Zeal

11 Nov

Can you guess what this is?

Now that election season is over, Buffalo can focus once again on what it does best – fight about nonsense.

In just the past few days, we’ve had:

1. A demand that the ECHDC institute a “pause” in the Canal Side planning process so that the ad hoc planning types can get their post-election shit together in order to better block the construction of a parking ramp on the site of a current surface parking lot in-between a housing project and a highway flyover;

2. A very beautiful video came out showing off Buffalo’s architectural gems from a century ago, proving that “this place matters”. The Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors’ Bureau commissioned the video in an effort to draw visitors to town for the National Preservation Conference in October 2011, which is sponsored by Preservation Buffalo Niagara. This non-profit lists as its issue/advocacy priorities the saving of the Statler, “concern” over the Olmsted Parks, and preventing the Peace Bridge Authority from building a new entry plaza. Preservation Buffalo Niagara made the news yesterday, and if you haven’t yet, you must read Brian Castner’s report and analysis of yesterday’s Statler press conference. Key passage:

Beneath the polished presentation, smiling politicians, and unified front, what was unsaid and implied was far more interesting than any specific plan. Lest anyone be confused, the leading WNY preservation group just endorsed altering the facade of our most celebrated historic landmark to connect it to the most egregious example of terrible urban planning in Buffalo. Rather than pushing for the Warsaw Pact convention center to be removed, so the coveted original street grid could be restored, Preservation Buffalo Niagara is ensuring its perpetual existence with a permanent link to the Statler.

And why? The video-promoted National Trust Convention in 2011. On more than one occasion, Robert Knoer noted that Buffalo could not stand for preservation-minded convention goers leaving their daily events to see a Statler, right out their front door, barricaded and boarded up. The egg on the face of the convention organizer, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, would be considerable. PBN needs a Statler solution, and the Croce plan is the only one. They sold their soul for a week long glorified business meeting.

3. Watch for the Peace Bridge plaza controversy to heat up, and the different sides are as well-entrenched as any over anything in Buffalo.

4. The County Budget process is underway, which is the annual opportunity for people to attend a County Legislature event of some sort and advocate for their pet projects. County property taxes are a minimal portion of people’s property taxes, and sales taxes are about maxed out to make up for that. We have reduced our progressive taxes in order to increase our regressive taxes. For the past 5-ish years, we’ve had a state-imposed control board to restore “adult supervision”, we’ve had two megalomaniacal county executives, and Republican lawmakers verbally bitchslap county taxpayers who are advocating for the maintenance of county funding for cultural entities that help to make the quality of life in Erie County good. Let’s don’t forget that the administrators and artists pay taxes, too – and if they’re out of work or out of town, the financial loss is only part of the story. I can truly say that I detest county politics and how fundamentally dysfunctional it’s become, how they fight over a tiny fraction of the county budget that’s left for them to fight over. How each side proclaims that the other is out to do everything short of drowning kittens. All over something that might be helped if you paid an extra $20 a year in property taxes.

Preservation of historically significant buildings is an important goal that most people support in the abstract. The fractured zealotry of the local preservationist factions (think People’s Front of Judea vs. Judean People’s Front) competes with a developer class that enjoys donating money to local politicians and receiving gentle treatment in return. The problem with zealotry is that minor disagreements that could generally be worked out satisfactorily become causes celebre spoken about in terms often reserved for Armageddon. The developers get caught in a rhetorical corner, everyone hunkers down and nothing gets accomplished. The preservationist cliques get labeled obstructionists, and seldom does anything get done.

But the preservationists and the developers have something in common here in WNY – they both rely heavily on charity – whether from cash-rich foundations, or from politicians.

I am fully cognizant of the fact that many of us at WNYMedia.net are despised by the preservationist class. They see us as everything from obnoxious assholes to glib nihilists – we’ve even been compared to Tea Partiers. I’m going to try to tamp down the “obnoxious asshole” bit, as well as the glibness. I don’t think we’re nihilists, nor do I think we’re zealots in opposition to the preservationists. Instead, we are skeptical of the claims of zealots – whether they may be preservationist zealots or political ones. We like to examine the arguments on both sides, and to actually visit the sites in question, and come down on the side of comparative reality. We’ll be doing this – bringing up facts and reality – to question the claims of those with agendas. Because our only agenda is to see good things happen in Buffalo, and we generally make that determination based on facts, rather than ideological prejudice.

It’s time for the people with the power and the zealous followers to concentrate on software – people and jobs – rather than hardware – buildings and roads. But that will never happen. Arguments over infrastructure are the opiate of the Buffalo masses.

27 Responses to “Zeal”

  1. Brian Castner November 11, 2010 at 7:52 am #

    So, its the Outer Harbor. But what year is the plan from?

    • Alan Bedenko November 11, 2010 at 8:50 am #

      @Brian – 2004/5. It’s one of the three NFTA proposed plans. I’m going to revisit them in a post soon.

  2. BobbyCat November 11, 2010 at 8:05 am #

    Am I the only one who doesn’t know what “Mordor” is? WNYMedia headlines are becoming more and more cyrptic. Is the idea to intrigue the reader to solve the puzzle? Ok, I googled ‘Modor’ and discovered the “Missouri Dept of Revenue” but I’m guessing thats not it. So I googled “Modor NY” to which there was no answer.

    I started to read the piece but stopped short with “ECHDC”. Ahhhhhh, whazzat? Most every style manual suggests that you spell-out the name before you resort to the abbreviation. C’mon, this shouldn’t be a mind-bender.

    I skipped the story.

    WTF is the “GoosesRoost”? What you need (desperately) are slug lines -little sentences that explain what your story is about. I suspect that insiders know the code words but if you want a wider readership, use plain English, please.

    The last time I made this point, somebody tol me that “everybody knows these abbreviations”. But I beg to differ. The Abbreviation and Acronym Dictionary contains about 3/4 million entries. Nobody knows them.

    • Alan Bedenko November 11, 2010 at 8:49 am #

      BobbyCat. when I write a post, I assume the reader knows what the acronym is, or else will Google it. Or maybe just ask. My dad always told me to “look it up” if I didn’t know or understand something. I operate generally on that principle here.

  3. Greg November 11, 2010 at 8:13 am #

    Mordor, not Modor. As in, the Lord of the Rings.
    ECHDC = Erie county harbor development corporation.

    Isn’t calling it just $20 a year in property taxes a little like playing the funny money game? I have an insurance policy I want to sell you, and it’s only the cost of 3 cups of coffee an hour…

  4. BobbyCat November 11, 2010 at 8:21 am #

    Oh, I see. Thank you. Lord of the Rings, New York. That explains everything.

  5. Greg November 11, 2010 at 8:43 am #

    And the title has been changed. How about that.

    • Alan Bedenko November 11, 2010 at 8:48 am #

      The Mordor title was a mistake – an old post from draft mode on WP for iPhone – among the worst apps ever, BTW – that never got published because WP for iPhone is the worst app ever. When I made a quick edit to this post, the Mordor title – from a post which would have showed epic photographs of weather-related doom, which never got posted because WP for iPhone is the worst app ever – got substituted for the original, proper title of “zeal”.

  6. Buffalo Girl November 11, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    I think what WNYMedia needs the most, is to get out of the way of its own cynicism.

  7. Jesse November 11, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    If the NFTA actual created that graphic, I might not hate it so much.

  8. Becky November 11, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    I’m against demolishing the beautiful and/or historic homes that are by the Peace Bridge (not so much the commonplace few), for a duty-free plaza or a truck depot.  However I like the bridge design that is not cable stayed, as do a majority of other people…except the Peace Bridge Authority (PBA) and the Buffalo News (TBN)….so who’s stalling now?

    By the way (BTW) Goose’s Roost is an excellent  sports blog; google it (use search engine).

  9. Jesse November 11, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    (or rather, built the site described by that graphic… time for some caffeine)

  10. BobbyCat November 11, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    Alan, With all due respect to your Dad, I rely on the style manuals which suggest that if your headline isn’t self-explanatory, then a ‘slug line’ or sub-headline explanation will help – such as ‘Rethinking the Harbor’, etc.

    Now, WTF is “Goose’sRoost”? Actually geese don’t ‘roost’ but nest on the ground, but there I go being literal again. Oh hell.

  11. Peter-usrt November 11, 2010 at 10:44 am #

    Bobby – Goose’s Roost, as explained above, is one of the excellent sports blogs we have at WNYMedia……

  12. lulu November 11, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    BobbyCat – Paul Gaustad is a professional hockey player for the Buffalo Sabres. His nickname is the Goose. There is a fan section at the Arena that is dubbed the Goose’s Roost. The Goose’s Roost blog is a well written sports blog that covers the Buffalo Sabres, among other things. Hopefully this is enough information to satisfy your curiosity, but if not, perhaps you could contact the writers at the Goose’s Roost to find out exactly why they chose such a title for their blog.

    To get back on track, I remain hopeful that hosting the National Preservation Conference will spur more positives than negatives in the conflicted state of Buffalo’s preservation wars. I like the idea of having a boarded up Statler right in front of their faces. Perhaps we could hang a banner that says “We need your help figuring out how to save this building as we cannot figure out how to do it ourselves.”

  13. Ward November 11, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    BobbyCat just ousted Joe Biden for Mayor of Cluelessville.

  14. lefty November 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    The funny thing about the buildings that “this place matters” video is the structure of power in Buffalo when they were created. The same type of people who gifted those great buildings are the very type of people Buffalo loves to hate.

    If only people could focus on creation…maybe them preservation would be a lot easier to come by. Just saying…

  15. BobbyCat November 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    Thanks for the info, lulu. I don’t follow the Sabres.

    Ward, I don’t take well to insults. This is a small town.

  16. Greg November 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    @BobbyCat — it’s Ward. I wouldn’t worry about it.

  17. Christopher Smith November 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    @Becky Good news on that front, the beautiful/historic homes are staying right where they are, next to a bridge.  As a bonus, they’ll have expanded access to a redesigned Front Park, less truck traffic rumbling through their backyards and tens of millions of dollars from the PBA to spend on neighborhood improvements, air filtration equipment and noise reduction technologies.

  18. Hapklein November 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

    You folk just jump too quickly to substance. It is dizzying to witness.

  19. eliz. November 11, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    From what I hear, these Trust people are preservation geeks–they’d prefer to look at an endangered building so they can discuss and advise. So I don’t know about that particular theory.

    Goose’s Roost was also the café in the previous Niagara Falls bus station.

  20. BobbyCat November 11, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    Hap, How does that work – “jumping too quickly” ?

  21. Hapklein November 11, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    It means moving faster to the subject.

    Otherwise known as avoiding sophistry.

  22. mike November 12, 2010 at 8:34 am #

    Daddy taught us how, was the name before it was the Goose’s Roost in Niagara Falls. I believe it was owned by the same family that gave us the wonderful Como. Zeal? Not the third baseman Todd Zeile, never mind!

  23. STEEL November 12, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    The true zealot sees everyone else as a zealot

    • Alan Bedenko November 12, 2010 at 11:25 am #

      No, and what am I a zealot about?

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