Correct. Sarasota is not #Buffalo

20 Aug

Shorter Bruce Fisher:

In growing, business-friendly Sarasota, Benderson is paying for the privilege of building something.

In shrinking, business-hostile Buffalo, Benderson needs loads of incentives in its quiver just to attract someone – anyone – to something it wants to build.

While Fisher’s article is dismissive and critical of Benderson, Canal Side, and ECHDC, and while it advocates for a park along quite literally every sliver of dry land within rock-throwing distance from Lake Erie or the Niagara River, the point he completely ignores is why Benderson would be spending big money to build on the Gulf of Mexico, and looking for handouts and incentives to build in Buffalo.

As an aside, isn’t it interesting how ArtVoice commentators are oftentimes individuals who have directly injected themselves into the controversies about which they’re commentating? First Bruce Jackson, now Bruce Fisher. Fisher who, whilst Deputy County Executive under Giambra, helped to obtain Canal Side subsidy money from county government. Fisher, who is a plaintiff in the Goldman v. Bass Pro, ECHDC suit.

Frankly put, Florida isn’t hostile towards businesses. I’m not saying New York should emulate everything Florida does, because Florida’s meteoric boom has turned into a massive bust. We’ve just had an even malaise for 30 years, and there’s something positive about that when everywhere else is failing. There are many reasons why Sarasota is an attractive location for people and business, the weather and setting being among them. But so is the business climate, and – as Fisher points out – the fact that Sarasota actually has a plan.

Erie County has no plan, and attempts to begin the process of a countywide regional planning board last year were met with scoffing and derision from a county government that above all cherishes the status quo. We can’t have a deliberative process because no one wants to deliberate.

So, we have a hostile business environment, a bureaucracy and nomenklatura that would make the Soviets proud, development and planning by litigation, and a chronic disease called nostalgiitis. It’s not that we’re fearful of success, nor is it that we’re content with our stagnation. It’s just that we don’t even know how to begin talking to one another about rational ways to help ourselves without waiting for Albany or Washington to fix everything for us. It’s about how we cling closely to what we perceive to be the good old days of Buffalo and WNY, ignoring the very possibility that with some changes to the status quo, we may be able to create newer, better days.

The saddest part of this is that (a) it wouldn’t be that hard to make some changes to make it easier for businesses to start up and operate; and (b) there are thousands of other municipalities throughout the country from which we can learn.

14 Responses to “Correct. Sarasota is not #Buffalo”

  1. Hank August 20, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    BP Opineth: “It’s just that we don’t even know how to begin talking to one another about rational ways to help ourselves without waiting for Albany or Washington to fix everything for us.”

    Alan: Welcome back to the Republican Party

    • Alan Bedenko August 20, 2010 at 10:16 am #

      The Republicans blocked efforts to start a regional planning board in Erie County. So, no.

      • Art Ziller August 20, 2010 at 10:41 am #

        think carefully.. hank is on to something re your position being essentially conservative, with a hint of flippancy.. wealthy areas of NYS have plenty of hugely successful businesses. poorer areas less so. Biz friendly? Poorer communities are never biz friendly. poverty is not a function of policy … its structural.

      • Ray Walter August 21, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

        Actually the proposed law for the County Planning Board would not have changed anything. It would have simply moved the functions that are being performed by professional planners in the Dept. of Enviroment & Planning and shifted it to a volunteer board which would potentially be filled by the Tielmans of the world.

  2. AL August 20, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    Token voice from Buffalo here – regional planning seems to be all about cherry picking whats left of value in Buffalo.

    The trial balloon of regional planning, having the County take of our parks was a DISASTER. The parks look so much better this year with the City taking care of them, maybe we ought to look toward a regional plan like Toronto has. Let the City keeps expanding its boundaries outward (yea, like that’ll ever happen.)

    • JohnnyWalker August 20, 2010 at 10:42 am #

      Maybe I’m missing something here, but the Olmstead Conservancy maintained the major parks under the county and still does under the city.

      • AL August 20, 2010 at 10:51 am #

        I’m referring to the local neighborhood parks, like Shoshone Park. Just because they are in the City doesn’t mean that County people don’t use them. Shosohone and others are heavily used all summer by baseball teams from around the county. But, you sure couldn’t tell that from the way the County took care of them under the regional plan. It took us several years just to get them to regularly pick up the garbage, forget mowing and other maintenance.

  3. Jesse August 20, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    Fiefdoms are hard to protect. Gotta spend upkeep on your moat, stop anyone else from mucking up your stuff.

    It would be nice if we could be smart enough to look around and say “we don’t have to do what every else is doing, we have to do BETTER” because really, even if all else were equal, > 50% would just go to Sarasota because of the bikinis.

    So in the interest of raising all boats, we should make it as attractive as fucking possible to start a business here.

  4. BobbyCat August 20, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    Sometimes its difficult to separate the crux of the issue from all the animus. It seems that many of those who post here have a history. Thankfully, I don’t, so I don’t dislike anybody, therefore I cannot ascribe to their motives, whatever they may be. My only concern is: What will work on the waterfront vs what won’t work.

    After reading Mr. Fisher’s piece in ArtVoice I still don’t know if Benderson Development has a successful waterfront development portfolio. (Maybe everbody knows that but me) I’d like to look at that porfolio and judge for myself.

    I can understand why the Sarasota project is on hold. Florida real estate imploded and has not recovered. One of my best buddies sells real estate in the Tampa Bay area. A few years ago he was ranked #1 in sales in Pinellis County. He sold many of the condos to George Steinbrenner’s neighbors. Today’s he’s thinking of moving back to Buffalo metro to wait-out the depression.

    Mr. Fisher’s comparison of Sarasota to Buffalo doesn’t tell me much about what will work at Canal Side. I am concerned that Benderson seems to know all about retail to the exclusion of everything else, and that if your only tool is a hammer, every project looks like a nail.

    Maybe a retail anchor will work in Sarasota and other locales, but will it bring tourists to Buffalo, to a Canal Side historic district that receives wind and snow from the full fetch of Lake Erie? I have my doubts about big-box Benderson’s reliance on retail.

    I have no doubt that Bass Pro was the wrong fit at Canal Side. As a sportsman, I’m the guy in Bass Pro’s demographic crosshairs – the guy that buys all that outdoor gear. If Bass Pro had a store here, I’d probably shop there from time to time, but I wouldn’t expect it to draw a million tourists. No way. Bad idea.

    Fisher is right about Chi Town. Parks are a better fit near the water, at least for the 120 days of nice weather. In the cold weather, a huge skating rink would draw thousands of repeat customers. It could be converted to basketball and tennis courts in the summer. But where would those people eat and drink?? Small shops in the historic district. Make it quaint.

  5. JSmith August 20, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    You are missing Fisher’s bigger point: “If philanthropy for waterfront greenery and a time-out for a shopping mall work for Sarasota, why wouldn’t philanthropy for waterfront greenery and a time-out for a shopping mall work here?”

    If the economic conditions make building a shopping mall unfeasible even in growing, healthy Saratoga, then why are we insisting on forcing the same thing in a place like Buffalo, where the economic environment is even more unfavorable for a retail development?

    • BobbyCat August 20, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

      You’re right, I did miss his bigger point (hiding in the verbiage). Thanks.

      Maybe there is a pay-to-play in Sarasota – all above board.

      Et tu Buffalo?

  6. Hapklein August 21, 2010 at 6:50 am #

    The Buffalo waterfront has been a collection point for suggestions and vague ideas since the late 1980’s. I stopped attending well intentioned but meaningless hearings and meetings for during the past decade.
    That words are not actions is a realization that remains beyond the grasp of all the planners, so far.  We have had parade of examples of successful projects from across America give power point and detailed descriptions of how the combination of parkland, recreation and business development resulted in a waterfront to which locals and tourists are drawn.Buffalo remains a clunky, politically oriented cesspool of inept accidents. That sewage and garbage strewn commercial slip should stand as a symbol of the sum of all the efforts to date.
    Two years ago, at the UB Arts Center, I attended a rather thinly attended exposition concerning the connecting waterways of the Great Lakes where the manager of the hugely successful Detroit River basin initiative described that development that took place while Buffalo was still developing its own very sketchy LWRP.
    We need a water basin initiative to include all the counties and cities all agreeing to sacrifice their own control over their waterfront in favor of a regional development. Then we need a plan and imagination to make it work. We lack these two critical elements . 

  7. Warren August 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    Quote:

    “So, we have a hostile business environment, a bureaucracy and nomenklatura that would make the Soviets proud, development and planning by litigation, and a chronic disease called nostalgiitis. It’s not that we’re fearful of success, nor is it that we’re content with our stagnation. It’s just that we don’t even know how to begin talking to one another about rational ways to help ourselves without waiting for Albany or Washington to fix everything for us. It’s about how we cling closely to what we perceive to be the good old days of Buffalo and WNY, ignoring the very possibility that with some changes to the status quo, we may be able to create newer, better days.”

    For the most part, those under the age of 50 don’t share the nostalgia or the rest of what you posit. Maybe it’s time for the baby boomers to move on. You can’t think outside the box because you are the box (and the man holding the lid of the box shut).

    • art ziller August 21, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

      you started out with a rational position and then seemed merely to be pissed at your father. sans the the pissed off… you are on to something but is ineptitude not a small price to pay for a declining crime rate in the face of 30-40 years of good paying jobs lost and a massive cultural dislocation among the old and new poor? do you have a reasoned answer? no invective!

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