The Placemaking Scam

14 Apr

They never told you what they were doing was merely temporary. They never explained to the assembled crowd that it was all a stopgap to make the waterfront less ugly and more usable for the period of time before final structures could be built.

That’s why Donn Esmonde giddily wrote this column a few days earlier, during one of the PPS’ “let’s talk benches” mixers.

But with respect to the Mark Goldman-led insistence that the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation embrace “lighter, cheaper, quicker,” the Project for Public Spaces, Fred Kent, crowdsourcing of ideas, and all kinds of unproven, untested, unscientific gobbledygook, there has been a wholesale theft of money from the people of New York State.  I’ve sent an email to ECHDC asking how much, exactly, PPS was paid.

Because, as far as I’m concerned, the ECHDC could have taken the money it spent on Fred Kent and the PPS, burned it, flushed the ashes down the nearest toilet, then spat on them, and gotten a better return on their investment than the unserious, make-believe nonsense the PPS provided.


For giving us the work-product of unempirical wishes, a Google image search, and an unwieldly PowerPoint presentation, the PPS or Mark Goldman should pay the people of the State of New York back every dime of money that went into that embarrassment.

Just a couple of weeks after the PPS punked Buffalo, the ECHDC presented what seems like the 900th serious plan for developing the Aud block. It’s a beautiful plan that features *gasp* underground parking. I eagerly await the howls of disapproval from Buffalo’s ersatz intelligentsia, demanding permanent implementation of “flexible lawns”.


15 Responses to “The Placemaking Scam”

  1. Bills Fan April 14, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Ersatz, as a word, is having a good run on this site. 

    • Alan Bedenko April 14, 2011 at 9:29 am #

      As far as I’m concerned, it’s German for “bullshit”, and works wonders, while keeping people mildly less offended.

  2. peteherr April 14, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    That’s erstatz. We want to be offended on this site. That’s why we come here.

  3. JSmith April 14, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    So which part of this new plan is actually happening for sure in the next year? As far as I can tell, just the canals. The rest is just pretty pictures just like the Bass Pro plan and really no different from the PPS suggestions.

    There has been a lot of nice infrastructure work done at the Inner Harbor, but I’m still waiting for the flood of glitzy Magnificent Mile retailers that we keep being told are just falling over themselves to be part of this plan.

  4. Chris Sasiadek April 14, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

    • Alan Bedenko April 14, 2011 at 10:31 am #

      True, in its purest sense the word means “artificial” as in an inferior replacement, but I extrapolate “phony” from that.

  5. wcp April 14, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    $60k is what I’ve heard

  6. Hank April 14, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Alan’s right. From the day of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Buffalo’s Harbor and Waterfront became “Erstatz”. Every one of the dozens of “Plans” for it have also been “Erstatz”. The entire city is becoming “Ertsatz”

  7. RaChaCha April 14, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    I feel a Monty Python song coming on…must suppress…

  8. BuffaloGirl April 14, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Oh my God!! Just f’n build the stupid thing!!! Can one person make a f’n decision in this town?!!!!!!!! Goddamnit!!

  9. Andrew Kulyk April 14, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    Triangulation – OUT

    Sacrosanct – WAY OUT

    Big Box and Faux Canal – FAR OUT

    Ersatz- IN

    The Power of 10 is absolute!

  10. Good Grief April 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    While its incredibly painful for me to say it – I agree with Alan. In principle, I support what PPS is all about. But their role as a consultant on this project has been very irresponsible. Fred Kent has outwardly questioned the prospect of actually constructing a permanent built environment (canals, bldngs, etc.) while not acknowledging what his role, in making the place more interesting in the meantime, is all about. I attended 2 meetings, including back in November, and also viewed the most recent presentation – he has utilized the same slides every time.

    Fred also references a lot of great places to take precedent from, and proving that you don’t need major construction project to create vibrancy. Except he doesn’t talk about the fact that EVERY SINGLE PRECEDENT he references is directly adjacent to an ultra-dense built environment in a major world city. Fred also readily admits that his theories have no substantive base. The whole “power of 10” thing is nonsense. As a principle – yes I think its good to have multiple things to do in any given area, but don’t try to sell me something that means entirely nothing.

    Canalside, currently, is not much more than open space. You need to create a place there that not only attracts visitors, but also becomes an everyday aspect of a large portion of the local population. That’s the only way you will be able to sustain vibrancy beyond initial curiosity.

  11. John April 14, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    @JSmith:  As much as I would like to get it finished too, it just can’t happen overnight.  A plan like that would be a year or two.  Also you need to get businesses, whether a national or local chain, in order to build something.

  12. John April 14, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    @Everyone: Serious question:

    Can we sue PPS or Fred Kent for fraud or waste due to stealing money from the people of WNY

  13. STEEL April 14, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Good grief says: “Canalside, currently, is not much more than open space. You need to create a place there that not only attracts visitors, but also becomes an everyday aspect of a large portion of the local population. That’s the only way you will be able to sustain vibrancy beyond initial curiosity” – very smart statement

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