People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) is a left-wing “direct action” community organizing group primarily active in Buffalo, New York. The organization engages in community redevelopment issues and promotes environmentalist activism as a key to redeveloping Buffalo.
PUSH Buffalo is most notable for its protests in opposition to traditional energy sources. Most recently the organization protested to demand draconian action to combat climate change. The organization has even been served with a restraining order from a judge over its protest tactics. In addition to protesting, the organization does rehab derelict properties.
Direct Action Activism
PUSH Buffalo is a community organizing “direct action” organization. PUSH Buffalo organizes protests and targets private companies in order to promote its agenda.
PUSH Buffalo is first and foremost a community organizing, “direct action” organization. PUSH Buffalo has a long-running series of action campaigns against National Fuel, which delivers natural gas in New York State. The group first targeted the company in May 2012 as a part of the “99 Percent Spring,” an offshoot of the far-left Occupy Wall Street movement. The organization, and its allied organizations VOICE Buffalo and the Coalition for Economic Justice, demanded that the company help homeowners with energy conservation and with their heating bills. It also demanded new contracts for their employees. 
PUSH Buffalo has demanded that National Fuel spend more of the $10 million in energy efficiency funds it controls to weatherize the homes of low income homeowners. PUSH Buffalo, and the National Fuel Accountability Coalition, demanded more and more money to insulate the homes of low income homeowners.
PUSH Buffalo even protested and stormed National Fuel’s headquarters. About 50 members of PUSH Buffalo trespassed on the property of National Fuel and even entered the building to demand a meeting with the company’s CEO. PUSH members were asked to leave and refused until the police were called. As a result of storming the headquarters, PUSH Buffalo was served a restraining order by a judge.
In 2016, PUSH Buffalo and National Fuel clashed once again. This time it was over National Fuel’s request to raise natural gas rates and to raise money to fund pipeline replacement. PUSH Buffalo opposed the rate increase because it would saw it as overly burdening low income ratepayers. It also opposed the pipeline replacement because it wanted National Fuel to invest in more green energy programs like solar. National Fuel said the pipeline replacement was necessary because the steel and metal pipes were becoming old and could cause leaks or explosions. 
PUSH Buffalo also advocates for other issues. In 2012, the organization helped host protests calling for an increase in the minimum wage in New York State. 
PUSH Buffalo was also a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. In August 2014, they protested outside the office of the U.S. Attorney in Buffalo over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. 
In September 2014, the organization called for more funding for public schools. They joined with the teachers-union-funded Alliance for Quality Education and Citizen Action in demanding more money. 
In October 2014, PUSH Buffalo activists chanted in opposition to natural gas exploration in the state. 
In August 2015, PUSH Buffalo joined other activists in demanding that Verizon bring FiOS to Buffalo. They accused Verizon of creating a “digital divide” between the wealthy and the poor by not bringing the technology to Buffalo. PUSH seemed to accuse Verizon of deliberately denying internet access to the poor. 
In early 2017, PUSH Buffalo supported the using of $12 million of New York State taxpayer money to keep refugee resettlement centers open. In public remarks backing the bill, then-executive director Aaron Bartley said refugees helped rebuild the West Side. He also said that he saw the $12 million as “the first step to resisting a hate-filled divisive agenda.” He also compared the U.S. under President Donald Trump to a dictatorship. “There are people behind me here who have seen it all. Who have seen what a dictatorship looks like, and have learned how to resist those forces. And I think, as we move forward as a culture and a city, we’re going to need to know more and more about that,” said Bartley. 
In April 2018, PUSH Buffalo sent people to participate in a rally calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) to do more to fight climate change. 
One of the major programs of PUSH Buffalo is rehabbing derelict properties. It owns the nonprofit Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization Company (BNSC) which seeks to rehab properties and develop them into affordable housing. Currently, the BNSC owns 50 empty lots and they have converted them into green spaces, rain garden demonstration projects, and community gardens. 
The organization has a community center called the Grant Street Neighborhood Center. The center is a former library that was closed in 2005. The building was reopened in 2006 as an incubator for two non-profits, one of whom was PUSH Buffalo. The community center is to provide an “open, safe and productive community space.”
Finally, one of the major focuses of PUSH is energy efficiency. The program is called PUSH Green. It works to connect homeowners and business owners with contractors who will properly insulate the homes. PUSH has a contract from the state of New York to go to door to door to promote programs from the state that help low income homeowners to insulate their homes. PUSH’s organizers believe that properly insulating homes could be the difference between a homeowner losing their home to foreclosure and remaining in their home. It believes that homeowners without proper insulation spend hundreds of dollars a month heating their homes. It believes that proper insulation could drop their heating bills to just a quarter of that. 
From its founding in 2005 to August 2018, PUSH Buffalo was led by its co-founder Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey served as the organization’s executive director. 
Ramsey was replaced by Rahwa Ghirmatzion, who immigrated to the Buffalo area as a child from Eritrea. Ghirmatzion first joined PUSH Buffalo in 2013 as development director. In 2015 she became manager of programs and in 2017 she became deputy director. 
According to the 2015 Form 990, PUSH Buffalo took in $1.6 million in revenue, nearly all of it in contributions and grants. It spent $1.8 million in expenses. 
The group’s largest expense, $1.3 million, was for community organizing targeting energy companies and banks. It spent $263,537 on energy efficiency projects. It spent $38,585 on water reclamation programs. 
It raised $1.1 million in grants, $350,566 from government grants, and $131,472 for fundraising events. Notable contributors include Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Kendeda Fund, the Surdna Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation.