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Buffalo News: City vs. Suburbs

Dan

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I'm posting the following Buffalo News article in its entirety, because articles are saved only or a few days. Copyright problems, I know.

Us and them

The city-suburb rivalry is getting out of hand in Western New York. It's time to end the hostilities by debunking some common myths

By ANTHONY VIOLANTI
News Staff Reporter
10/12/2003


People will deny it, but an undercurrent of tension permeates life in Western New York and it can be summed up this way - city dwellers vs. suburban dwellers.

You don't need a Control Board to know an ill-wind howls between the two groups. Stereotypes pervade the way we view each other, from the pink flamingos in Cheektowaga to the tattoo parlors on Elmwood Avenue; from the picket fences of Amherst to the corner bars of South Buffalo, from rush-hour traffic jams on Transit Road to the sometimes violent streets of the East Side.

What divides us is more important to our stature as a community than where to locate a casino or how to share a sales tax. It's bigger than any political haggling between Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra and Mayor Anthony Masiello.

We are where we live.

And we all live in Western New York, where attitude is as much a part of our collective neighborhood as any address.

It's roller blades vs. SUVs. It's soccer moms vs. swinging singles. It's the barbecue pit vs. the mosh pit.

Good intentions or suburban sympathy won't solve our problems, but understanding each other will help, and that's why it's time to bring down the walls that separate us and bridge the gap that starts when you cross the city line, either on the way out, or coming in.

Now is the time for urban dwellers and suburbanites to confront the myths that divide us. Here is our attempt:

Myth No. 1: "There are no parking spots in the city."

Suburbanites gripe every time they come downtown for theater or a sporting event.

"I live in Riverside, and while you may have to look a little bit, you can always find someplace to park," said Dwane Hall.

City officials have stated that 28 percent of "downtown surface" is devoted to parking.

It's not enough for suburbanites.

"People in the suburbs have a different idea about parking," Hall said. "They live in big houses with long driveways. They're used to parking two or three cars a couple of steps from the door. They come to the city and park a block away from where they're going and think it's a big deal."

Myth No. 2: "There's nothing but crime in the city."

This is a suburbanite's nightmare: walking alone at night on a city street. We are not going to downplay the idea that there is crime in some Buffalo neighborhoods. But while crime statistics are undeniably higher in the city, safety can often be a state of mind.

"I live on Hickory Street on the East Side," Ruth Bryant said. "We are not fearful of our surroundings."

Bryant believes much of the crime fear has to do with attitude. "People are fearful when they see a stranger from a different ethnic background," she said. "They see a minority person coming toward them and they grab their purse and hold it tighter. It's too easy to fall into that kind of thinking, and we all have to get away from that."

Collin Gehl lives near Elmwood Avenue. "Some people from the suburbs have this sense of danger when they come to the city," he said. "I don't think it's necessary. As long as you use common sense, you can be safe."

Dwane Hall lives in the Black Rock area and says, "It takes an awful lot for people from the suburbs to feel safe in the city. You know, they see all this crime in the city on TV news and it scares them to death."

Myth No. 3: "There is no culture in the suburbs."

The last two myths are related, but they are constant gripes that we hear. Suburban culture is an oxymoron if you listen to city fanatics. But there are some cultural havens outside the city. Any culture lover would feel at home in such places as the Amherst Museum, the Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center in West Seneca, the Center for the Arts at the University at Buffalo's North Campus or the Elbert Hubbard Roycroft Library and Museum in East Aurora. History buffs would appreciate the Millard Fillmore House in East Aurora or the Johnson Jolls Complex in Orchard Park. Live plays and music can be seen at venues such as MusicalFare Theatre in Amherst, Lockport's Kenan Center or the Lancaster Opera House.

"We have art and culture in the suburbs but it's on a different scale than in the city," said Faye Pietrak, who lives in Snyder. "We don't have a lot of big signs saying, "This is an art gallery,' but it does exist in the suburbs and you just have to find it."

Myth No. 4: "There is no diversity in the suburbs."

This stereotype goes beyond race and color. It's the prime myth about suburban life.

The 2000 Census indicates a "minority" population of just over 25,000 living in the suburbs surrounding Buffalo. While the Census states about 84 percent of the suburban population is white, cultural diversity is growing.

"When you look at Amherst, you see all different types of people, and I'm not just talking about race," said Yasmin Dara, who is from Turkey and lives in Getzville. She and her husband, Dr. Tanvir Dara, a native of Pakistan, are Muslims. "The suburbs are opening up to different cultures and people of different ethnic backgrounds and faiths," said Dara, in her early 40s. "You go to Tops or Wegmans out here and you see international food sections. It's another sign of how things are changing."



Myth No. 5: "All the cool people live in the city."

At least that's what city dwellers profess. There is nothing close to the Elmwood and Chippewa strips out in the 'burbs. But you can always find a coffee shop in a storm, and all kinds of funky people live in suburb land.

"Life is funkier in the city, but I've seen some freaky people in Orchard Park," said Maureen Donovan, who lives in the village.

But where do suburbanites go to rock and roll? "You can always find a band playing in a bar somewhere," said Jim Insinna of Cheektowaga.

Suburbanites do more than just sit around the backyard campfire and toast marshmallows. The 2000 Census indicates there are 116 "arts, entertainment and recreation establishments" in the 'burbs compared to 55 in the city. Besides, every mall has a nearby theater complex.



Myth No. 6: "There's no green space in the city."

Suburban critics see a city with no plants or gardens, just sidewalks and streets.

"The people in the suburbs may not know but we have these things in Buffalo called parks," said Susan Warren Russ, executive director of Leadership Buffalo, who lives near the downtown waterfront. "I lived in the suburbs for 30 years but I wouldn't trade anything there for our city park system. There is green space and gardens in the city, but it's different, it's smaller. It has a charm all its own."

Collin Gehl talks lovingly about his grandmother's garden on Maple Street, in the Fruit Belt. "She has a garden, trees and a big lawn. I know it's big because I used to mow it."

Ruth Bryant enjoys watching a summer sunset from her Hickory Street home and gazing at the garden while looking at the city landscape. "We like the flowers and we like to set up a 40-by-60-foot tent in our back yard. Does that sound like we have no green space?"



Myth No. 7: "Nobody in the suburbs talks to their neighbors."

Try telling that to all the politicians who visit the block club parties that seem to be held every weekend on some streets in Western New York's suburbs.

The idea that people in the 'burbs don't talk to each other is "bunk," says Snyder's Faye Pietrak. "We're close in this neighborhood, every time you go out to do some yard work, somebody will stop by for a two-hour conversation."

Yasmin Dara says her neighborhood has a block club that features a newsletter. "When you have kids, you get to know your neighbors and there a lot of families with kids in the suburbs," said Dara, who has three children.



Myth No. 8: "Nobody plows the streets in the city."

Ah, winter in Buffalo: Mounds of snow and cars plowed in on narrow city side streets. This one is hard to fight, because there are more populated streets and therefore more trouble for the plows. But, it is not always the nightmare that people think.

"There are problems, but my street always gets plowed," said Ruth Bryant. "It's tough because there are a lot of one-way streets and lack of driveways. You have to be creative. One time, I stopped a plow driver and asked him if he would go down my block. He looked at me kind of funny and laughed, but then he came down my street."

Collin Gehl said getting city streets plowed can be a problem, but "it depends where you live. The bigger streets always get plowed first. Then you've got to move your car from one side to another with the parking rules. Sometimes, you're on one side of the street when the storm hits and you can't move it. Plowing's a problem, but the bottom line is, sooner or later, your street will get plowed. I just wish it was sooner."



Myth No. 9: "All the houses in the suburbs look the same."

Leave the city, drive on the Thruway and take an exit to Pleasantville?

"It's just not true," says Faye Pietrak. "Come on down to Roycroft Street. You'll see brick houses, colonial houses, wooden houses, big houses and small houses. This whole idea of a suburban house is just a label."

Outsiders may think Cheektowaga houses fit a predictable design but, "It just seems that way," says Jim Insinna.



Myth No. 10: "There's nowhere to shop in the city."

Mall-weaned suburban shop pers who head to the city seem lost without a food court. "I can't stand malls, they're all the same - yuck," says Susan Warren Russ. "I love the Elmwood strip, there are so many little shops for gifts and clothes. And it's not like a mall, you actually get to walk outside."

Surroundings are also different in the little neighborhood shops that dot Allentown, Hertel Avenue and South Buffalo. "There are lots of artsy people and a more cozy feel to shopping," Dwane Hall said.

"City shopping is, not as big, more personal, you can't find everything in one place, but you find what you need," Ruth Bryant said.
 

Rumpy Tunanator

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I read this article sunday and it made me want to puke. The news is so screwed up here that half of their operations are in the suburbs. And the myths of the suburbs are that unless you have parking right in front of the place, its not worth visiting or working at. Thats why half of downtown is covered in parking lots/ramps.
 

biscuit

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I'm reading this column and the first thing that pops in my mind is "This is one of the few I've read about City vs. Suburbs where the pro 'burbs side seems on the defensive."

Case in point, the response to the arguement that the 'burbs aren't cool is, "There's a movie theatre at almost every mall."
Because nothing's says cool like a mall mega-plex.
And to paraphrase the suburbanite you argued that houses in the the 'burbs aren't all alike, "No, some are brick, some are big and some are small, it just seems they all look alike." Well, if it they all SEEM to look alike then they must to some degree.
 

Seabishop

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Buffalo's crime doesn't help its image. I was in Niagra Falls a few years ago and Buffalo local news had a story about an 80 year old man who had his throat slashed while walking on a new riverfront trail in broad daylight. Not too inviting.

I agree you can only go so far with the "suburbanites don't talk to eachother" line. My last urban neighborhood was so full of bad urban stereotypes (drug dealers, wife beaters, etc) that no one talked to eachother either.
 

Rumpy Tunanator

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Seabishop said:
Buffalo's crime doesn't help its image. I was in Niagra Falls a few years ago and Buffalo local news had a story about an 80 year old man who had his throat slashed while walking on a new riverfront trail in broad daylight.
-Thats the problem, the media only focuses on the negatives and rarely the positives around here. I'm sure its the same in other cities as well. All you see is a shooting here, a knifing there, an assault over there, and usually the problems are in a specific neighborhood that is a problem spot.
-People in the suburbs don't realize this and think the city is a cesspool for crime. But crime happens in the 'burbs' too and now people in craphurst are getting robbed in the seas of parking lots at U.B. North. People are getting beat in the suburbs by their spouse. There is more of a drug problem in the suburban schools than in the city and people are starting to wonder what went wrong. Alright time to get off the soap box.
 

pete-rock

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Rumpy Tuna said:
-Thats the problem, the media only focuses on the negatives and rarely the positives around here. I'm sure its the same in other cities as well. All you see is a shooting here, a knifing there, an assault over there, and usually the problems are in a specific neighborhood that is a problem spot.
This article could have been written about the city and suburbs of Philly, Washington, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and on and on.

I get the impression that the city/suburban myths are more prevalent in Northeastern and Midwestern cities than anywhere else in the country, and have as much to do with the decline of cities as anything else.
 

dla

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cookie cutter houses

This is an interesting article, though i would have to disagree with most it, particularly with the notion of the myth about the same house being the same, which i think is actually true. I don't know about this area but where I' m from in Canada suburban homes are look like cookie cutter visit the project outrage website you can see examples of this, www.theslowhome.com/blog/outrage

Moderator note:

dla -- Welcome to Cyburbia. I'm glad you find the issue of suburbia interesting, but our rules do not permit cross-posting of nearly identical threads in each -- or many -- of the subforums. Select the appropriate forum and place the topic there, and there only. If you aren't sure where to post a thread, feel free to contact a mod and we'll be happy to assist you. {Duplicate post deleted.} Thank you and carry on.~Gedunker
 
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