Buffaloland

23 Jan

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The city/suburb divide in Buffalo is two things. Firstly, it is indicative of a place that’s economically depressed looking for scapegoats. Secondly, it’s a divisive, elitist, arrogant, and counterproductive parochialism that makes people on both sides of that divide feel occasionally superior.

That parochialism helps keep the region down. Much like we’re often so concerned about what the outside world thinks of Buffalo, we should be just as concerned about what we think about each other.

I can’t imagine not telling a prospective transplant about the Albright-Knox, Elmwood, Allentown, the Zoo, Erie Basin Marina, the Science Museum, our restaurants, our theaters, our sports teams, our parks, Chippewa, institutions like Anchor Bar and Chefs, or some of the trendier spots.

By the same token, I can’t imagine not educating a company or person who wants to locate in this area about East Aurora, Chestnut Ridge Park, Old Fort Niagara, Niagara Falls, Williamsville, where the malls are, where the best public schools are, the county park in Akron, the four corners in Orchard Park, the village of Hamburg’s little downtown, the beaches along Lake Erie on both sides of the border, the Chautauqua Institution, the antique shops in Clarence or Westfield, the proximity to Hamilton, Burlington, and Toronto, a sunset dinner in Wilson, the locks in Lockport, summertime concerts in North Tonawanda, the Niawanda park along River Road, Fantasy Island, Zooz, skiing in the southern tier, Ellicottville, the balloons & quaint downtown of Wellsville, Batavia’s rejuvenated Main Street, Greycliff, Darien Lake, Alabama swamps, the Arcade-Attica railway, pancake breakfasts in the spring, the Strong Museum, etc., etc. ad infinitum.

All of these things contribute to what makes living in Buffaloland worth the political headaches and economic hassles.

If we – ourselves – can’t be bothered to celebrate everything that this region (writ large as Tor-Buff-Chester) has to offer, why should we expect anyone else to bother?

21 Responses to “Buffaloland”

  1. Mike Miller January 23, 2008 at 11:25 am #

    Amen, Alan. Western New York, all of it, has so many treasures that it would be foolish not to take advantage of them all. Except for those few who are very city-centric, I think we all refer to Western New York as “Buffalo”.

  2. Russell January 23, 2008 at 11:36 am #

    Here, here. Well said, BP.

    Along with what Mike Miller said, I’ve always told people I’m from Buffalo, whether while travelling or living elsewhere in the US or abroad. I have never actually lived within the city limits, but I am a Buffalonian. And I am proud of all that comes with that. I’ve defended it and promoted it every chance I’ve had, all of it.

  3. mike hudson January 23, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    what i would tell prospective transplants or companies wanting to locate here is that it’s cheaper than shit — my rent hasn’t been raised in 10 years! — and that there are plenty of east coast expats around to commisserate with. also the italian and polish food is the best in the country. except i’ve never heard of anyone wanting to move here. is western new york’s biggest problem the lack of a sunny disposition on the part of its residents? would that it were so simple.
    m.

  4. peter scott January 23, 2008 at 12:00 pm #

    I wouldn’t tell them how my beloved West Seneca is a hidden gem of a place to live…

    not “the best” public schools…but very very good ones…

    its the forgotten suburb that gets labeled as the “southtowns” but certainly isnt…

    Southgate Plaza, Mayer Brothers, Burchfield Center, 3 beautiful creeks, 1/2 of Caz park even if the city refuses to acknowledge it…

    a 10 minute commute downtown, 15 minutes to East Aurora, 25 minutes from skiing, minutes from both the Galleria and the McKinley mall…

    why do I live on Elmwood again? oh yeah, because its great too…

    see, we can love both…and we should…

    I think the divisiveness about the city/suburb divide comes equally from those who have not experienced both…

    I have friends in the city who will never go to the suburbs for anything…and likewise I have family and friends in the suburbs who pretty much fear the city…

  5. Mike Walsh January 23, 2008 at 12:30 pm #

    The positives outweigh the negatives around here. This parochialism( and negativism) is fed by the media and politicians and is exaggerated by both.

    One thing we all agree on is the need for economic revitalization. That’s the big sticking point because it seems that everybody disagrees on how best to go about, it resulting in not much movement.

  6. Mike Miller January 23, 2008 at 12:42 pm #

    I’m frequently amazed at the number of people who are afraid to venture out of their neighborhood comfort zones. I work with people, some who live in the city, some who live in the nearby suburbs, who have NEVER been to Niagara Falls… let alone to the suburbs, the city or to Canada.

    I’m a New York lover… from Albany to the Thousand Islands to Manhattan to Buffalo, we have some of the most scenic landscape ANYWHERE in the U.S. As a state, we are blessed with natural and man made beauty. It’s ALL ours. Hell, we pay enough for that right.

  7. Eric P. January 23, 2008 at 1:13 pm #

    True enough, BP. Although you missed the opportunity to mention Zetti’s or La Hacienda.

  8. Denizen January 23, 2008 at 2:19 pm #

    Right on Pundito.

    Many people don’t realize how interconnected the city, suburbs, and rural hinterlands really are in WNY.

    I can guarantee is UB (something that’s mostly in Amherst) were to magically disappear tomorrow, the Elmwood Village would quickly turn into another crack den. If downtown Buffalo were to suddenly vanish, many suburban neighborhoods would see their home values plummet. Like it or not, we’re one economic ecosystem.

  9. hank January 23, 2008 at 2:49 pm #

    Good to see all the commentors in agreement.

    If indeed Alan ever had the rose colored glasses on re WNY, they’re off now. Straight and directly on point.

    If I could have the job I have now in WNY, I would screw the extremely mild NC winters, and all the rednecked-ness of this place and be cutting a beeline for HOME. Just aren’t too many places in WNY paying CSR’s 20.00 an hour now, are there?

    NC is just a place to EXIST. WNY IS HOME–For all the reasons mentioned by Alan and the commentors and MORE. Hell if I didn’t have to work I’d move there for the food alone. I carry back half a pickup truck load of food and it never lasts a year, luckily more NC expats go home more often than I can afford to.

    There’s too much to be fixed in WNY for ANY kind of Parochialism.

    In the Military, if you’re from Buffalo (the city) there is a distinction made if you’re from Olean, for example. BUT—and it’s a BIG BUT–you’re still a hommie. WNY’ers always watched out for each other, and not just to share weekend transportation home. Always good to know.

    Even in civilian jobs around here, employers find out quick–you have several WNY’ers employed–you mess with one, you’re messin’ with ALL of us. And 30 years living out of town don’t change that a lick.

  10. BuffaloRox January 23, 2008 at 3:23 pm #

    Hank raises a good point. Ex-pats who run into each other outside of Buffalo are quick to embrace each other as Buffalonians or WNYers without snobbiness of whether someone lived in Lovejoy, Elmwood Village, Clarence Center or Pendleton. However, locally many retreat to their fiefdoms.

    We need to focus on the economy (stupid) and figure out how to leverage economic development for our collective benefit rather than just one town or city. One example – Are building new houses (and corresponding new roads/schools/churches) in outer suburbs or heavily subsidizing construction of new vinal houses in areas of the city with high default rates beneficial to WNY or just a drain on our limited resources? Cities and towns and the residents of each need to start working together and become less dependent on Albany as the answer to our problems as soon as possible.

  11. Dan January 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm #

    > Hank raises a good point. Ex-pats who run into each other outside of
    > Buffalo are quick to embrace each other as Buffalonians or WNYers without
    > snobbiness of whether someone lived in Lovejoy, Elmwood Village, Clarence
    > Center or Pendleton. However, locally many retreat to their fiefdoms.

    Most of the time. However, I’ll never forget the time this happened, my first year away at college.

    Me: Where are you from?
    Them: Buffalo. And you?
    Me; Hey, me too! What part?
    Them: Amherst! Went to Williamsville East. How about you?
    Me: In the city … the University Heights-Kensington area. Went to Hutch Tech.
    Them: Oh. (Somewhat disgusted look) Gotta’ go … buh bye.
    Me: ???????

    I transferred back to Buffalo in my junior year, so no more of that. 😀

  12. hank January 23, 2008 at 4:46 pm #

    Dan-I’ve raised this before. There’s a way to tell that used to work quite well when you meet a fellow WNY’er out of town.

    You’re from WNY?
    Yep
    What Part?

    Suburbanites answer–Buffalo

    City dwellers answer Buffalo–Why, YOU GOT SOME KIND OF PROBLEM WITH THAT?

    Worked for me in lots of places, including the drunk tank in the Orleans Parish Prison in La. Guy from Riverside was in there with me, I went to school with his older brother.. But before I found out he was a Riversider, when he asked what part of Buffalo I was from I told him

    Look here asshole, I’m from Riverside, and if you have a problem with THAT we’re gonna fight right here. Suburbanites will rarely trade blows for the honor of Chicken Town or Amherst.–Those NT boys will mix it with ya though.

  13. dave in Rocha January 23, 2008 at 4:58 pm #

    Wow, I’ve never seen a comment thread that’s so congenial.

    I can’t help but echo the sentiments that everyone’s already said here. Since I grew up in Genessee County and now live in Rochester, I’ve always viewed “Buffalo” as encompassing not only Erie County but beyond. If you want to talk about WNY as a region, any little town or attraction between Sodus Point, Watkins Glen, Fredonia and NF is in play.

    I will say however that it helps knowing someone in different areas of WNY to give you a reason to venture out that way. Growing up near Darien Lake and having lots of relatives in Kaisertown and the Polish east side, places like the Southtowns or Tonawandas were way off our radar. Whenever I had hockey at Leisure Rinks in Orchard Park it was considered a pretty far hike. Not that it was foreign territory, it was just outside of our usual turf. Heck, I didn’t know of Elmwood until my older brother started taking me to Home of the Hits and New World (R.I.P. ….. the stores, not my brother, he’s still alive). Not that my folks were “scared” of the city, they just didn’t shop at hip urban stores.

    Eventually I started dating and married a girl from Hamburg, and a whole new list of neat things opened up in the Southtowns. Chestnut Ridge, Eckl’s, Vidler’s, Fran-Ceil, Roycroft Inn, midnight mass at Father Baker’s… all places that I hadn’t been to until I became a Southtowner-in-law, and all because I now had reasons to be driving past them and/or meeting the in-laws there. That’s why if you were to ask me about any “institutions” of, say Lockport or Tonawanda, I’d reply with a blank stare.

    As for Tor-Buff-Chester, I heartily endorse that the good people of Buffalo take a Saturday or two and discover a little more about their minor-league affiliate to the east. I’m always willing to offer tips to anyone looking for a neat place to go (Eastman House), a great place for Mexican (Richport), the best coffee shop (Boulder), or even the best vanilla milkshake in the Western Hemisphere (Highland Park Diner). Heck I’d even advise that people catch a Red Wings game here on a nice summer afternoon, just because it’s a different experience than a Bisons game. But if you decide to come out here, remember, don’t support the Thruway toll hikes…. use 5, 20, 33, 104, or 31.

  14. Joe K January 23, 2008 at 5:02 pm #

    Dan –
    Had the same conversation when I went away to college, except it was the other way around.

    Them: Where you from?
    Me: Buffalo!
    Them: Me too, what part?
    Me: Amherst. How ’bout you?
    Them: Grew up off Elmwood, went to City Honors.
    Me: Cool.
    Them: By the way you are NOT from Buffalo, you are from “Amherst”.

    The way he said that last sentence always stuck with me, we ended up being pretty good friends anyways. But it did take me completely off guard at the time. Technically he was right, but when meeting people for the first time I always use Buffalo.
    I agree with BP that we should all be thankful that this area has so much to offer, if it didn’t there would even be more people leaving.

  15. Howard Goldman January 23, 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    Hank said:

    “If I could have the job I have now in WNY, I would screw the extremely mild NC winters, and all the rednecked-ness of this place and be cutting a beeline for HOME. Just aren’t too many places in WNY paying CSR’s 20.00 an hour now, are there?”

    What’s a CSR? Customer Service Rep??

    We gotta hook Hank up and get him back!

  16. Christopher January 23, 2008 at 6:43 pm #

    What a great vista of downtown Buffalo. You rarely see the city shot from the air.

  17. peter scott January 23, 2008 at 7:12 pm #

    christopher…

    you should get a job in the HSBC tower….you get views like that everyday…

  18. Joe Genco January 23, 2008 at 7:13 pm #

    Nice to see the friendly talk and people being positive. As a region, we remain a great place to live and raise a family, as long as you have a job or are willing to work for what the market will bear.

  19. Prodigal-Son January 23, 2008 at 10:18 pm #

    I grew up in “Buffalo” (i.e. Cheektowaga), and when I moved away for college and the military, I always refered to Buffalo as home. Met lots of ex-pats in the military, and I agree everyone treats eachother like long-lost family.

    So when I moved back this past summer, I was surprised to see the suburb/urb divide. I went to a Buffalo Old Home Week event, and when I signed the roster, I had a worker turn up his nose because I wrote my zip code was 14072 (i.e. Grand Island). What, I don’t love the city because I bought a house on Grand Island!? I have brought this up in several other posts on similar subjects – since when does your zip code need to 14212 (or something similar) to be “allowed” to love the city. And on the other hand, people downtown are allowed to come to Beaver Island State Park. Its nice. They should try it. It won’t mean they love Buffalo any less.

    You can’t have a suburb without an urb. And the city misses out if there is no surrounding population. Western New Yorkers should be competing against other states for jobs, not eachother.

  20. Jay January 24, 2008 at 10:16 am #

    Warm and fuzzy post…I like it! Sometimes your posts have too much bite, which isn’t necessarily bad, but its nice to read something a bit more positive.

    Everyone can complain and critique to no end, yet are we being productive with this dialogue. Sometimes I wonder if we’re all spinning in circles with all this Buffalo blog talk.

  21. Mike from Grand Island January 24, 2008 at 11:00 am #

    “The city/suburb divide in Buffalo is two things. Firstly, it is indicative of a place that’s economically depressed looking for scapegoats…That parochialism helps keep the region down. Much like we’re often so concerned about what the outside world thinks of Buffalo, we should be just as concerned about what we think about each other.”

    There’s no question we all love living in bflo. But if we are to get out of our funk we are going to need to get more globally engaged. This starts with parochialism and becomes much more complex as we get more fully engaged in global commerce. A.T Kearney Consulting has a national globalization index and the USA scores well on this mostly because it is so technologically connected. Where the USA scores very low in the index, and where our nation is at risk, are in the economic integration and personal engagement factors. These factors are relative to other nations and larger nations tend to be more insular. If Buffalonians can’t integrate across a few mere miles of city/suburb boundaries, than I fear that we are in the waning days of our national hegemony — let alone our regional competitiveness. We need to somehow engage much more deeply, and not in superficial ways, with the global economy if our manufacturers, service providers, and citizens are going to become world class.

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