Tag Archives: New york

Historic Preservation: Move it to Save it?

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You may have already seen this USA Today story on a suburban Atlanta congregation that wants to purchase a closed Buffalo church, take it apart, ship it to Georgia and rebuild it there.

Some groups say it is a great way to preserve an otherwise vacant and unused structure. (The Diocese closed the church in 2008 because of declining enrollment – an issue many of our cities have faced that we’ve written about on this blog before.) You can see the web site for the parish that wants to bring the church south here. (Take a look- it truly is a beautiful building.)

Others say this Southern parish is pillaging Buffalo’s architectural treasures. The story quotes David Franczyk, president of the Buffalo city council: “Build your own church. We have enough vacant lots.” He compares the idea to Imperialists taking the Elgin marbles from Greece. It could also hurt Buffalo as the city strives to become a destination for those interested in the arts and architecture.

There’s a healthy debate going on at one of our favorite blogs, Buffalo Rising.

Maybe the fact that another community wants this so badly they are willing to pay millions of dollars to move it 900 miles will be a wake-up call to some in Buffalo to find another use for the building and preserve it there.

One thing’s for sure: they don’t build ’em like this anymore!

What do you think?

-KG

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Filed under architecture, Art, Economic Development, Headline, regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs

Missing Buffalo

Read here what one Buffalo woman misses after moving to Florida.

-KG

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Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, regionalism

The Rust Belt’s “Unfinished Business” of School Desegregation

Take a look at this column, published in Buffalo’s weekly Artvoice.

It reviews a book, Hope and Despair in the American City by Gerald Grant (Harvard University Press 2009), which examines school desegregation through metropolitan-wide school reorganization.

The premise? This work “compares the sorry recent history of Syracuse, New York with the glad success of Raleigh, North Carolina. One town tried desegregation within the boundaries of the old city and failed, and is dying, while the other town regionalized schools, and has been growing by leaps and bounds,” writes reviewer Bruce Fisher. (Fisher is the founding director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at Buffalo State College, where he is visiting professor of Economics. He lives in Buffalo and served as deputy county executive from 2000 to 2007. Nepotism alert: he’s also an old friend of my Dad’s.)

Metro-wide school districts are an intriguing idea. I’m not really familiar with school districts in the South, but apparently, “in the South, there are city districts and county districts, but not the little micro-districts that track closely to town boundaries. Unifying Raleigh with Wake County took a decision between two districts. In Erie County (New York), there are 29 school districts.”

Fisher explains, “Up until 1974, the trend was toward breaking down the barrier between city and suburb. Metro-wide schools early on proved dramatically successful in integrating poor and rich, black and white, urban and suburban kids, and the outcomes since then consistently prove that that success is academic as well as social. Test scores for kids of all income backgrounds and colors are much higher than in the isolated, city-only districts that are the norm throughout the Rust Belt; and in these metropolitan-wide districts, there is so high a level of civic engagement and popular support for maintaining the system that race- and class-based appeals for a return to segregation get voted down.”

The book identifies Supreme Court decisions in the 1970s as a turning point – for the worse.

This definitely sounds like an interesting book. “Gerald Grant’s short book tells this story very well. It is that rarity among policy tomes: a page-turner. The author interweaves his own experiences as a parent, teacher, and researcher into a coherent narrative of the forces that alternately evil and dim-witted politicians loosed upon the North,” Fisher says.

I’d love to hear the thoughts of anyone else who has read this.

-KG

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Filed under Book review, Education, Good Ideas, Politics, Public Education, Race Relations, regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs, The Media, Urban Poverty

You Heard it Here First

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We at Rust Wire don’t like to toot our own horn that much.

But I just couldn’t help it after seeing this recent story in The New York Times about Buffalo’s lower west side neighborhood.

The story notes that this historically blue-collar Italian section of the city has recently become home to a number of different immigrant groups, such as people from Puerto Rico, Myamar and Somalia.

In a post about Buffalo back in March 2009, Rust Wire made this observation about the area:

“Our next stop was Niagara Street, on the city’s West side, to what was once a very Italian neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960’s where a number of my father’s family members had lived. Vestiges of the old neighborhood remain, in some of the business names.

I honestly expected this to be a fairly blighted area, but it turned out to be in pretty decent shape- judging by my (albeit somewhat superficial) view driving through. There definitely were not many boarded-up homes here, and the residents seemed to be from all different racial backgrounds. We drove by a small Asian market, and several women we saw appeared to be recent immigrants from Africa or the Middle East, and were wearing beautiful, colorful dresses.

My dad’s grandfather’s old home on York Street was brightly painted with multi-colored trim, his uncle’s old house on 14th Street was also in good shape.”

In Richard Longworth’s book, Caught in the Middle, he emphasizes that Rust Belt and Midwest cities must work harder to attract immigrants the way they once did.  It looks like at least this neighborhood in Buffalo is succeeding.

-KG

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Filed under Featured, Rust Belt Blogs, The Big Urban Photography Project, The Media

The Downside of Regionalism

Carol Coletta has an awesome post up at GOOD. I’ve been skeptical of the concept of ‘regionalism’ for quite a while. For all the hype, all I’ve seen around me in Cleveland is suburban development at the expensive of the central city, Coletta provides some much needed clarity

Regionalism can be relatively easy to impose in regions with big, dominant core cities, such as New York and Chicago. In those regions, everyone knows what’s powering the economic engine, and no one can risk killing it off. The dominant city is favored, as it should be, in regional decisions because it’s in everyone’s clear interest to do so…

But in those regions with cities of equal size or with a weak central city, the conflicts are writ large. The conflicts are even sharper in regions with a history of racial and economic segregation. That’s challenge enough. The real problem comes when, in the name of regionalism, decision makers become place agnostic. In other words, they can’t favor any one place in the region for fear of offending every other place in the region. That translates into development anywhere in the region being labeled as good development. If a road is built in one part of the region, it must be equalized with a road in another part of the region. If a cultural facility is awarded to one place, the next sports facility should surely be built elsewhere.

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Coletta

Weak central city? Historic racial and economic segregation? Sounds like Cleveland to me.

It’s hard to swallow the claim that Eaton Corporation’s move from downtown Cleveland to a suburban development ten miles to the east will be miraculously beneficial for the metro area. The apparent apathy from Frank Jackson and other local leaders seems to be embedded in the belief that the move is in the name of ‘regionalism’ and thus must be worthwhile. When Jackson successfully picked off Crowe Horwath from Mayfield Heights, the PD article made this point clear:

Mayfield Heights is not one of the 18 suburbs that Jackson said have forged tax-sharing deals with the city in an effort to boost regionalism.

As if no effort would have been made to bring this firm downtown had they been part of the ‘regional pact’. It’s frustrating because we really appear to be willing to let the romantic idea of regionalism undermine our region anyway.

-Rob Pitingolo

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Filed under Economic Development, Headline, regionalism, The Big Urban Photography Project

Preserving Buffalo’s Past

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Readers of Rust Wire (and citizens of the Rust Belt in general) may know that some of Buffalo’s strongest assets are its spectacular architectural treasures.

The city is wisely trying to capitalize on these structures for tourism and economic development purposes.

Take a look at this video from The Buffalo News about efforts to restore the Richardson- Olmsted complex (formerly the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane).

I’ve driven by this building before, I’m eager to see what the inside is like.

What asset or piece of unusual architecture do you think your city should -or already did – preserve?

-KG

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Filed under architecture, Art, Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Urban Planning

“Buffalo Lockjaw” Author Interview

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Rust Wire is pleased to share an interview with Greg Ames, the author of Buffalo Lockjaw, a fantastic novel mostly set in Buffalo.

Here’s a passage:

“Turned out that Buffalonians loved talking about Buffalo, especially during happy hour, which lasted from five o’clock to midnight. Many of them felt an immense tenderness for this town. They were proud and protective of Buffalo. They dipped their pizza crusts in puddles of blue cheese and argued about where to find the best chicken wings in the city. They celebrated happy hour most nights and ate fish fry on Fridays. They had distinctive vowel-strangled accents, and the nasal sounds of certain words (“car” and bar”) rivaled Long island’s more jarring and annoying tonal variations. Their last names were Szwejbka and O’Shaughnessy and Torrentino. They distrusted book learning. Money talked and bullshit walked. They had provincial worldviews, and they definitely considered you show-offish if you used words like “provincial.””

For purposes of this blog, we focused on Buffalo-centric questions. But I also really enjoyed the book from a literary standpoint; there’s James, the likeable but screwed-up protagonist returning home to Buffalo, some very real family dialogue and dynamics, heart-breaking nursing home scenes, and questions every family could face at some point. Ames really captured the smells, sights, feel, and depressing-ness of a nursing home when he describes the main character’s visits with his mother.

RW: Tell us about growing up in Buffalo. Where in the city did you grow up and share some of your Buffalo memories.

GA: “I grew up in Kenmore, a suburb of Buffalo, so I was one of the ‘Kenmorons’ I referred to in my novel. Memories . . . As a third grader I was so disruptive that one day my teacher put an empty refrigerator box around my desk, segregating me from the rest of the class. The box fit around the desk perfectly. It was an unprecedented situation and nobody knew how to deal with it, including the teacher herself. I had a subscription to Mad magazine and the governing philosophy seemed to be: Hey kid, everything in America is fake. Success. Marriage. Careers. Families. Hollywood movies. Don’t be fooled. My first concert was the Violent Femmes at Buffalo State College. I was in 8th grade. Somebody in the audience threw a full beer can at the Violent Femmes’ drummer. The lead singer said, ‘Fuck you, Buffalo,’ and they all walked offstage. Thrilling. Later there would be Suicidal Tendencies, Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Descendents, but I think that first show is still the best I’ve ever seen.

RW: Growing up, did you like or dislike living in Buffalo? When did you leave and why?

GA: “I liked Buffalo. I hated all the schools I went to, but that would have been the case no matter where I lived. My family moved to Rochester when I was between my sophomore and junior years in high school, and that was traumatic for me. I ended up at a Jesuit high school, a place where detention was called Justice Under God and you had to write ‘conduct’ and ‘discipline’ until your hand cramped. I was expelled three months before graduation. The principal, a man with hair sewn into his scalp, allowed me to take my final exams, alone, in a broom closet across the hall from his office. That summer I moved back to Buffalo for college, because all my friends were there. Over the years I moved away from Buffalo a number of times, but I felt I could always come back if I wanted to.

RW: I know for myself growing up in Erie, Pa., I began to feel a lot more pride about where I had come from after I left. Did you have similar feelings after leaving your hometown?

GA: “I’ve always had Buffalo pride. It’s a fine city. Some natives are a little obsessive about it, though, and they should relax. They won’t hear a single bad word spoken about Buffalo, and that’s obviously closed-minded—no place is perfect—but this defensiveness comes from being the butt of a joke for so many years. It’s annoying to hear elitists mocking you. Nobody likes that feeling. Some people in the publishing world actually think that if you set a story or a novel in Buffalo or Pittsburgh or Cleveland that it can’t be of interest to anyone outside that particular region.”

RW: Do you think you might ever live in Buffalo again? Why or why not?

GA: “I’m not opposed to it. I still have a lot of friends and family members in Buffalo, but for the time being I’ve made a life for myself in Brooklyn.”

RW: In your opinion, what’s right and what’s wrong about Buffalo?

GA: “I don’t know. The mistakes made in the 20th century seem to be endless. It’s sad to look back at what was and might have been. Read any history of Buffalo and you’ll see a story of corrupt government, passionate citizens who can’t make their voices heard, and the destruction of architectural and other historical treasures. There’s been a lack of imaginative vision. Most of the blue-collar industry has left town but nothing has replaced it. There are few jobs for college graduates, so they move away. City leaders have been kicking around ideas about the waterfront for at least thirty years now. You’d have to ask a city planner or a social scientist to answer this. I’m sure the answer is very complicated. The one thing I do know is that Buffalo is a city filled with intelligent, interesting people, and that’s where any growth and change has to start.”

RW: How much of your book is made up and how much is based on your real life? Are the “urban ethnographies” real or invented?

GA: “Like all writers, I borrow from my own memories and experiences, but this book is fiction. The urban ethnographies are fiction.”

RW: Can you recommend any favorite Buffalo blogs?

GA: “The two blogs I know about are the Buffalo Range and Buffalo Rising, but I’m sure there are many more good ones.”

RW: Is there anything else you want to talk about that I haven’t asked you?

GA: “No. I’ve probably talked too much already. Interviews make me nervous sometimes because I feel like I’m talking out my ass. I try to give conscious answers about stuff that is largely unconscious, and weeks later I think, ‘What the hell was I talking about?'”

-KG

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Filed under Book review, Headline