Buffalo: You’re Doing It Wrong

11 Feb

So, it was without much surprise that I read the following in today’s Buffalo News that Mayor Byron Brown’s “5 in 5” plan is not going as well as originally thought.  By the way, talk about burying the lead in the story…

With the 680 new demolitions, Comerford said the city will have torn down about 2,200 blighted properties since 2006. Still, the inspections chief said there are probably 5,000 additional structures that need to be razed. He said some areas are a “mess.”

“You feel like you’re not even making a dent in it. You are, but it’s tough,” said Comerford.

While Council members and administration officials agree on the need to accelerate demolitions, there’s mounting concern over what should be done with the ever-increasing number of vacant lots.

Lawmakers want to see new efforts to try to find owners for parcels. Some want the city to hold “mini-auctions” several times a year.

So, this program is deemed a success if you look at the right statistics.  But, the problem is that there is no coordinated plan for demolitions on a macro scale.  They are simply picking homes based on the condition, which is pointless when it comes to rehabilitating the neighborhoods that surround blighted properties and the vacant lots that demolitions leave behind.  The residual value of a vacant lot in a neighborhood destroyed by decades of municipal indifference, poverty and crime is nil.  The fact that the city is just starting to figure this out is depressing and sad.

The idea should be to target neighborhoods with significant numbers of blighted/vacant properties and concentrate demolition efforts in these areas.  Landbanking small areas of the city for future use and reducing the need to patrol streets, provide fire response coverage, maintain sewer lines and other city services.  This would allow for the city to focus limited resources in more populated areas.  The fact that I have to state the obvious like this is just numbing.

Instead, we’re demolishing a property on Sobieski Street one day (leaving behind a vacant lot) and demolishing a house on Busti Avenue the next day.  Where is the long term value in scattershot demolitions without a hint of strategic planning?  While we are moving closer to a goal of reducing the number of vacant properties, the effort does little or nothing to prevent further vacancies from developing in the neighborhoods left behind.

If the Mayor took a break from banana republic politics and instead re-read the LISC position paper on strategic planning for a shrinking city, we might be in a better position to reclaim our city from the forces of blight and vacancy.

photo courtesy of David Torke of http://fixbuffalo.blogspot.com

7 Responses to “Buffalo: You’re Doing It Wrong”

  1. Ethan February 11, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    I sure wish you could run for mayor. Maybe we can get someone worthwhile in there, somehow. If we were the real kingmakers and he only the public face, I’d back Newell: Hail Eris!

  2. STEEL February 11, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    I guess there is something you and I agree on.

    I heard that the mayor was going to hold a press conference at the house pictured when demo started but was then was warned that this interesting house in not so bad condition on a once grand parkway was not such a good photo op. Just a rumor with nothing but the interenets to cite however

  3. Chris Smith February 11, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    Actually Dave, I suspect you and I agree on many things. We just haven’t the opportunity to discuss them yet. After all, we’re both arrogant know-it-alls.

    As for the house in the picture, I heard the same rumor from Torke and a few other people about the house on Girard. Which highlights another issue about scattershot demolitions that I didn’t really touch; the fact that not every home is subjected to proper review or scoping for deconstruction. Brown is in a hurry to bolster support from his east side contingencies by “taking care of the problem” and demolishing homes that get the most calls.

  4. Andrew Kulyk February 12, 2009 at 10:55 am #

    Thank you Chris for pointing this out. In my pest control business I do baiting remediation for a couple of demolition companies who knock down houses for the city. It always amazes me how they will fax me a list of houses to bait, and they are all scattershot all over the city. I will drive down Ruhland (off Sycamore a war zone) and do two houses, while passing the last four. And I ask, why not just finish the street and be done with it, and start planning for a new use with a clean slate?

    As usual, you are SOOOOOOO right, bro’!

  5. Prodigal-Son February 12, 2009 at 9:00 pm #

    Chris – you are right about the problem, but your solution is politically unfeasible. Brown is barely going to get relected as it is, and he knows it. If he targets his demo in only several neighborhoods, he’s pissing off the rest of the city. How do you prioritize? In 2009, he could (reasonably) hit the lower West Side, the immediate BF neighborhood, and maybe around MLK park. So he just lost votes in South Buffalo, Bailey-Delevan, Black Rock, etc etc. He can’t do that. So he does a news conference in each neighborhood in the city, collects votes from everywhere, and accomplishes nothing.

  6. RaChaCha February 18, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    Geek, you’re right on with this. The loss of the house pictured was a kick in the gut for the Buffalonians who thought that it was going to be preserved and rehabbed — and for me, who always looked for this house from the Kensington on the way into Your Fair City.

    Everyone I know in Buffalo whom I consider “progressive” — recognizing that different people use that term differently — supports the approach articulated by LISC. Yet the folks at City Hall just seem to be more reactive than progressive, and more driven by the desire to cite demolition numbers.

    MUY frustrating.

  7. Mark Williams February 20, 2009 at 12:26 pm #

    Reality Check…

    This Queen Anne, no doubt magnificent 100-years ago with the possibility of being magnificent again is gone.

    Realistically, this house was once adjacent to a dual carriage parkway that offered an equestrian green space in-between for horseback riding long since destroyed in the name of progress now nothing more than an escape route to the airport.

    Who the hell wants to live next door to a highway?

    Not to forget this is the scene of an attempted suicide as some distraught individual decided to crash through the barrier hoping to end-up on the motorway below. He did manage to crash the barrier but failed to penetrate it causing a fire and injury to himself followed with a visit to the psycho-ward at ECMC.

Contribute To The Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: