Originally Published on BuffaloRising.com
I really want to be writing positive things about Buffalo on this site. That was my original intent when I jumped on board the BRO bandwagon, to point out the great things and highlight great potential of Buffalo. Lately, though, Buffalo is getting me down. For sure Buffalo has many great things happening these days, more than ever in my lifetime as a matter of fact. Even the obsessively negative attitude around town seems to be dissolving away and that is good. But to be frank, so much stupid has ruled Buffalo, meaning all of Western New York (WNY), for such a long time that even today’s progress is way too small and way too slow to overcome the damage done any time soon. Unfortunately, despite recent progress Buffalo clings to the stupid with a tight fist and embraces the mediocre like a child’s comfort blanket.
Buffalo cannot afford to be living in a dull 20th century mindset forever. WNY cannot afford to continue electing the shovel-ready-site set while expecting something better to happen. The economy of the future is going to be driven by dense historic cities with active urban streets and unique urban neighborhoods. These are the kinds of places that are attracting young talent and companies go where young talent wants to be. Unfortunately Buffalo is way too often modeling itself on the bland sprawl of late 20th century suburbia, the very type of place that repels the younger generations of up and comers. If this continues Buffalo is going to miss the next great demographic and economic wave. I thought that Instead of spreading out my current deep disappointment with Buffalo over the next 20 posts I would group my screed into concentrated black hole of disappointment. So, in celebration of mediocrity I present here a gallery of the stupid that has been getting me down on Buffalo.
1. GREEN SPACE BUFFER:
Topping the list is the wholesale demolition of a block long chunk of the Peace Bridge Neighborhood. The Bridge Authority, in recent correspondence, claims that it has no current plans for an expanded inspection plaza and says it tore down several houses, it described as vacant and blighted so that the Authority could create a beautiful green buffer. They neglected to say that the Authority was the reason that the houses were blighted and vacant. Nearby the Episcopal Church home remains in limbo waiting its turn with the recking ball. Neighborhood groups allege that the Peace Bridge Authority wants the property for expansion of the cash cow duty free store which currently sits on potential space for an expanded inspection plaza. Over a decade ago the Episcopal Home hightailed it out of the city to occupy a nifty new facility out in the exurbs which is surrounded by parking and covered in plastic siding. They left the beautiful and substantially built city buildings to rot in the mean time. They will be rewarded by the state with a $15 M gift.
Sam Hoyt Chairman of the Bridge Authority was quoted thus:
“We are going to have a beautiful, landscaped buffer between the plaza and the neighborhood in the short term. We’re going to send a message [that] you’re not entering a ghetto when you cross into the great city of Buffalo.”
The Webster Dictionary has this listed as the first two meanings of the word “ghetto” as: 1 –A quarter of the city in which Jews were formerly required to live, 2-a quarter of the city in which members of a minority group live because of social, legal, or economic pressure.
So, thankfully Peace Bridge is generously preparing to hide Buffalo’s underprivileged ghetto people from Canadian visitors behind a “green space”. I think Hoyt and his board of directors genuinely believe that their plans for a giant new waterfront truck plaza will be a great economic engine for Buffalo. Unfortunately as a secretive semi foreign entity unaccountable to the voters they don’t have to explain anything to the people they are impacting with their plans.
For more on the secretive Public Bridge Authority read this great Investigative Post story
. As progress Buffalo style rolls on you should be able to bring your picnic stuff down to the new Peace Bridge green space by summer. Should be exciting.
2. SPACE NEEDLE BUFFALO STYLE
The church at 375 Colvin in North Buffalo has been mostly demolished. Everything but the tower was recently sent to the dump. The owner allegedly claims to have taken three potential developers through the church, all of who walked way, saying call when the building is gone. There is no way to know why these developers took a pass. From what I have seen of the building it held incredible potential for reuse, especially for very unique residential units. Earlier claims were made that the building had to come down because it was unstable due to a fire and was a magnet for crime. Demolition images revealed a building barely touched by fire. Graffiti on interior walls hinted that the building was easily accessed by anyone. Perhaps the solution to the crime problem was to secure the building? Were these developers the type who regularly take on projects like this? Was the selling price reasonable based on the fire damage and years of neglect? There are many reasons a building can be seen as undesirable. Was demolition really the only solution or just the easiest path to mediocrity?
Interestingly the tower has not been removed. Sources say that the owner discovered that the tower was sound and will remain and that they are currently looking at new uses for the lot. Will Buffalo get something at least as good as the church? Or will Buffalo get a tower stump and a empty lot for decades, some plastic houses perhaps? The latter is closer to the norm so far. I have a feeling that tower is going to attract crime.
3. NOW THIS SAYS PRIDE
This building represents about as little effort as possible to give back something to the city. It was posted on The Face Book, Preservation Ready Sites page by Joe Inaco. Joe notes the irony of the removal of the church while this piece of garbage is allowed to mar the city. Does the city really think this is a winning addition?
It is a basic prefab industrial building just a few blocks down Colvin from the Church above that was demoed. Apparently Colvin is setting the pace for great place making in Buffalo. This building is located on a small parcel of land that has traditionally been used for warehouse and light manufacturing because this area had a rail line running through here. Just poking into the image is one of the new suburban style houses now being constructed on that rail line. Some will argue that the owner of this turd building has no responsibility to anyone but to make a profit for his company. That may be true but does that make it right? A city built on extracting profits paired with a big FU to everyone who lives there is destined to be a pretty sad place to live in and ultimately probably not very profitable to its business class. This is a sad blemish on Buffalo. The owner should be embarrassed. The city should be embarrassed.
4. YE OLD COBBLESTONE PARKING DISTRICT
I came upon this image of the neighborhood known as the Cobble Stone District through Mark Paradowski on Face Book. At one time this very old part of Buffalo at the southern end of Main Street was a densely packed industrial district for canal era Buffalo. Today not so much. The red indicates surface parking lots, the green is a multi level parking structure and, the yellow indicates several hundred more parking spaces proposed by the Sabres. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, not to be outdone, has floated a $200M concept for several hundred more parking spaces in this area. Need I say more?
5. DEMOLITION DERBY
Demolition is a growth industry in Buffalo. It pumps millions of dollars into the economy and usually results in lots of those shovel ready sites that Mayor Masiello promised would turn Buffalo into a boom town. Sigh, if only Buffalo had some more empty land. I can only assume Mayor Tony never left his office, knowing as I do that Buffalo is filled up with emptiness. Of course we also know that Buffalo is empty because Western New York has been on a sprawl binge for the last 60 years, a period in which a metro with net negative population growth and chronic economic stagnation has expanded its land and infrastructure footprint by a factor of three. The perfectly good building being sent to the garbage dump in this image is the former Deconess Hospital on the east side of Buffalo. The building was most recently an elderly care facility which was closed when operations were moved to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. This move was part of a massive health care reorganization and consolidation ordered by the State of New york. The consolidation is exactly what was needed in WNY and is still needed in more than just the medical sector. Buffalo’s medical industry will emerge from the consolidation tremendously strong and competitive. Unfortunately, ALL of this consolidation is from within the city only. The suburbs of WNY continue to sprawl unchecked. Thus, we get this lovely view of demolition from across the Kensington “City-Avoidance-Trench” Expressway. The people driving down in the trench likely do not think of the destroyed neighborhood they pass through, or this wasted building being removed, or the shovel ready site it will leave behind, or the gorgeous parkway that used to be in the way of their 20 minute commute to the burbs. They likely just think about getting a parking place as close to the front door of their office as they possibly can. Buffalo has been steadily transforming itself from a city to be in, to a city to be passed through. What good is a city designed for passing through?
You can see an extensive set of Deconess Demolition images on the Face Book Page of Robert Szymanski