Irony & Godwin’s Law on the Waterfront

12 Dec


In 1987, President Ronald Reagan gave a speech in the shadow of the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate, imploring the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to “tear down this wall”. Two years later, it came down as a democratic revolution swept over the Warsaw Pact countries within the course of about 5 months.

The Berlin Wall wasn’t just a physical barrier. It was symbolic – it was the very embodiment of the East’s lack of freedom. It prevented its prisoners from visiting the West, where they would certainly come quickly to realize the inferiority of the brutal totalitarian state in which they lived. It was also one of the most brutally fortified de facto international frontiers in existence.

During the Berlin Wall’s 1963 – 1989 history, there were 5,000 escape attempts and 239 people perished trying to escape a communist totalitarian dictatorship and make a better, freer life in the West.

In 2007, a group of non-profits and community activists calling itself the “Waterfront Coalition” drenched itself in offensiveness and irony.

In order to protest one “wall” – the bermed Route 5 – the Waterfront Coalition purchased space on an actual wall. A billboard.


The billboard asks Governor Spitzer to “tear down this wall”. Evidently, it’s referring to Route 5, and not the billboard itself.

In making its point, the Waterfront Coalition invokes Reagan’s 1987 speech.

I will withhold, for now, comment on the substance of the Waterfront Coalition’s 40-minute long press conference where a representative from every. single. member. group. felt compelled to speak. WNYMedia will have video of that up later today.

But to equate Route 5 with the Berlin Wall is one thing and one thing only: an outrage.

Has Route 5 murdered or purged tens of millions of innocent people? Is Route 5 peppered with guardposts from which snipers target hapless pedestrians trying to cross from swamp to weeds? Is the grassy area between Route 5 and the incomprehensible maze that passes for Fuhrmann Boulevard laden with tank traps and mines to prevent progress or murder pedestrians?

To equate a bermed Route 5 – or even the Skyway, for that matter – with the Berlin Wall is absolute and utter bullshit, and those people who thought it would be pithy and on-point should be f*cking ashamed of themselves.

The only thing Route 5 is a barrier to is people’s views of the grain elevators and the Clean Water Act violation that runs around them.

Oh, and incidentally, the Riverkeeper once released this rendering of a “Citizen’s [sic] Vision for the Lakefront”:


Yes, that’s the Skyway and a bermed Route 5 in there.

15 Responses to “Irony & Godwin’s Law on the Waterfront”

  1. FancyWow December 12, 2007 at 12:11 pm #

    Not releated, but tangentially important. Interesting to read the latest comings out of ex-pat manna – Charlotte
    Sourced from:

    If these discussions about the Waterfront, the Canal District, Bills Stadium, etc. ever stopped feeling like the blood boilling cause du-jour, and started feeling like a collaborative conversation towards a realistic solution, then Buffalo would be so much better positioned to (re)capture some lost market share as cyclic whims start to tilt in WNY’s favor…..

  2. TseTse December 12, 2007 at 12:12 pm #

    So let me get this straight, We will drive on an at grade boulevard, and end up at the skyway which has been converted into an elevated park?
    Does this coalition quote from business first buffalo …”Converting that portion of Route 5 to a boulevard may also be a prelude for the removal of the 110-foot tall Buffalo Skyway” indicate a future confrontation between the Tielman posse and the waterfront coalition? I guess I will have to stay tuned for the next exciting chapter.

  3. LC Scotty December 12, 2007 at 1:16 pm #

    Well, since many “progressives” and “leftys” seem all to eager to issue apologetics for Castro, Chavez and the former Soviet Union, maybe they thought it was a compliment?

  4. Tatonka December 12, 2007 at 1:43 pm #

    Jesus, what a tempest in a teacup. The billboard uses a phrase that, yes, was used by St. Reagan vis-à-vis the Berlin Wall, but that also has been used so often and in such diverse circumstances since 1987 that it’s now basically a cliché. That is not “equating the Berlin Wall and Route 5”. Color me un-outraged.

  5. Eric P. December 12, 2007 at 2:11 pm #

    I have always thought of Rt 5 as an Iron Curtain.

  6. Mike In WNY December 12, 2007 at 2:25 pm #

    Perhaps the “wall” analogy is appropriate. As we are subjected to more and more government interference in our lives, our government is setting itself up to go the way of the Soviet Union . . . down the drain!

  7. Bill Altreuter December 12, 2007 at 3:23 pm #

    Who *is* the Waterfront Coalition? One of the students who participated in the Buffalo Youth Media Institute project last year did a documentary about this group that revealed it as a shell. Unfortunately, that particular documentary doesn’t seem to be on the net, but I’m dubious about this group.

  8. lefty December 12, 2007 at 4:58 pm #

    Nice catch on the BRK plans. Not sure how current that “idea” is. The documents on the site go back to 2005. A lot can happen in 2 years.

    Curious as to what happened with that…I responded to your post on BRO asking about developers and what they have to say. On the BRK site, there is mention of an Opus Group and their commitment of $350M. What happened to them?

    I also love how “proposals” blur out the “ugly” stuff. Notice how most plans for Canal Side leave out the skyway? Notice how BRK took the better side of the Outer Harbor for “hippie space” and put the development next to a working GM plant? Yeah, I am sure hotel rooms will go for top dollar when THAT is your view.

  9. STEEL December 12, 2007 at 5:08 pm #

    That plan really is beautiful. I say build it. To bad the cart is coming before the horse.

    Plan? Who needs plans?! Just build it!

  10. Pauldub December 12, 2007 at 6:00 pm #

    Take a deep breath. In your own way, you are engaging in hyperbole. The “Tear down (insert whatever)” phrase is pretty much done, and no longer has the connection it once had.
    Most people will not equate it with the Berlin Wall. Instead they will say WTF????
    I just wish I had the money the money they pissed away on that billboard.

    And LC, I personally will issue apologetics for Castro. He made a great convertible couch.

  11. hank December 13, 2007 at 10:32 am #

    As for the housing problems in Charlotte, well that’s a problem that’s nationwide. True, Charlotte has a bigger spoonful to swallow than most communities. But the bottom line is that although home ownership is a large part and parcel of what most of us condsider the “American Dream”, the problems in the housing market now with all the foreclosures is a result of trying to make that part of the American Dream available to those who simply cannot afford it.

    I’m 4th Generation OTB (off the Boat)from Europe,but only the 2nd generation that has owned their own home. The first two Generations worked hard, but could never get the wherewithal (MONEY) to buy a home.

    The analogy made with the billboard was probably well-intentioned, but could have been worded better (without the Reagan Quote) to appeal to the liberals who dominate the city.

    The “St. Reagan” reference by Tatonka,showing the deep rancor and vitriol that liberals feel toward the man who won the Cold War without firing a shot, will likely kill any support that the sign was designed to generate.

    Actually, it’s all very frustrating. Activist groups tearing at each other like rabid tigers, Government at all 3 levels apparently stymied, Citizens stuck in the middle, filled with either apathy, anger or a mixture of both.

    How I long to hear the sucking sound of the activist groups and politicians of WNY pulling their heads out of their asses and actually getting something done.

  12. Tatonka December 13, 2007 at 11:45 am #

    Because nothing evinces “vitriol and rancor” more than referring to someone as “Saint”. Maybe if I had typed in ALL CAPS Hank wouldn’t have objected.

  13. hank December 13, 2007 at 2:19 pm #

    Nah, But I’ll make you a deal. You stop referring to Reagan as a Saint, I’ll stop referring to FDR and Clinton the Male as Saints.


  1. In da Buff (Buffalo, New York) » I have a better idea… - December 13, 2007

    […] blogger says this…that blogger says that…and so on…and so on…and so […]

  2. Buffalo’s Outer Harbor: From Brownfield to Question Mark | BuffaloPundit - November 13, 2014

    […] When improvements were made to access the Outer Harbor in recent years, the same people now fighting the idea of construction on the outer harbor were railing against these improvements to access, claiming silly things, e.g., a bermed Route 5 off the Skyway represented a “wall” between Buffalo’s downtown and her waterfront – never mind the river and the grain elevators. […]

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