1920s and the 1960s as black families were leaving communities in the southern states.
In the beginning, Buffalo was one of the least segregated cities in the country with white and black residents living and working together, but as newcomers came into Buffalo the views of the black population began to change.*
As newcomers, who were recruited by family members or companies that needed workers, expanded the black community many started to have bad feelings towards the black population.*
The change was seen with discrimination, racism, and segregation as African-Americans were limited by the places they could reside or be employed at.
The East Side Buffalo Projects
During the 1930s, the government created the New Deal Act due to the affects that the Great Depression had on society, in turn this would help provide public housing in cities across the country.
The city of Buffalo originally built four public housing projects that included Kenfield, Perry, Lakeview, and finally Willert Park, which was 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 to be constructed 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, which were built between Michigan and Jefferson, helped changed the East Side by displacing hundreds of people from the community for the city’s construction of the public housing buildings.
Eventually, the building of the housing projects and the easy access of transportation with the newly constructed highways led to many white families to leave the East Side of Buffalo and relocated into the suburbs.
Present Day East Side Buffalo
When the projects of the Buffalo ghetto began to deteriorate, with most of the apartments being vacant and/or in need of repair, most were sold, renovated or eventually became closed.
Supposedly, with the hundreds of families leaving the East Side the tax base of the East Side also left helping the transform of the East Side into the label of the Buffalo ghetto.
Currently, the East Side Buffalo communities are dilapidated with numerous of vacant lots and houses as some of the East Side neighborhoods have a poverty rate of over 50%, in a city where there is barely 250,000 residents who have an average income of $22,000.
The old school gangs eventually faded away as the streets entered a new era that consisted more of drugs and violence and became more based around the ‘hoods or blocks that some one comes from, like Central Park or Glenwood Avenue.
While during the days of the reign of the Goodyear Crew and Sly Greene violence in the streets of Buffalo probably had reached its peaked, the streets of today should not be labeled as the same as times have become calmer despite what some might say.
*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.