BANANAs and Beasts

31 Jul

Pundit already tackled the solid points made by Allan Uhtman in this week’s edition of the Buffalo Beast but, I thought I’d throw my two cents in as well.

First of all, I think the Beast is an awesome publication, they are the media enema this town has needed for a long time. They’re irreverent, sarcastic, and funny…essentially, everything that Artvoice should be, but isn’t. I look forward to every issue to see which group of self important douchebags they’ve targeted for ridicule.

Surprise, surprise…the self important douchebags of the week are Odien, Newell, Geek, Pundit, and the BANANA brigade. I’m honored.

The latest controversy of this type revolves around the proposed Elmwood Village Hotel, a 72-room, 4-story affair which would replace 5 small businesses at Elmwood and Forest avenues. Recently, a group of business owners and nearby residents filed suit against the city, claiming the approval process for the hotel was rushed and the hotel didn’t obey zoning laws. Savarino Companies, the firm behind the hotel plan, responded by withdrawing its application and resubmitting it for approval.

The bloggers were beside themselves. BuffaloGeek used the acronym BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything), coined back in 1990, along with the old standby NIMBY. Bloggers love a catchy meme, so it immediately became a mantra with the group. Soon they were planning a pro-hotel protest, spearheaded by Marc Odien—known as Buffalo Watchdog on WNYMedia.net—dubbed “The Great BANANA Blackout,” in front of Don Apparel, one of the businesses targeted for demolition, whose proprietor has been one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed hotel.

You’re god damned right we love a catchy meme or clever lawn sign. What kind of political movement worth its salt is complete without a catchy slogan?

I’d like to address a few of his points in order to clarify my position.

…it seems to me that crummy little shops that cater to bohemians and college kids are a big part of the reason the bourgeoisie started encroaching in the first place, so I wonder what happens to the appeal of the neighborhood when they’re priced out of existence.

What happens? They quit bitching and move over to Grant Street where they can hipsterfy a new neighborhood. I’m tired of pretending that Elmwood hasn’t gentrified, it has and this hotel is the finishing touch. Let’s call Elmwood finished and move on to making another neighborhood cool.

It wasn’t opposition to the hotel that brought us out to water the crowd that day. What we’re really against is intentionally mischaracterizing one’s opposition. “Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything” doesn’t accurately describe the viewpoint of anyone, and everyone knows it. It’s a ludicrous characterization, and a rejection of reasonable discourse. It’s every lame buzzword appellation you’ve ever been saddled with. It’s “cut and run,” “moonbat,” “kool-aid drinker” and every other baseless label that demeans the political process.

It absolutely is a ludicrous characterization and it is indeed a rejection of reasonable discourse. My use of it was intended to draw attention to a worthy cause; sustainable and transparent development practices. Every product or movement needs to have a brand, logo, slogan, etc. BANANA is catchy, different, and its use brought the news media out in force…which was the ultimate goal. NIMBY is the correct term, however, it’s overused and boring.

If the hotel gets built, it gets built. At least now it’ll be done by the book, and I don’t really see how anyone can object to that. It’s easy to call someone a “NIMBY” when a proposed project isn’t actually in your backyard.

It was done by the book the first time. The city waived the requirement for an EIS based on the fact that the nature of the business wasn’t all that different than the existing collection of businesses. Savarino held community hearings, solicited feedback, and adapted the project to the desires of the neighbors. It’s a good project.

No, it’s not in my backyard…however, I didn’t buy a house that has a backyard that butts up to a commercial shopping and business district…which the NIMBYs on Granger did.

The conventional wisdom among the community calling itself New Buffalo seems to be that it’s backwards, defeatist thinking for people to be against any new development in the city. But aren’t poorly conceived construction projects a big part of the problem? The convention center, the subway, the Main Place mall, “Buffalo Place”—would the New Buffalo people have blindly supported these mega-blunders and called their opponents BANANAs?

No, each project is judged on its own merits. If the developer is as agreeable as Savarino has been through this process, the city wins. That’s why our support for this effort was crucial, to let developers know that there are individuals in this city that support transparent and sustainable development.

Should citizen lawsuits be condemned as the dirty tricks of obstructionists, or recognized as the peaceful recourse of the weak against the powerful, an essential element to an equitable civilization?

Yes, they should be condemned when they are baseless in nature and motivated by selfish concerns.

If the lawsuit had no merit, why would Savarino have been so quick to restart the process?

Because its cheaper and faster to go through the full EIS than get caught up in court with a bunch of selfish NIMBYs for months on end.

This isn’t abortion or gay rights; it’s a hotel. It’s something to argue about rationally. To reduce the people who oppose it to BANANAs is only to make a monkey of yourself.

Perhaps. However, we drew attention to a quality project and our support for the project was covered by all three TV stations, four radio stations, the Buffalo News and now The Beast. I’d say it was pretty successful.

In any event, the Beast contributed to the discourse on the issue and helped us make it an even more successful rally. Thanks for the driveby, the laughs, and the article. Just as an FYI, we’re all part of New Buffalo, whether you like it or not.

6 Responses to “BANANAs and Beasts”

  1. gabe July 31, 2006 at 10:33 pm #

    Nice retort to some of Al’s points. I pretty much liked what he wrote except foer the part where he lumped in the Hotel with all the mammoth publicly-funded blunders from decades ago. As you point out, evaluating things on a case-by-case basis is certainly the way to go.

    The BEAST are great guys, I worked with them awhile back. Defintiely the most FUN media operation one could participate in, even though the $$ is next to nothing.

    I’m still laughing about the part where they chucked bananas at us.

  2. eac July 31, 2006 at 11:21 pm #

    Well, BG… Imma have to say “touche” to you on all points… and anyway, you know I’m pro-hotel, and I especially liked:

    I’m tired of pretending that Elmwood hasn’t gentrified, it has and this hotel is the finishing touch. Let’s call Elmwood finished and move on to making another neighborhood cool.

    so, all points but one, contrarian though that may make me be. Sorry, Pauldub.

    What kind of political movement worth its salt is complete without a catchy slogan?

    Howabout the myriad empty facades of campaigns we endure in 21st century America? You do know, don’t you, that there was a time when Americans had the attention-spans (and time) for, um, lengthy and critical political discourse? It’s true! Some people… around here… busy as they are… (or not)… still do! Consider the etymology of the term “stem-winder.”

    Slogans work, you’re totally right. Most of them, though, for all the wrong reasons. Work Makes Freedom, bro, and Ignorance Is Strength, right? Our insane culture of anti-intellectualism is killing us all.

  3. pauldub August 1, 2006 at 6:42 am #

    Actually, Ignorance is Bliss. Which makes the miserable attitude of many around here so confusing.

    Thanks for “stem winder”

  4. Evil_Ed August 1, 2006 at 8:22 am #

    I can’t do the trackback thing, but I’ve responded at the BEAST Blog over here.

  5. eac August 3, 2006 at 10:36 am #

    Actually, Ignorance is Bliss. Which makes the miserable attitude of many around here so confusing.

    Well said, sir, well said!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. BuffaloPundit » Blog Archive » Bloggy Banana Debate - August 1, 2006

    […] Evil Ed responds to Geek’s and my BANANA posts here. […]

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