Wow. A City/Suburb Post. Yay.

28 Nov

The endless bullshittical sniping between suburbanites and city people is so tiresome and so yesterday. At least, it should be.

This Buffalo Rising post proposed a novel idea towards the city of Buffalo absorbing the inner-ring suburbs as “boroughs”, kind of like New York City. It would probably require a constitutional amendment to accomplish, but it’s that kind of thinking that I like to read about. Unfortunately, some of the comments devolve into sheer nonsense.

The most fascinating comment so far is one psychoanalyzing the myriad evil and semi-evil reasons why people would deign to live in a suburb.

A Buffalo Rising commenter calling himself “wizardofza” suggested that the reasons why people might opt to move to a suburb for the school district are racists or xenophobes.

I’d also love to see merged school districts as well, but face it, the majority of metro residents Buffalo are either racist or xenophobic. Their view of the city and its school district is that of a nasty cesspool that needs to be quarantined off from their happyland.

Sadly, racial/class-based fear is the #1 obstacle to regional consolidation.Most of the suburban municipalities are at least 96% white and the people there intend on keeping it that way.Segregation here is still a harsh reality. If we’re going to achieve baby steps toward regional consolidation, it’s best to leave out the powder-keg issues for now.

And then, perhaps coming to the realization that his comment was a gross exaggeration, amended it thusly:

The majority of residents in Buffalo area are either:

1. Racist- This is a very small percentage but still existing among older folks and some families in very working class pockets of the city and white ethnic inner-suburban areas.

2. Xenophobic – This would be the majority. They don’t hate (or see as inherently inferior) anyone based on their race or social upbringing, but want to live as far away from the perceived problem as they can. Xenophobes want a predictable living environment with neighbors just like them and their families.

Racism obviously exists, and unfortunately always will. The “xenophobe” criteria is somewhat sillier, since no one can ever guarantee in any way, shape, or form, a “predictable” living environment with neighbors “just like them.” There is more to diversity than just the color of one’s skin.

3. Those who are respectful of the city’s cultural heritage and feel pity for the city and its problems but don’t want their own families/children to have any part in it.

4. Those of us who put up with the annoyances of city life because, in the end, the perks and amenities of living in the city to us outweigh the negatives.

I suspect your friend who couldn’t take it anymore and bailed the city was teetering between #4 and #3. I doubt he moved out because of the stupid parking ticket blitz. In the end for that person the annoyances outweighed the amenities of city living.

It’s sad these days that city living has been relegated to a lifestyle choice. Though, when gas prices go up even further this will start to change.

Like gas prices going up to $3.40 have obliterated SUVs and pickups from our roadways?

I’m curious as to how many city people who are so quick to heap scorn, derision, and hatred on people who have the unmitigated gall to not share their choice of living within city limits actually have kids in school? And how many of those kids go to private or parochial schools? Seriously, these arguments and blanket accusations against people keep this region down just as viciously as high taxes, bad politics, and elevated highways.

You go to Chicago or New York or Boston, and do you think people have these endless, pointless bitchfests between city and suburban people? It’s so counterproductive and in a lot of cases hypocritical.

I wonder how many of the holier-than-thou set who heap scorn, derision, and hatred on suburban people live within a few blocks of the tony Elmwood Strip or boho magnet Allentown? And how many live in suburban-in-all-but-boundary North Buffalo? Seriously, if you’re in any of those neighborhoods, you have very little business indeed criticizing suburbanites for their alleged demands of homogeneity. (Note: the Amherst town supervisor is every bit a minority as the mayor of Buffalo).

I was once in my 20s and early 30s, living within the limits of a city and enjoying that lifestyle to the fullest. But when you have a kid, your primary focus in life is that kid / those kids. Those kids are not arbitrary statistics to their parents – they are the future and your flesh and blood, and you want the best for those kids. And if someone decides that those kids ought to be in a different school district, and you have the ability to make that move, you do it because you have little room for error.

Or if you choose to stay and have the wherewithal to send those kids to Elmwood-Franklin or a charter school or Nichols or St Joe’s, you do that. And if you choose to send them to Buffalo Public Schools, you do that too.

It’s nobody’s business but the parents’. Period.

Because those kids have one and only one shot at getting a good education, and you do whatever you can to ensure that they get it. Nowhere is perfect – not Clarence Schools, not Orchard Park Schools, not private schools, and not Buffalo public schools. But you take your best shot at what you think is best.

If people love living in the city, more power to them. If people choose to live in the suburbs, more power to them. The point is that they have made a very difficult choice indeed – choosing to stay in an economically backward and depressed area in the first place. The entire region is in shabolic condition economically, and we ought to be trying to do what we can to work together to move it forward, not taking potshots at each other to prove who’s got a more accurate moral compass based on their selection of home location.

There are just under 381,000 households in Erie County, therefore there are just under 381,000 different reasons why people choose to live where they do.

Maybe a little less inane finger-pointing and name-calling from both city and suburb at each other would do the region a whole lot of good.

(Photo from

60 Responses to “Wow. A City/Suburb Post. Yay.”

  1. Pauldub November 28, 2007 at 12:06 pm #

    People who judge others based solely on their zip code are idiots, plain and simple.I Grew up in Williamsville in the 70’s. I used to get the snide remarks about it being snooty. Jump ahead 15 years I’m living on Grand Island (not in a McMansion) and I attend a parenting class on Williamsville. When we sign in, and others see my address, I get the remarks again. From people in freaking Williamsville. People better get over their ignorance. They are the ones losing out. Zip codes don’t matter. Attitudes do.

  2. peter scott November 28, 2007 at 12:21 pm #

    grew up in the 14224…now live in the 14222…

    i can’t knock anyone for loving or hating either place…because I love and hate them both too…

  3. Mike Miller November 28, 2007 at 12:27 pm #

    It’s interesting that wizardofza paints all of us “suburbanites” with the same broad brush of prejudice that he accuses us of.

    I think this whole issue is beyond ridiculous. I live in a separate township in a different county and I’ve been painted with the same brush. Who cares where I live? When people ask me where I’m from, I say “Buffalo” proudly. From Buffalo to Niagara Falls to the Southern Tier, isn’t it all ours to enjoy? And conversely, isn’t it all ours to maintain?

    On the east side and at the Central Terminal, the majority of the volunteers in these collective groups are from elsewhere in the region and not once did anyone ever tell us to go home and mind our own businesses.

  4. Pauldub November 28, 2007 at 12:37 pm #

    Mike, you don’t count. You live in the Boonies!
    I have yet to be asked where I live when I volunteer to do something. We all live in Western New York. Be proud.

  5. steve November 28, 2007 at 1:21 pm #

    So many of the city-suburb arguments and accusations give one the impression that Buffalo’s suburbs are only full of people who moved FROM Buffalo.

    I now live in the same suburb I was born in 50 years ago. That makes it my hometown. Should I be pissed that city residents decided not to live where I do?

    I do see where the problem originated, though, at least in my family. My dad moved to my suburb in 1950 from another suburb. His dad moved to that suburb from a suburban area in Canada in 1930. But, he moved to Canada in 1918 from Glasgow, Scotland — which has pretty much been a city for centuries. So, it was my grandfather’s fault.

    Now, if wizardofza wants someone to blame, he can head to the Cold Spring cemetary in Lockport and yell at my grandfather’s remains.

  6. MIke November 28, 2007 at 1:30 pm #

    Dear Paul,
    Its just not people who judge people by zip codes, the insurance companies have been doing this for years. What kind of remarks do you think you would get if you signed in with a Niagara Falls address? But Grand Island does have its share of duplexes and white trash, plus you have that wonderful Dupont building that everyone sees from the 190.

  7. TseTse November 28, 2007 at 1:51 pm #

    Wizardota translated means – professional student who lives at home, pays no taxes, has no responsibilities, and is still sucking at the family tit.

  8. Pauldub November 28, 2007 at 1:57 pm #

    Based on the people in the class, they probably would have thought I was from a different country if I signed in with a Falls address (I did live there for a spell). Absolutely clueless.

  9. mike hudson November 28, 2007 at 1:59 pm #

    hmmm…..which are the hatfields and which are the mccoys? fits well with gov. spitzer’s vision of the region as the appalachian of the northeast, don’t you think?

  10. Boots November 28, 2007 at 2:30 pm #

    I’ve lived in 14150, 14221 and 14216. 14216 was my favorite by far.

  11. STEEL November 28, 2007 at 2:41 pm #

    OK I will take a stab at this one.

    So, everyone thinks I am anti suburb..and, I am.. I don’t hate suburbanites…I just dislike their choices and the consequences of those choices. As an urban dweller It cost me money to support their suburban life style choice, It costs the environment tremendously, It costs The United States in the world as our foreign policy is geared more and more toward supporting the suburban need for cars, and the suburban environment is GENERALLY built out in a cheap ugly manner (increasing so in the city as well).

    That being said, I completely understand the desire for clean safe neighborhoods and good schools. But, That should not excuse what is now the majority of America’s population from any responsibility for helping eradicate the social problems of our inner cities.

    Moving away from these problems does not mean they go away! These problems are largely due to centuries of racism which our country only started to correct in the 1960’s. These social problems were not created by one group. It is a societal creation. The Elmwood hipster, so often derided on this site, did not create the problem of the East side. Why should the problem of the east side be born solely by a smaller and smaller group of those with means who choose to live in Buffalo? Is the solution to completely abandon the city and let it turn back into forests? Do we just dump an irreplaceable historic heritage into the lake and pretend it never happened?

    When you extract most of the wealth from one municipality you leave behind decay and poverty which results degradation of infrastructure and services which forces out more wealth. Poverty breeds more poverty as socially inept parents raise children to be socially inept. The best school system in WNY would not be able to teach these kids. Many suburban residents look down at the “City” as a horrible place that is morally bankrupt and corrupt and if it would only act more like the suburbs it would not have so many problems. It is just not that simple.

    Take this scenario, what if Amherst absorbed the east side and ran the school system for that part of the city. Would all the problems of that part of the city magically disappear? I think not. More likely the Amherst schools would begin to resemble the Buffalo schools no matter how well they were run.

    Or this one. What if Amherst had vast portions of its land abandoned with rotting buildings left behind and few property owners paying taxes. Would the town be able to continue to provide high quality schools and services? I think not.

    So what to do about Buffalo. Many suburbanites will say fix the schools , plow the streets, fix up and tear down the rotting buildings. With what resources? ? ? The wealth is now in the suburbs. As WNY expands and its population decreases the problems successfully contained within Buffalo are now spreading into the suburbs. Amherst is in deficit spending, all but 2 Erie county municipalities have lost population, Cheektowaga is experiencing dramatic increases in abandonment, and as reported in the News about a year ago WNY has the largest per capita number of elected officials in the country.

    As the population thins and drops WNY will have less and less ability to concentrate resources on providing a high quality of life. When people look at WNY from the outside the city is the symbol of the region. What they see is a ragged poor city. That becomes the area’s image. That image is not progressive and it is not attractive. With out an attractive vibrant core outsiders will not consider WNY as an attractive place and will pass it by when deciding where to invest.

    So sure people can move further and further out and say I’ve got mine. You can say lets not bicker we are all WNY City and suburb alike. But those are just words. As long as you are saying Ive got mine and the city be damed you are pretending that the city is a foreign country that is no concern to you own. The problem of the cities poverty racked neighborhoods are not a problem created by the City. It is not a problem that should be born solely buy the Elmwood Hipsters and few other well of neighborhoods.

    So if you really believe that WNY is one place what are the means to sharing the wealth, opportunities, and problems equally? How do we remove the negatives born by the city? How do we protect or historic heritage and promote new growth at the core?

  12. MIke November 28, 2007 at 2:56 pm #

    Hey Hudson, its more like the bloods vs the crips or the tootsies vs hutus. But I always thought of myself as Homer and you being Flanders.

  13. Mike Miller November 28, 2007 at 3:03 pm #

    Steel, FYI: the overwhleming majority of people volunteering in the east side groups I work with are from the suburbs.

  14. MIke November 28, 2007 at 3:14 pm #

    Yup Mike I believe you, the only time you see east side people is if there is a shooting, then they are all crying on cue once the news shows up or if there is a march, why don’t we ask them to pick up litter while they are marching?

  15. MIke November 28, 2007 at 3:14 pm #

    Yup Mike I believe you, the only time you see east side people is if there is a shooting, then they are all crying on cue once the news shows up or if there is a march, why don’t we ask them to pick up litter while they are marching?

  16. Pauldub November 28, 2007 at 3:34 pm #

    Steel – If they are saying I got mine, the you’re saying I WANT mine. Difference being????

  17. Christopher Smith November 28, 2007 at 3:37 pm #

    Is this story about Buffalo Rising ? or Buffalo Rising commenters? Or regionalism?

  18. STEEL November 28, 2007 at 3:43 pm #

    Difference being that I am asking for the people with means to shoulder the burden of this massive social problem equally. I don’t want to live in or near a slum anymore than anyone else. I want to send my kids to public school. I also don’t choose to live in the suburbs. Why should my choice be dampened by the burden of supporting the slums on my back? I did not create the problem. Add to that the fact that I am then asked to contribute to all the extra infrastructure required for people to live in the suburbs.

  19. hank November 28, 2007 at 3:48 pm #

    having been an expat for over 30 years, allow me to inject some humor into this thread.
    in 90 out of 100 cases this happens, and it always makes me laugh. You meet someone with say, a Bills license plate on the front of their car (In NC you can do that).

    You ask: Where are you from?
    If they say “Buffalo”—they’re a suburbanite. anywhere from 14150 to 14225 to OLEAN.

    Then there’s the ones who say
    “BUFFALO—YOU GOT SOME KIND OF FUCKING PROBLEM WITH THAT?”—Then I respond–Nope, I’m from Riverside, and a smile spreads across the persons face. You found a City Dweller.

    It’s even happened to me. Tossed in the drunk tank in the New Orleans Parish jail in 1985, I heard a guy say
    “You’re not from here—where are you from?”
    I said –New York.
    “What part of New York”
    I said–Buffalo.
    “What PART of Buffalo”
    I said–look here asshole, I’m from Riverside–If you’ve got a fucking problem with that—get your ass up off the floor and dance!
    He says “Hell NO!–I’m from Saratoga Street”. Nuff Said–A Riverside Hommie shows up in the crossbar hotel in N.O. Turns out I went to West Hertel Middle School with his older brother.

    Now for some pulled pork with the fries and slaw in this comment.
    Suburbs in WNY –IMO–were a status symbol for the WW2 generation. If you lived in Polonia, you moved “out Broadvay South Ogden”–So you could go to Lucki-Urban, buy dishwasher/refrigerator. If you lived in North Buffalo/Riverside /Black Rock, you looked at the Island, Tonawanda/Amherst, or even the open spaces of NT. if you lived out near UB, you might think about Williamsville/Amherst.

    I lived in a neighborhood built before most people owned cars, few driveways, houses REAL close together. Plus Riverside is hemmed in by RR tracks and factories, some now brownfields, but where there weren’t tracks, Wood&Brooks/WesternElectric Chevrolet Tonawanda/Dupont/Dunlop surrounds the community. I always felt “Hemmed In” in my neighborhood.

    Sure, we had the Park, Pool and Ice Rink, but when I turned 11 and got to go camping with the Boy Scouts, I discovered
    Camp Toad Hollow in Eden (now a subdivision), Camp Ti-Wa-Ya-Ee in Holland (now a private campground), Camp Schoellkopf between Cowlesville and Bennington in Wyoming County, and ScoutHaven on Crystal Lake in Arcade.

    With nothing to do but look out the window on the way there, I saw these houses spaced WAY far apart, with woods around them, and some “breathing room”. I decided when I was 12 that that’s how I wanted to live. No more city livin’ for me. And that’s how I live now. 10 miles from the center of the town, 200 acres of woods behind me, 140 acres farmed in front of me, and nobody around ANYWHERE.

    Difference between me and THEM on BRO is I don’t fault city dwellers for how they want to live. If that’s what trips their trigger, fine. IFO can’t see people living on top of one another in apartments or houses on top of each other, but I have choices, and so do they. I respect them and think I should be respected too! I don’t look down on them, and I don’t think they should slight me for my choice. At least I DID live in the city, and decided it wasn’t for me.

    Now the eastside is becoming an Urban Prairie. And it would be bigger if there was money to raze more of the deserted housing.

    A time WILL HOPEFULLY COME when Albany decides to make NYS a Business Friendly Place again, and developers will buy block of Urban Prairie and start to build again as people return. It’s just a work in progress.

    Alan’s said many times until Albany reforms, Buffalo is screwed. I agree.

  20. Pauldub November 28, 2007 at 3:51 pm #

    Assumption – If you are subsidizing my infrastructure, am I not doing the same for yours?
    Other than that, I am more than willing as many others who live outside the city to shoulder this burden. But if you expect that, you might try to address it in that fashion instead of some of the more inflammatory rhetoric.

  21. hank November 28, 2007 at 3:58 pm #

    For us aging Hipsters, listen to Three Dog Night–“Out in the Country”. It still gives me the chills, a great song that kind of tells why some folks prefer the outer rings to living inside the city.

  22. STEEL November 28, 2007 at 4:12 pm #


    The infrastructure required to support a suburban neighborhood is vastly greater that that needed to support a dense urban neighborhood and thus I as an urbanite contribute to you not the other way around. (urbanites would include those living in dense areas of Tonawanda, Kenmore Lackawanna etc.)

    Perhaps hank has it right. We should all live on 200 acre spreads. That would work out well.

  23. LC Scotty November 28, 2007 at 4:22 pm #


    Out of curiousity, do you have any children, and if so where are/did they go to school? If you have the means to send your children to better schools by moving, would you not do so out of principle?

    I live in the city, in South Buffalo. My wife and I bought our first home there about 4 years ago, and we love our neighborhood. We love this city. But we will absolutely not allow our children to go to the worst district in the area. Should I sacrifice my children’s education to satisfy some nebulous definition of “social justice”? Should I stay in the city and keep contributing to that school district, even though it already spends more per pupil than any other in the area while consistently being dismal? The Buffalo Schools don’t need money, they need freedom. Freedom to take the steps nessescary to fix themselves such as changes to hours, curriculum and the ability to hold parents accountable for their children’s lack of preparedness.

    You are right that many of these problems arise from better than a century of racism, but the subsequent decades of liberal entitlement spending has done nothing but exacerbate the problem.

    Throwing more money down the drain on socialized medicine and welfare is not going to cure it. Writting blank checks to the school district won’t do it either. I don’t know for sure what the answers are, but I have some guesses.

    1) Vouchers for private schools/privatization. Maybe it will work, and maybe it won’t. The free market is uniquely adept at solving many (but not all) problems. i happen to think that this is one. As the schools that do the best job get more students (and hence more money) poor performers will close down. Of course this is not completely without peril-some kids will not be financially worthwhile to spend the efforts on, particularly those from homes with zero parental support for education.

    2) The ability to hold parents accountable for not preparing their children for school. Start pulling the welfare check and watch these kids start coming to school every day. Yes I realize that every welfare recipient is not a problem, and not every problem is a welfare recipient, but look at the numbers. The worst district also has the highest number of poor kids. This proposal won’t cure everything, but if it helps 10% of the kids, then it’s worth it.

    Bottom line is that as long as the schools suck, people that can leave will. All of the high minded principles in the world won’t change the fact that good parents will do anything in their power to help their children. If that includes moving to a district with fewer “bad” parents so be it.

  24. LC Scotty November 28, 2007 at 4:28 pm #

    STEEL wrote:

    “The infrastructure required to support a suburban neighborhood is vastly greater that that needed to support a dense urban neighborhood and thus I as an urbanite contribute to you not the other way around. (urbanites would include those living in dense areas of Tonawanda, Kenmore Lackawanna etc.)”

    Nazzzofast, friend. While it may be true that the infrastructure of a suburban neighborhood takes more money than an urban one (I think-I’m not even sure that this is true. Could you please cite a ref?), those living in the suburbs bear an enormously higher tax burden. My taxes (county, city school and whatnot) are around 1000 per year. If I moved my 1800 ft sq house to Clarence, that tax load goes up by a factor of 10 (or damn near). Unless the urban environment costs 1/10 that of the suburban, you’re not subsidizing them, they are still subsidizing you.

    As an aside, if the wealthiest folks pay almost all of the taxes, and they live in the burbs, then how can we in the city be subsidizing them? Does not pass the sniff test.

  25. Pauldub November 28, 2007 at 4:31 pm #

    Who pays for the upkeep of your infrastructure?

  26. STEEL November 28, 2007 at 4:51 pm #

    I have two kids one of whom is in public school. We luckily happen to have one of the few good publics near us.

    LC Scotty,

    I don’t disagree with you. I think you are unfairly burdened by this school dilemma as am I. Why not share the education burden of the inner city with the surrounding towns. Why not one Erie county school district? Save money on administration and allow kids to go to any school in the district that they want to. After all it is one WNY, city and suburb alike. This proposal should be a no brainer right? That way you could live in the neighborhood of your choice without having to make difficult compromises.

  27. STEEL November 28, 2007 at 5:04 pm #


    My lifestyle does not require any highways and yet I pay for them. as a matter of fact the amount of roadway I need in general for my way of life is much smaller than yours in the burbs

    My cable bill is the same as yours even though it takes far less cable and subsequent maintenance to deliver service to me.

    Ditto electrical

    Ditto Gas

    Ditto water

    Ditto Sewer (if you are not on septic)

    I also pay for the massive abandonment and degradation inside the city as fewer people are left with means to pay. I have to possibly spend money on private school since the public schools are tremendously burdened with teaching unteachable children.

    But still no one answered the questions listed in my first comment. Is the city not worth saving. If the answer is yes then I am horrified.

  28. LC Scotty November 28, 2007 at 5:05 pm #


    That’s not a bad idea, but I wonder what would happen. Would it turn into a flight out of Erie County? Would we be bussing kids from Clarence to PS 6 on Hickory and bringing kids from BF out to Lancaster? Perhaps an attempt to “dilute” (for lack of a better word) the problem children? It is certainly something to look at when trying to solve the puzzle.

    About the funding/subsidization thing-I did not account for the population differential in that example. So the Clarence person might be paying 10X the taxes, but if there’s 10X peopel living in the city then it’s a wash. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not a simpl;e problem, tracking the money.

  29. LC Scotty November 28, 2007 at 5:17 pm #


    I don’t think the question is “Is it worth it?”, but rather “Can it be done?”

    One other thing that will go a long way towards helping the city is readily available jobs with decent wages. That’s never going to happen as long as we live in the tax capital of the nation. Why bring or start a business when every municipality, politician and union boss is just salivating to stick his/her hand in your pocket?

    Instead of a cadillac medicaid program that pays cabfare to doctor visits, why don’t we funnel some of that money into demolition or road repair? Instead of “authorities” that are allowed to spend and borrow indiscriminately, why don’t we funnel those resources into some sort of special school for the real problem kids-we can help them better and keep them from interfering with those who are out to get an education. Instead of a workers comp structure that costs the most and returns the least to those injured on the job why don’t we slim the agency down and spend that money on revamping the water or sewer system. How about we force NFTA to support itself with fares or go under?

    As an aside, I hate the NFTA. I live in the city, 1/2 block from a main drag (Seneca St.) and I can’t get to work (Amherst) by NFTA in less than 1.5 hours. So not worth the money.

  30. LC Scotty November 28, 2007 at 5:23 pm #


    We should have a beer sometime.

  31. BuffaloRox November 28, 2007 at 5:57 pm #


    These types of assinine city vs. suburbs comments seem to almost always result in your lashing back. I sometimes wonder if they do it on purpose and attempt to further insult you by calling you “Clarence Pundit” (as if that is somehow insulting).

    There are A LOT of people who live in the suburbs that do a lot for the city – whether serving as heads of culturals located in the city or helping with some form of social services. Both are largely regional assets/problems that should benefit all and the expenses should be borne by all as they contribute to or adversely impact the region as a whole. I don’t see this debate as beneficial to anyone.

    I’m not sure why it matters so much to you where city residents who give you a hard time send their kids or whether they live in a part of the city that shares some common characteristics with first-ring suburbs. Those are questions that you’ve raised before to some how deflect criticism (just or unjust). Like it or not, those city residents all do something that you don’t do – provide the city with a tax base and take a risk by investing in the city. Yeah you pay taxes that go back into the city, but feel free to take some of the city’s social services issues with you instead. Our choice has been made and we can’t avoid it.

    I also think you are wrong about the city-suburb debate not being waged in Boston. There certainly is resentment between those that live in the city and those out in the suburbs. I suspect that it also exists in metro NYC. However, since the economies of metro Boston and NYC are much stronger and more defined by the urban core than Buffalo, there appears to me to be less of a strain between urban and suburban counterparts.

    Just my 2 cents.


  32. BJ November 28, 2007 at 6:55 pm #

    Pundit, I totally agree with you about the concept of “choice.” People should be able to choose where they want to live. The only problem with that argument is that with the way the city currently is, if I have kids, I’m essentially forced to move to the suburbs, or shoulder a heavy private school burden. Is being forced to choose between your children and your zip code really “freedom?” If people were free to choose, then they should be able to choose city living without having to jump through hoops.

    And yet, the best way to help bring the city back and improve the schools is to attract a stable middle class. Where are these people going to come from? There’s only so many people to go around. A principle isn’t a principle until it costs money. In this case, the best way to truly help the city would be to move back and send one’s kids to city schools. Or, just move back, at least. Just because that isn’t a practical solution doesn’t mean it isn’t the best one.

    Every choice creates consequences. In this case, the choice to live in the suburbs deprives the city of one more stabilizing influence – you. There need not be moral judgements involved. It’s simple economics. I’m as rugged an individualist as the next guy, but even I know that I can’t just go out and do whatever I want without incurring any consequences. Just because I’m justified in doing something doesn’t mean that there are no negative effects produced. Buying my coffee at Starbucks instead of a local coffee shop helps Starbucks and hurts the local shop. Just because “I like Starbucks more” doesn’t mean it isn’t so. And if that local store closes down, it’s because people like me didn’t shop there. But, nobody can make me shop there, so the question is, “Do I care enough to change my behavior?” Similarly, moving to the suburbs breaks no laws, but it does contribute to the dire situation in the City. Everyone is free to do as they please, but they should also accept that their decisions shape the region. To think otherwise is to think that you are an island, and not actually a member of society.

    The City needs to find a way to make itself a tenable option for middle class families. Short of that, and short of people starting to own up to the reality that the way we live makes things the way things are, all of this hand-wringing is very, very meaningless.

  33. Pauldub November 28, 2007 at 7:31 pm #

    Steel – City’s worth saving
    Urbanite (Cool word) does not pay for town road in burb. Possibly county, but not town.
    Instead of stating causes, because there are a million of them, let’s get together and start talking about solutions.
    I would be more than happy to buy the first round….

  34. frustrated November 28, 2007 at 9:08 pm #

    a billion dollar in school improvements isnt good for you people???

    Buffalo Public Schools Phase II Reconstruction Project from WNYMedia Video on Vimeo.

  35. STEEL November 28, 2007 at 9:35 pm #


    You are using dubious math. The costs of the roads may be directly paid for by the suburban citizen but when you have more roads total for fewer people the net affect is that the cost to everyone goes up. If the road you live on was not needed then you would be helping to pay for the urban roads making them cheaper. This is basic economics. When you move out and leave behind fewer people to pay for the existing road that means it becomes more expensive for the smaller number who have to maintain the old road. It is also more expensive for you to maintain the new road because the density is lower. So in the end WNY builds 2 roads where one would suffice.

    In growing communities with healthy economies sprawl is mostly supported with new population. In WNY sprawl is supported by cannibalizing other local municipalities. Not only is Buffalo being hurt by sprawl but so is Tonawanda, Kenmore, Lackawanna, Cheektowaga and more.

    Over the last 30 years WNY population has DROPPED by 8%. In that same time the land area it uses has increased by about 35%. That land area is filled with expensive stuff that is now payed for by fewer people. Buffalo’s infrastructure was built out for 600,000 people. That infrastructure is now paid for by about 260,000 people. The same thing is happening throughout WNY. I have been using the Titanic analogy lately…The ship captain knows there are icebergs near but orders the ship at full steam ahead. The end of the story is that the whole ship sinks, not just steerage.

  36. Mike Miller November 29, 2007 at 7:06 am #

    Steel, there is one important fact about the suburbs that you haven’t mentioned yet: post WWII baby boomers. Back in the late ’40’s, Buffalo had a population of over 500K (if I recall correctly). With a glut of young families looking for housing and finding the city too crowded, it was a natural fit to start looking for new developments on the outskirts. The same can be said of most other rust belt cities.

    We wouldn’t be having this discussion at all if it didn’t take the city 40 plus years to change with the times.

  37. Denizen November 29, 2007 at 9:26 am #

    BJ, that was brilliant. Especially this part:

    Every choice creates consequences. In this case, the choice to live in the suburbs deprives the city of one more stabilizing influence – you. There need not be moral judgements involved. It’s simple economics. I’m as rugged an individualist as the next guy, but even I know that I can’t just go out and do whatever I want without incurring any consequences. Just because I’m justified in doing something doesn’t mean that there are no negative effects produced. Buying my coffee at Starbucks instead of a local coffee shop helps Starbucks and hurts the local shop. Just because “I like Starbucks more” doesn’t mean it isn’t so. And if that local store closes down, it’s because people like me didn’t shop there. But, nobody can make me shop there, so the question is, “Do I care enough to change my behavior?” Similarly, moving to the suburbs breaks no laws, but it does contribute to the dire situation in the City. Everyone is free to do as they please, but they should also accept that their decisions shape the region. To think otherwise is to think that you are an island, and not actually a member of society.

  38. BuffaloRox November 29, 2007 at 10:07 am #

    BJ – I echo Denizen, very well put.

    Mike Miller – Post-WW II boom occurred in parts of the first-ring suburbs closest to the city, not Wheatfield, Pendleton, Clarence, etc. The older parts of these first-ring suburbs, Eggertsville in Amherst, western most parts of Cheektowaga, are paying the price for our continued sprawl. Parts of Eggerstville and western Cheektowaga are ghetto. Maybe not to the same degree as the worst areas of the Broadway-Fillmore, Fillmore-Leroy or Kensington-Bailey, but the decay is unmistakable. While maybe they haven’t yet reached 40 years of failing to change with the times, Amherst and Cheektowaga have had 15-20 years to deal with their decay. Those first-ring suburbs need to turn their attention (residents, politicians and IDAs) back toward the urban core rather than outward.

  39. Mike Miller November 29, 2007 at 10:17 am #

    Hey Rox, long time!… I agree. I didn’t mean to include Clarence, Wheatfield, et al. in that statement. I was primarily referring to the first ring suburbs and the baby boomers.

  40. Buffalopundit November 29, 2007 at 10:21 am #

    Great. Now move Batavia 30 miles to the west, and I can consider living in the city.

    Seriously, guys. There are plenty more reasons why people do or don’t live in the cities than just crime or even schools. You make interesting points, but again – the answer as far as I’m concerned isn’t berating or guilting people into moving into a city for the good of society. I think it’s far more complicated and complex than that.

    There really aren’t any services that the city provides that either I or my employer or my employer’s landlord don’t already pay for, so I’m a net benefit to the city. Not a net liability.

  41. hank November 29, 2007 at 10:31 am #

    I think Mike Miller has it right.
    If you’re old enough to remember……
    When Boulevard Mall was built in the early-mid 60’s, Maple Rd ENDED just past it. the Kenmore West /Amherst area was “The Sticks”, and was mostly still forested.

    Much of Sheridan Drive was still wooded lots between Colvin Av and NF Blvd, or seasonal places like Anderson’s (WAS) and Scimes—only open April to November. So even parts of the Town of Tonawanda was “The Sticks”.
    I remember Eastern Hills Mall being a large stand of woods/open fields. My Godmother built a house off Ward Rd. in NT that was the one of only 3 houses on a street that now has a couple dozen in 1965.
    For that matter, in 1951 one of my Mom’s sisters built the 3rd house on Edmund Street in Cheektowaga,(about 1/2 mile from William and Harlem Dr) and we have pictures that show the Thruway at the end of the street—-just graded–no roadway. That area is no part of the “Ghetto” of Cheektowaga/Sloan that Mike discusses.

    Now, 0ver 50 years later, what was “the Sticks” is Old Suburbia.

  42. hank November 29, 2007 at 10:32 am #

    sorry thats “NOW” not “NO”

  43. Mike Miller November 29, 2007 at 10:45 am #

    Hank, I’m old enough to remember going to the opening of the Blvd. Mall and watching them build the Youngmann.

    I think that this problem is bigger than all of us. It’s cultural. People want bigger, better, more. The American Dream. The city is only a dream to certain people. Look at the incredible sprawl in Las Vegas and Charlotte. Perhaps one day, they’ll be having this discussion too, as tastes, habits and desires change.

  44. STEEL November 29, 2007 at 3:24 pm #

    Quick Quiz:

    What WNY municipality is losing population at the fastest rate?

    If you guessed Tonawanda you are on top of things!

    The 2006 census projections showed the following population change since 2000

    Tonawanda -6.4
    Niagara Falls -5.9
    Buffalo -5.7
    Lockport(city) -5.6
    Cheektowaga -5.0
    West Seneca -3.8
    Hamburg -.2
    Amherst +.2
    Grand Island +1.8
    Orchard Park +1.8
    Lockport (town) +3
    Lancaster +3.7
    Pendleton +4.7
    Clarence +7.3
    weatfiled +14.3

    (these were the only municipalities shown on the list I have)

    That is a 4,681 person loss for Tonawanda and a 2,302 gain for Wheatfield.

    Wasn’t it someone from Wheatfiled that said “Those people belong in the city” when protesting plans for low income housing in that town? I wonder what he means by that.

  45. dave in Rocha November 29, 2007 at 3:25 pm #

    “I think that this problem is bigger than all of us. It’s cultural. People want bigger, better, more. The American Dream. The city is only a dream to certain people.”

    Bingo! All this new development happening outside cities, both prosperous and faltering, is sprawl because people want room. If developers built dense townhouses in Reston, VA, it wouldn’t sell as well as the McMansions that now exist.

    2.3 kids, a swingset in the backyard, and a patio the size of my apartment to grill on. That’s the “ideal” to a helluva lot of Americans these days. And as long as it’s affordable to the average person, they’ll live there.

    Hmm, that last bit makes me wonder what, if any, affect the subprime meltdown will have on sprawl.

  46. BuffaloRox November 29, 2007 at 4:44 pm #


    I completely agree that there are more reasons than just crime and schools that people choose not to live in the city. If those were the only considerations, nobody would live in the city. They are, however, two of the major reasons pointed out by suburbanites as to why they would never live in the city. Its almost knee-jerk. As Dave in Rocha points out, “super-sized” everything is part of it as well. BJ makes a great point about how a person’s choice is not made in isolation but affects all of WNY to a certain extent. Mass migration outward for a stagnant population has certainly benefited new home builders/developers and public sector employment but has it helped the rest of WNY? Seems to me that, left unchecked, western Rochester and eastern Buffalo sprawl will meet up in Batavia anyway.

  47. Rachel Xmissanthropic November 29, 2007 at 5:29 pm #

    “There is more to diversity than just the color of one’s skin.” This is not about race; it’s about money and middle class values! Yeah there’s racial diversity in the suburbs, in fact, there even seems to be more of a mixture in some places. It’s your wallet that get’s you in the club, and that the thing that’s the same for all of you out there. I’m preparing to become a teacher and hope to someday teach in the city. I recently moved to the East side and it’s been one of the most dramatic events of my life. I’m hoping this experience will help me become a better teacher. I need to understand the type of environment these kids wake up in every morning. And you really don’t understand it unless you live it. It is like a war zone out here and that’s what makes me want to stay. You think this should be yesterday’s news? It’s a desperate situation and I have a vested interest in seeing it improve. So many people are concerned and sympathetic over the plight of people half way across the world but they won’t turn with mercy toward their own backyards, were they might actually be able to do some good. I applaud those who volunteer over here but more is needed. Coming down for a day may make you feel good but what are really needed are the social controls suburbanites moving back in mass would provide. There is no one to call the police when vandalism occurs and we all know about the broken window theory. There is no one for those struggling to live a different way to look up to. Many of these kids don’t even realize there is another way to live. Steel was right when he said. “Poverty breeds more poverty as socially inept parents raise children to be socially inept.”

  48. Ms. Curious November 30, 2007 at 1:17 am #

    To Rachel Missanthropic:
    You are absolutely correct in your analysis of the whole situation. Child/parents who did not flourish in the education system are now ‘raising’ children who have no clue as to what it’s like to to exist in homes that are violence and drug free. Books and newspapers are not only sometimes nonexistence but to some extent, they are looked upon with revulsion. We have to change that by encouraging those who have ‘escaped’ to the surburbs (both middle class blacks and whites) to return to help fix the problems of the city. The city should be looked at with more than being a cash cow where people can work, complain and then raise their feet-and their beers on surburban tabletops.

  49. Mike Miller November 30, 2007 at 7:29 am #

    “Wasn’t it someone from Wheatfiled that said “Those people belong in the city” when protesting plans for low income housing in that town? I wonder what he means by that.”

    Steel, I hope that was not a veiled inference to me, as I’m the only readily identifiable resident of Wheatfield that I know of here.

    I’ve written 3 different posts on my blog about the low income housing controversy and my disgust over the issue. Here’s the main one, if you care to read:

    PS: I sincerely hope that my 4 years worth of work on the east side can undo at least SOME of the damage caused by my choice to reside in Wheatfield. 🙂

  50. BuffaloRox November 30, 2007 at 11:42 am #

    Mike Miller,

    I agree with BP when he pointed out that there is more than school and crime in people’s choice of where to live. Some people obviously want, to a greater or lesser degree, amenities and rural elements wherever they’re located (suburbs, exurbs(sp?) or rural). Hank points out that he went from Riverside to very rural. Unfortunately because of unchecked sprawl, the location of the “choice” suburbs, exurbs or rural area is spread out further and further as we extend WNY’s limited resources to increasingly distant areas.


  51. Mike Miller November 30, 2007 at 12:00 pm #

    BR, I agree too.

    As much as I love the city, it’s doubtful I’ll move there. I chose to live in Wheatfield 19 years ago because I wanted some space and some quiet. I have a modest littel ranch on an acre of land.

    I moved there a few years before the explosion of developments that are there now. Personally, I can’t understand wanting to move to a rural location like Wheatfield to live in a big house with a small lot and no trees, but that’s totally their choice to make.

  52. Pauldub November 30, 2007 at 8:42 pm #

    “We have to change that by encouraging those who have ‘escaped’ to the suburbs (both middle class blacks and whites) to return to help fix the problems of the city.”
    The Suburbans’ Burden.
    ” Coming down for a day may make you feel good but what are really needed are the social controls suburbanites moving back in mass would provide.”
    You want them to bring “social controls”? Sorry Rachel, this sounds a tad condescending towards those who live on the East Side
    Something gives me the feeling that you moved there to make yourself “feel good” Did you bring your own social controls?
    If you can explain to me why I should triple my commute (I work in Niagara County) in order to live in a city my family has not lived in since 1935 or so, and how that will help Buffalo, I will definitely give it a listen. If not, let me live where I live, and do what I like to do in the city.

  53. STEEL November 30, 2007 at 9:29 pm #

    Mike Miller,

    No I was not talking about you. That statement was published in the News and was attributed to a local resident speaking out at a public meeting on a proposed low income project in your town. The inference was that he was speaking for many in the room. Apparently there are certain types of people who only belong in the city.

  54. Pauldub November 30, 2007 at 9:59 pm #

    I remember that comment Steel. Those people are the ones that drag down any neighborhood.

  55. Pauldub November 30, 2007 at 10:00 pm #

    I mean the one who made the comment…

  56. STEEL December 1, 2007 at 4:05 pm #

    You mean the people making ignorant comments like that or the people who belong in the city.

  57. Pauldub December 3, 2007 at 9:57 am #

    As I said, the one who made the comment. You should knoe better than that.

  58. Foxy Lady December 3, 2007 at 10:33 pm #

    I grew up in 14207 and when the quality of life deteriorated, I was forced to sell and move to 14224. I am not wealthy, never was, never will be, but I’m enjoying a better life in the first ring suburb and feel a lot safer.
    Buffalo will always be a racist city with too much poverty and unfortunately no one will ever be able to fix that, it will only get worse.
    Thank you City Hall Politicians for driving us out of the city we loved all our lives.

  59. hank December 4, 2007 at 1:56 pm #

    Foxy Lady–Come out from behind the handle?
    Riverside or Black Rock?
    When did you grow up there and where did you go to school?
    Inquiring minds…….

  60. Rachel Xmissanthropic December 6, 2007 at 10:56 am #

    I see from your comments that you agree public housing should be allowed in higher socio-economic neighborhoods, that good enough for me, you don’t have to come back here. My main concern is integrating the social classes. That comment you made to Steel, “You should knoe better than that.” is as condescending your boss calling you hun, when they are trying to explain something to you. (I hate that) That being said it’s probably about as innocent and off handed as that too. See, I gave you the benefit of the doubt. You didn’t give me the same, you questioned my intentions and I’m here to tell you your way off base. I came to the East side to live cheaply, so I could spend more time with my family and do things I love rather than working overtime just to keep up apperances in the suburbs. It was only when I was here that I began to fully embrace the situation. Look up broken “window theory” and you’ll understand what I mean by social constraints.

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