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Thread: The Buffalo, New York thread: 40 years of renaissance

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    The Buffalo, New York thread: 40 years of renaissance

    As inspired by Bear's ongoing Detroit thread, I thought I'd start a catch-all thread for all things related to Buffalo, New York,

    What's the deal with the thread title? Well, for the past 40 to 50 years, the city's boosters have pointed to new and planned projects, and maybe slow gentrification in some neighborhood or another, boasting that it's a sign the city is experiencing a renaissance. Many Buffalonians are jaded, though, after seeing so many hyped "silver bullet" projects either fail miserably, downsized to comical proportions, or just not get off the ground.

    Starting off with a link: Buffalo Outrage, a Twitter feed mocking Buffalo's exceptionally thin skin. How should Buffalo's boosters feel about this unwarranted jab at the city's psyche? OUTRAGE!
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Oh that's good. The red angry face alone is worth following that link. I have to agree with some of the eye rolling there about the recent Anderson Cooper flap. I don't see the outrage in that.

    Sadly though, there isn't much talk of a Renaissance, or at least not enough talk of the good things that are happening in Buffalo. Bar stool whining over what silver bullet project didn't materialize, complaining about the lack of white knights, and my favorite, blaming different individuals and groups for the region's current lot, drown out much of the optimism.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    I just looked around streetview in Buffalo for awhile. It seems like Main Street is the cut off point for a lot of things. Why has the west side remained so dense with boutique shops and what looks like good-income residents while the east side is very sparse with a lot of open land? What besides "disinvestment" has caused one side to remain traditional and neat while the others side looks like Detroit.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  4. #4
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    It's kind of complex,. but here goes.

    Buffalo's "Millionare's Row" was Delaware Avenue. Delaware Avenue was centrally located, yet far from the city's industrial corridors and the air pollution that accompanied it. Those who could afford it gravitated around Delaware Avenue, and it formed a corridor of sorts for the city's desirable neighborhoods. East of Delaware, Main Street was fairly wide, and predominantly commercial/semi-industrial. lt provided a convenient barrier that contained the wealthy areas to the west.

    The bulk of the city's industrial areas were located near the web of railroads entering the city to the east, along with the Buffalo River. The East Side attracted immigrants from Germany, Poland, and to a lesser extent Italy, because it was close to the factories where they worked. Also, the East Side was mostly flat, and it still contained some semi-agricultural uses from the time it was mostly farmland; dairies, stockyards, and the like. There were a few middle-class neighborhoods on the East Side such as Hamlin Park and the eastern half of University Heights, but for the most part Buffalo's white-collar crowd stayed west of Main Street. The East Side remained predominantly working- to lower-middle class.

    Buffalo didn't attract many blacks who moved north in the first wave of the Great Northern Migration; the educated shopkeepers, businesspeople, lawyers and doctors. Buffalo's black population exploded much later, during WWII, when jobs in the region's factories where plentiful. They didn't have the money to move to the areas west of Main Street. The geographic expansion of Buffalo's black population roughly followed the path of the Kensington Expressway; through neighborhoods occupied mostly by first- and second-generation white ethnics, filled with small, affordable bungalows.

    Most houses in Buffalo are wood frame, due to the location of what used to be the nation's largest lumber port in nearby North Tonawanda. Frame houses don't age well if the occupants or owners don't have the means to maintain them. I think the East Side would be a much different place today if Buffalo was a brick city; there's certainly be less of an urban prairie.

    FWIW, I grew up east of Main, in the Kensington area. The neighborhood remained lower-middle class and racially integrated until the early 1990s. It's a pretty rough place now, although it hasn't been it by the urban prairie pox. My childhood street.

    There's still a few white enclaves east of Main: the blue-collar Kaisertown (Polish) and Lovejoy (Italian) neighborhoods, and the surprisingly well-off Treehaven area. Treehaven is a strange place; a Detroit equivalent would probably be ... oh, imagine a small chunk of Grosse Pointe Park, with Grosse Pointe Park demographics, that just happens to be in the Detroit city limits.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I was in Buffalo last weekend and stayed downtown at Hampton Suites on Delaware. Didn't get a chance to explore the neighborhoods too much, but I did cover some ground walking in the downtown area. Also hung out a bit in Kenmore and Elmwood Village. This was my first trip to Buffalo and I was definitely impressed by what I saw. For all the talk of Buffalo's decline I certainly didn't witness too many of the signs of it. I gather the more troubled areas are in the neighborhoods to the east and west; Buffalo's central spine, if you will, between Delaware Ave. and Elmwood from the downtown all the way up to the 290 split seemed to be in pretty good shape. In fact that was the way we went to Niagara Falls- straight up through the city. Great mix of uses and even some decent retail you would only expect to find in the suburbs of a city like Buffalo that's seen better days. The Kenmore area in particular seemed to do a pretty good job of integrating new retail uses while maintaining traditional street patterns.

    I have some pictures of the downtown that I'll post here once I get around to it. Buffalo City Hall totally mesmerized me to the point where I almost forgot I was losing circulation in my fingers due to the cold.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Only in Buffalo, #249

    The lines at the opening of Popeye's Louisiana Chicken, the national chain's first location in Buffalo, were so long yesterday that police had to provide traffic and crowd control. Some people waited more than two hours for their fried chicken, according to news reports.

  7. #7
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    The lines at the opening of Popeye's Louisiana Chicken, the national chain's first location in Buffalo, were so long yesterday that police had to provide traffic and crowd control. Some people waited more than two hours for their fried chicken, according to news reports.
    For all the hatred "real Buffalonians" direct towards chains, the moment they arrive in Buffalo, they attract serious crowds the moment they arrive. It still takes 60 to 90 minutes to be seated at a Buffalo-area Olive Garden during dinnertime, despite there being a "better" checkered-tablecloth-and-chianti-bottle-candle red sauce joint in nearly every strip plaza.

    Not to get all on youse guys, but I've said it before, national chains and retail concepts come to Buffalo years, or sometimes decades, after they've saturated the rest of the country. The "everywhere but Buffalo" phenomenon lives on, despite a rosier economic picture for the region.

    Far more often than not, national retail and restaurant chains set up shop in the Rochester area long before Buffalo. Trader Joe's opened in Rochester a year before Buffalo. Von Maur opened their first store in the Northeast in a mall in suburban Rochester. Costco, Whole Foods, and Nordstrom Rack are locating in a new lifestyle center that's under construction in the city of Rochester; there's no sign of them in Buffalo, and the area doesn't even have a lifestyle center, period.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    I made my annual pilgrimage to Buffalo for Garden Walk 2014, the 20th anniversary edition, and present a sample of my photos here. If you live within a day's drive of the city or are thinking of taking a vacation in Buffalo/WNY, you should consider coming the last weekend of July for Garden Walk, which is a free, self-guided tour of more than 350 gardens (and uncounted architectural gems) scattered around the city's varied West Side residential neighborhoods. Not only are the gardens beautiful but you'll find the gardeners themselves friendly and gracious. Some put out free lemonade and bottled water for Gardenwalkers, and all are more than willing to talk gardens, plants, yards, and houses. You'll get some great garden/yard ideas, especially ideas that don't cost big bucks and make use of the tiniest of spaces. You don't even have to know where you are going ... Pick up a free map at one of the two headquarters sites and then hop the free shuttle buses that loop around the various sites.

    A front garden in front of a stately 19th century brick home on Whitney Place in the West Village neighborhood. Whitney used to be synonymous with crime and drug use but gentrification has pushed the baddies out of this part of the neighborhood.




    Not all of the West Village has gentrified. There is still housing for poor people available in the area, and there are still many houses in need of rescue like this one on Carolina and Tenth Streets:


    This is a new-build home in the West Village from the late 1980s or early 1990s designed to fit into the Victorian style architecture of the area. It's located on Carolina Street near 10th Street. Notice the bright purple garage on the left that belongs to the neighboring new-build. Bright, bold color schemes are becoming the rule rather than the exception on Buffalo's West Side as are replacing front and tree lawns with gardens. The gardeners here, after filling up their front lawn, are apparently expanding into their tree lawn.




    Johnson Park was Buffalo's original suburb, built in the 1830s for men who made their fortunes on the Erie Canal which opened in 1825. The park used to extend as far east as at least Delaware (South Elmwood didn't exist at the time) and possibly over to Franklin. I believe there was a school at one end. The "median" that separated the two sides of the streets was wide enough to form a "park" at least 50 feet wide, maybe more, which gave the street part of its name. That park still exists at the west end between South Elmwood and Carolina, but the section between South Elmwood and Delaware has been turned into a parking lot and commercial building.

    Daylilies and liatris in the park in Johnson Park in a garden created and maintained by one of the nearby homeowners. Individuals taking on the maintenance of public gardens/spaces like this is not uncommon in Buffalo. The Rose and Japanese Gardens in Delaware Park are maintained primarily by volunteers. All the gardens in street medians are created and maintained by residents. Their efforts are aided by the city government which welcomes their assistance in improving their 'hoods.




    A restored home at Carolina and Johnson Park. This is one of the tiniest gardens on the Gardenwalk as what you see is all the gardening space the homeowner has!



    Not only are front lawns disappearing, but sometimes back yard lawns as well. You can't fit in lots of plants and trees and a seating area and a veggie garden in a tiny city yard if you waste space growing grass:







    One of my favorite Victorian houses appears to have been saved from neglect and/or the wrecking ball! I have loved this house since I saw it on my first Gardenwalk in 2008 and have been wishing somebody with deep pockets would save it. Last year it still appeared to be occupied, and was covered with vines and partly hidden by shrubs. Now all that's gone, there's a building permit taped in the window (I looked), and Peyton Barlow is a general contractor experienced in upscale renovations:




    Not all homes on the Garden Walk are restored Victorian mansions or cottages, and the effort to preserve and improve the neighborhoods isn't limited to upper middle class refugees from the suburbs. Here's a much more modest home on Prospect Street north of the West Village which sits on 3 adjacent lots. In many neighborhoods in Buffalo, empty lots generally mean that the houses that used to sit on them either burned or were demo'd.




    A hiking trail in a park? No, this is part of a long, narrow property created by combining 2 back-to-back lots that stretch between Orton Place and Pennsylvania. The two ladies that own it have turned it from a barren urban wasteland into a series of lush outdoor rooms over the last 14 years (they post photos of their project for Gardenwalk). Besides the conifers, there's a koi pond and stream with waterfalls, a putting green, a Japanese garden, and small gazebo.




    Check out this Victorian beauty on Orton Place:




    What do you do when you are a gardener who lives on a street with a median like West Dorchester? Well, of course, you turn that, too, into gardens! The median gardens on West Dorchester are all created and maintained by the residents, and help the street live up to its deserved reputation as "the prettiest street in Buffalo".



    Here's the link to my Garden Walk Buffalo 2014 set: Gardenwalk 2014. From there, you can click on "Albums" and find my other Garden Walk Buffalo sets:
    • 2008 is primarily the Cottage District, Allentown and Cary Street in the West Village.
    • 2010 is mostly Allentown, Symphony Circle (Orton Place), and Johnson Park.
    • 2011 has a mix of Elmwood Village and the Cottage District.
    • 2013 includes the Cottage District, Allentown, and Johnson Park.

    Enjoy! And better yet, make plans to come on the 21st annual Garden Walk Buffalo 2015! (Garden Walk Buffalo )
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Nice photo-set. It looks like you had good weather for it.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Love the pictures. What a great walk!
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Nice photo-set. It looks like you had good weather for it.
    Thanks. Despite the forecast of scattered thunderstorms both days, both days were actually mostly sunny between 10 and 4 which were the hours for the walk although Sunday was more humid. I went on Saturday because it's less crowded.

    Quote Originally posted by ursus View post
    Love the pictures. What a great walk!
    Thanks, too.

    I almost didn't go because the people I was supposed to be going with started dropping out, the last one cancelling on Friday night, but since I frequently "detach" from my companions and wander around on my own when I go for tours/walks like this anyways, I went alone. It was actually more enjoyable in some ways because I saw more of what I wanted to do at my own pace because I just grabbed something to drink and a snack as I was driving from one spot to another rather than wasting a couple of hours having lunch. I ate my packed lunch later by the Scajacquada Creek in beautiful and historic Forest Lawn Cemetery, sharing my sandwich with the resident geese.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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    Cyburbian jameshansenbc's avatar
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    Some really nice buildings and gardens there! I recently watched the documentary on Olmsted and his original park system for Buffalo is inspiring, I'm curious if the remaining parks were factored into the gardenwalk at all.

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    Cyburbian Doohickie's avatar
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    Thanks for the Garden Walk pics. I haven't been able to catch one in person yet.

    Since this is a 40 year thread....



    When I was up in Buffalo recently I got a chance to ride the Outer Harbor with my cousin. They've done a nice job with it, and I guess they'll soon be improving bicycle access from there to downtown. I also noticed several streets (like South Park) have had road diets to put in bike lanes. There are still areas that could use better bike access, but the improvement was noticeable.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    The once-thought lost PSA with the strutting Terry Licata was found a few months ago.

    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jameshansenbc View post
    Some really nice buildings and gardens there! I recently watched the documentary on Olmsted and his original park system for Buffalo is inspiring, I'm curious if the remaining parks were factored into the gardenwalk at all.
    The Gardenwalk is mostly efforts done by private citizens, but there were a few public spaces like the median gardens on Dorchester Road, the garden islands on Johnson Park, and the gardens at the Erie Basin Marina. The only Olmstead Park that was officially included in the Gardenwalk was the Botanical Garden at South Park.

    Since the Olmstead Conservancy took over maintenance of the parks about 10 years ago, there's been considerable restoration. It's very encouraging.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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    Cyburbian Doohickie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    The once-thought lost PSA with the strutting Terry Licata was found a few months ago.

    It would be easy to dismiss this as quaintly dorky based on it's vintage - something that was cool in it's day but kind of campy now (like the Styx song "Grand Illusion" that everyone my age loved once upon a time but just seems so dated and simplistic now). But no. I remember when this promotional clip came out and it was terrible then, too.

  17. #17

    My experience

    I'm from buffalo and I feel like its been better off than it has been in my 20 years living there.

    Right now we're experiencing a huge growth in our local medical industries thanks to expansions with UB's medical programs and Roswell Park's expansion of cancer research facilities.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    More good news for Buffalo: Where Young College Grads are Moving.

    Unfortunately, many families continue to move out of the city, particularly middle class and working class families with school age children, which only makes things worse in most of the city schools that don't have entrance requirements. Many of the apartment complexes and post-WW II neighborhoods filled with small tract homes in Tonawanda and Amherst are seeing an influx of refugees from Buffalo's notoriously bad public schools. Unlike in Buffalo where places in the best schools often go to students with connected or system-savvy parents, the suburban districts offer certainty: whether you live in a $500,000 McMansion or a $50,000 fixer upper or a $500 month HUD apartment, you know what schools your kids will attend before you sign the lease or mortgage note.

    There's growing sentiment in the city to return to the neighborhood school model, but I'm not sure whether this will come about any time soon, or whether it would have any impact anyways. Buffalo has had a long tradition of segregating the "good" students (re, wealthy and/or talented) from the hoi-poloi, and I doubt that's going to change.
    Last edited by Linda_D; 09 Nov 2014 at 12:00 PM.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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