con·grat·u·bate (kənˈgraCHəˌbāt), Verb

13 Jul

A polite golf clap is in order for Donn Esmonde, who here touts the heavy lift that Mark Goldman unilaterally assumed for himself late last year in promoting a snake-oil salesman’s unscientific, unproven “lighter, faster, cheaper” model of “economic development”. His Wednesday column about Canal Side is something I’m calling “congratubation”, or self-congratulation. Let’s read Donn and Mark pat themselves firmly on their own backs.

Of course, it’s working. It worked everywhere else. There’s no secret recipe or special formula. We have sun, sky and—most importantly— water. Just add a snack shack, put out some brightly colored Adirondack chairs, set up a kids’ space, mix in activities. All of a sudden, we have a down-town waterfront that people want to go to.

Yes, of course! It’s so simple, really. The highest and best use for that property is to cobble the streets, throw in some flexible lawns, erect a shack (and invite a bunch of politicos to cut its ribbon), and all done! And think of all the activities and sand-play that’ll take place down there in, say, February! It’ll be a veritable mad house when the winds whip in off the frozen lake and the lunchtime crowd eats its shack lunch al fresco whilst developing a nasty case of frostbite.

Erie County Snack Shack
picture shack pictures

And consider all the other great and not-so-great waterfronts throughout America.

Even Yonkers has us beat.

Just like a lot of people thought we would, once we got past our magic-bullet fixation. There’s no need to overthink it. To oversubsidize it. To overbuild it.

“It’s ironic,” said Mark Goldman, the activist/entrepreneur whose brainstorm last year changed the waterfront course. “The major economic-development success story in our community this year involves $3,000 worth of Adirondack chairs.”

Apart from being a one-shot boon to Adirondack chair suppliers, manufacturers, and wholesalers, what economic benefit, exactly, is derived? Adirondack chairs are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. They let people who forgot their own chairs to use a publicly supplied chair, sit back, and watch something happen. Or relax. Or hang out. It’s all very nice, but there is no economic activity whatsoever being generated from “sitting back”. Who’s getting paid? Who’s selling something? Who’s buying something? Who’s employed? What economic transactions are taking place thanks to people loitering relaxedly in an Adirondack chair?

UPDATE: Here’s an interview we did with the ECHDC’s President, Tom Dee, on the day the snack shack opened:


Monday afternoon, more than 100 people walked or lounged at Erie Canal Harbor. A warm breeze ruffled a line of colored banners. Boats glided by on the Buffalo River. Folks lined up for sandwiches and ice cream at Clinton’s Dish—named for the governor who, at this site in 1825, opened the canal that transformed America. (Maybe someday we’ll get a sign that commemorates the fact.)

Oh, my heavens! Over 100 people?! How will we control these throngs if they persist?

And on Clinton Dish’s opening day, I too lined up for lunch. For 20 minutes. By the time they got around to scooping out Perry’s for a whopping gaggle of 6 (SIX!1!) kids, my lunch hour was already all but over. I had time to leave with a bag of barbecue chips and a Diet Coke. But it was an authentic and real bag of chips and bottle of Coke. It was unsullied by subsidized big-box chips or car-oriented Cokes. These were hand-delivered, artisanally manufactured chips and Coke that keep Buffalo unique and real, not fake like Cleveland or Boston.

Am I laying it on too thickly?  Well, I’m sick of being pissed.

It has been nearly a year since Bass Pro, after years of arrested development, mercifully cut bait. It has been eight months since the landmark gathering at City Honors School, when Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces outlined a “lighter, quicker, cheaper” philosophy of waterfront development. The event, organized by Goldman, underlined what progressives had pleaded for years: Get over the heavy-subsidy, magic-bullet, lots-of-parking fixation. Instead, create a place where people want to go, and let human nature—and market forces— take over. Step-by-smaller-step.

Call this the Summer of Sensibility. The snack stand and mini-“beach” and Adirondack chairs and kids’ space and random activities—from yoga to Zumba classes—were spawned in focus groups and in public forums. The Erie Canal Harbor board, bereft of a plan after Bass Pro’s bailout, followed the people’s lead. Citizens committees—one includes Goldman, preservationist Tim Tielman and Buffalo Rising’s Newell Nussbaumer —guided the board’s hand. Finally, we’re getting the waterfront we deserve.

That’s funny. In my opinion, Fred Kent and the PPS are guilty of defrauding the taxpayers of New York State, and our public benefit corporation, the ECHDC of thousands of dollars. They accomplished absolutely nothing that couldn’t have been accomplished for a few hundred dollars. I can do a Google image search for “waterfront fun”, too. I can cobble together an unwieldly Powerpoint presentation, too. I can make stuff up out of thin air like, “the Power of 10”, too. I can run a meeting where people put sticky notes on blow-up renderings, too. And I would have done it for a fraction of what PPS did. What a great scam.

The last time Esmonde praised Kent’s scam, I wrote this:

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

BTW, here’s Kent’s Google Image Search, if you missed it the first time. You paid for it.


“You can build a store anywhere,” Skulski noted. “Why would you want to stick it by the water, and take up this space? It goes against the whole point of a waterfront.”

Esmonde is being disingenuous here. No one has been talking about building a store of any kind on the grassy portion of the Central Wharf for about four years. (Click here for a post I wrote last year, which links to just about everything I’ve ever written about Bass Pro, ever.) Bass Pro was most recently supposed to go on the Aud block, which as of this writing remains a giant pile of gravel and a puddle.

Amen. Granted, nobody is yet printing money at Erie Canal Harbor. But, at little cost and with a lot of imagination, we’re creating a downtown waterfront where people want to be. Where people go, commerce will follow.

Really? How? To whom do I apply to open a business? A storefront? To park a cart of some kind? Whom do I contact for a permit? Whom must I bribe in order to grease the skids? What are the specific requirements for creating any economic activity at Canal Side? Where can I find the real estate or leasing listings for properties at Canal Side? How is commerce supposed to follow where there’s no plan in place for commerce to take place? Well, I’m sure Donn knows. But Goddamnit, NO CHAINS!

“This is creating demand,” Goldman said, “instead of using massive subsidies to create supply, and hoping that the demand follows.

What difference does it make? If an Adirondack chair and a snack shack is such a massive draw, as Esmonde and Goldman congratubate themselves about, (during about 4 months of a 12 month year), wouldn’t a Bass Pro (or other retailer – say, LL Bean) draw in even MORE people? What about a cafe? A bar? A development where businesses could execute leases and sell things, or bring people to offices, or build apartments?

“It is not just people having picnics, it is good economic-development strategy,” Goldman added. “You start small, and it snowballs. By next summer, you’ll see private businesses lining up to come down—instead of asking for big, fat subsidies.”

Lighter, quicker, cheaper. Already, it’s working

Notice the palpable absence of any discussion from either Goldman or Esmonde about what happens when the snow starts flying. Which here could be any time between October and April.

Buffalo, you’ve been punk’d.

45 Responses to “con·grat·u·bate (kənˈgraCHəˌbāt), Verb”

  1. Jon Splett July 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    I think I have a new favorite word…

  2. Tim Moran July 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    Well said Alan. In Buffalo, the creative solution tends to be the least creative and least substantive. But at least Goldman got to see his name praised in print again. Lets face it isn’t that what we are all here to do?

  3. Greg July 13, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    That Blingee is awesome.

    I thought the same thing — no mention of the snow, Donn?

  4. Andrew Kulyk July 13, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Alan.. Tom Dee was on Ch 2 news on July 4, criticizing the “naysayers” who have been deriding the lack of progress at Canalside. I wish you would have pressed him some more about the status of the ramp next to the Marine Drive Apts… the macadamias and PPS crowd went in there with Atty Makowski and riled up the Section Eighters, and the ECHDC just capitulated. These people are nuts. If somebody was going to build a ramp downtown next door to Avant and offer me a FREE dedicated parking space I would be thanking them profusely, not complaining about the exhaust and fumes, whilst taking a drag off of my cigarette.

    Next… does Dee offer any start date for the buildout of the canals in the Aud block and up to Esmonde’s employers’ fron door on Washington? I thought we’d see work there in spring, then in spring we were told they were doing final drawings and construction would start in fall. Now they are even vague about that. Will we be dealing with this muddy crater for years and decades?

    The public sector’s involvement should be as follows: Build the parking deck, as envisioned with ground floor retail space/opportunities; build the canal over to Washington St; add dramatic streetscape amenities like finishing the wharf boardwalk, lighting up the skyway, cleaning up and lighting up the grain elevator across the river and perhaps adding a signature mural/fresco to its facade; get the NFTA on board and replace the eyesore Aud station with a state of the art Arena/Canalside station adjacent to the arena; get the NFTA on board for a redevelopment plan for the DLW concourse. Plug all these elements in and shazzam… commerce will follow.

  5. Jesse July 13, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Keep beating the drum, guys.  So retarded.

    Tom Dee talks fast, anyway…

  6. Andrew Kulyk July 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Couple more thoughts.. In all fairness, I really like the stuff that is down on the wharf now. I’ve been hanging out there several times this past week or so, and the universal refrain from everyone I talked to was the same.. “this is so nice, when are we going to have more?” Same comments when I went to the Sloan concert. The more people that get down there, the more vopices we have demanding more, and those voices will overhwhelm the Esmonde-Tielman-Goldman-PPS obstructionists.
    Also – I talked with the Dinosaur BBQ folks at their stand at the TOB this past weekend. I was like the thousandth person to ask them when are they going to come down to the waterfront. The older gentleman I spoke to who seemed to be the guy in charge reported that, yes, they are looking to expand to the Buffalo area, and no, Canalside/HSBC Arena/Cobblestone is not high on their list. My guess, and it’s just a guess, is Quaker Crossing or Transit Road in Williamsville is where they land if they do come here. What a shame. Canalside would be a home run for them..heck I’d write a check tomorrow as an investor.

  7. rastamick July 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    B-Lo is truly the small pond big fish’s wet dream. Where else could a wiener like B Brown win uncontested and these other entremanure/activists pop out of the ground and be hailed as the next Olmsteads ? Damn. If only James Pitts and his peeps could have had their way with that nifty prefab pile of shit they wanted to toss up next to the water. We could have been contenders. Ooooh an empty chair, gotta run…

  8. lulu July 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    I like that locals are finding ways to enjoy the waterfront despite the “leadership” who is supposed to be developing it. I also do not think it is a good location for merchandise driven retail, though waterfront-activity-related retail and restaurants make perfect sense to me.

    Your tone on this issue has soured to such a point that it reeks of ‘us vs. them rhetoric’ and “not choosing my ideas so I must ridicule” logic. Looking back to old posts on this issue remind me of a day when ideas were tossed around and suggestions given for possible uses for our waterfront in your posts themselves and from various sources in comments. It has been far too long since your posts on this topic have provided a forum for constructive discourse and a call to action.

  9. Alan Bedenko July 13, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    @lulu, what more discussion is there to be had?  Esmonde and Tielman and Goldman have quite palpably won.  They’re busily patting themselves on their own backs for their cutting-edge sandboxes and world-class Adirondack chair development projects. 

    You’re right. We have spent about 8 years tossing around ideas and whatnot.  None of those matter because Fred Kent came to town and told us rubes how to do economic development.  By the power of ten and pic-a-nic tables. 

    8 years is a long time to be thwarted, culminating in disappointment. But at least we have some more grass by the water.  God knows there aren’t any waterfront parks anywhere in WNY. 

  10. Jennifer July 13, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    ” I’ve sent an email to ECHDC asking how much, exactly, PPS was paid.”

    Did you ever receive a response? How much were they paid?

    • Alan Bedenko July 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

      I did not. I emailed them on two separate occasions. I have heard several figures, all in the $60,000 – $120,000 range.

  11. Tom Dolina July 13, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Nice video; who was that asshole in the background sitting on the Adirondack chair?

  12. pirate's code July 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    OK, Donn, let’s call this the “Summer of Sensibility.” What will we call it when it is no longer summer? Is “Winter of Our Discontent” copyrighted?

  13. RaChaCha July 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    @Andrew The rumors about DBBQ scouting for a Buffalo location, like Godzilla, don’t die. I remain optimistic, but am not holding my breath (having first written about the rumors in 11/2008 – see link below). The good news is that they really prefer downtown and near-downtown locations. It would be great to have them in Buffalo.

  14. RaChaCha July 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    I’ve lived in Buffalo over 2 years now, and haven’t yet once been praised by Donn Esmonde. #FeelingInadequate

  15. Jeremy July 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    Finally, we’re getting the waterfront we deserve.

  16. homebrewer July 13, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    Like an unhappy child who got coal for Christmas, people are still pissed that the taxpayer funded Bass Pro Fantasy land never came to pass. To cheer up, I’d suggest you guys actually spend some time @ the Wharf like thousands of other WNYers. Apparently these crowds of people find the “coal” you received quite enjoyable.

    • Alan Bedenko July 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm #


  17. Eisenbart July 13, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    So $3,000 for chairs and $60-120,000 for someone to show us pictures of chairs. This sounds about right.

  18. jimd July 13, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Sorry Alan, have to agree with Lulu. You may be right, your frustration justified, but it is unseemly for this site. Go kick Donn Esmonde’s dog and let’s move forward.

  19. homebrewer July 13, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    So because I see things differently I’m an asshole?

    Tantrums aside, Bass Pro was a huge part of the mall style waterfront fantasy land people here have been pining for. If you don’t like using their name, substitute another chain that would require massive subsidies to locate here.

    People cry about Ditch and the Adirondack chairs but they are a part of a larger, and much cheaper, effort that has been successful at attracting people here. People will attract retailers so maybe if the momentum continues, we can attract those beautiful people chains that so many people think are needed to have “something to do” on the waterfront.

    • Alan Bedenko July 14, 2011 at 6:10 am #

      No, you’re an asshole because you (a) suggest that I’m having a temper tantrum and liken me to a child (which I promptly obliged you with my response); and (b) you completely miss the point of my piece. I’m not pining for Bass Pro. I’m pointing out that Donn Esmonde is a liar, that Mark Goldman helped perpetrate a theft of public money to a scam artist, and that all of these people are ignoring that – as nice as that pretty park is – it’s a 4-month-per-year attraction.

      Did you watch the interview with Tom Dee where we discuss what comes next? Unlikely, based on your two ridiculous comments. Clearly, you agree with Mark Goldman that paying Fred Kent thousands to do nothing was a great idea. Furthermore, you’re busy helping these clowns pat each other on the back for what – for a food shack, a lawn and some chairs? This is what was going to be there ANYWAY. I mean, what’s next? Shall we applaud the traffic light for changing from red to green? Maybe Donn Esmonde can be a smug fuck because the sun rose in the East today.

      People will attract retailers? What retailers? where will they build? What will they build? From whom will they buy property or rent property? Who will build it? What will it look like? Will Mark Goldman bitch and moan about THAT and hold it up? Will Mayor Esmonde approve? Where will their customers come from? Downtown is already tantamount to empty. Let’s keep it sucky!

      You have none of these answers, and instead will rely on your bad feelings about chains, me, malls, Bass Pro, etc. So, go down there and have fun enjoying the Adirondack chairs on the first sub-30 degree day. Then come back and tell me how awful “buildings” and “cars” and “development” are.

  20. chris July 13, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    I’m with Lulu and homebrewer on this one.

  21. pjf-usrt July 14, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    Dear Donn, we get 100 people to hang out near an ice cream stand too. And we don’t celebrate it like it’s the greatest thing on earth.

    Sincerely, every populated area of over 100 people in North America.
    Also, did I really see a quote from Goldman celebrating the fact that the biggest economic development is those Adirondack chairs? For fuck’s sake, we’re the second largest city in the state, we deserve much more. Don’t belittle people for daring to believe that we deserve an area remotely resembling such a status.

  22. homebrewer July 14, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    @ Allen: You are taking my comments wayyyy too personal. They weren’t addressed to you alone, as there are several people on this site and others bummed out because Santa didn’t bring them their toy waterfront.

    Yes I am patting the backs of the citizens who helped avert a taxpayer kings ransom subsidy to a fishing store in favor of a more realistic, and more publicly accessible harbor front. The new activities seem to infuriate the “why consider economic realities” armchair planners but they seem to be a good job of attracting and entertaining the people who use this site everyday.

    These developments would have happened anyway? How so? Do chairs, snack stands, kayak rental places etc, fall out of the sky with the same regularity of traffic signals changing and the sun rising?

    And yes, businesses typically locate where people are. If people consistently use this area as they have been, you will see more traditional and permanent business activity. Not necessarily the Ikea, Bass Pro, or other wish list chains, but businesses nevertheless. The current ownership of the land does not seem like a hindrance to this type of activity to me.

    • Alan Bedenko July 14, 2011 at 8:53 am #

      Firstly – thanks, @Pirate’s Code. You’re exactly right.

      Secondly, as to @homebrewer:

      You are taking my comments wayyyy too personal. They weren’t addressed to you alone, as there are several people on this site and others bummed out because Santa didn’t bring them their toy waterfront.

      Well, YOU characterize this as a “toy waterfront”. I’d say that what we have now is a toy waterfront. A shack, a sandbox, some grass, and some Adirondack chairs. There’s not a park in Erie County that doesn’t already have all that, and several are on the water. If there’s one thing this town has quite enough of is unused property.

      Yes I am patting the backs of the citizens who helped avert a taxpayer kings ransom subsidy to a fishing store in favor of a more realistic, and more publicly accessible harbor front. The new activities seem to infuriate the “why consider economic realities” armchair planners but they seem to be a good job of attracting and entertaining the people who use this site everyday.

      The money spent on Fred Kent’s bench-and-chair caucus was just as big a waste of taxpayer dollars. How would putting a large store on the Aud block make the Central Wharf area “less publicly accessible”. Part of the very large problem in this town is that when certain blocs of people argue against some development, they generally lie – or at least, make stuff up (e.g., “the elevated Route 5 separates the Outer Harbor from Buffalo’s downtown” – no it doesn’t.). Likewise, Bass Pro, LL Bean, a public market, a restaurant, or even the world’s largest Ten Thousand Villages, if situated on the Aud block, would have no impact whatsoever on the public’s ability to “access” the grassy knoll we have now.

      These developments would have happened anyway? How so? Do chairs, snack stands, kayak rental places etc, fall out of the sky with the same regularity of traffic signals changing and the sun rising?

      When the idea of Bass Pro locating on the Central Wharf was nixed in favor of green space in late 2007, the fact that the area there now would become what it has become was a foregone conclusion. It certainly didn’t need Fred Kent and his $100k crowdsourcing parade to get some seating there.

      And yes, businesses typically locate where people are. If people consistently use this area as they have been, you will see more traditional and permanent business activity. Not necessarily the Ikea, Bass Pro, or other wish list chains, but businesses nevertheless. The current ownership of the land does not seem like a hindrance to this type of activity to me.

      I don’t give a crap about chains. I don’t care if Newell Nussbaumer personally opens 40 different and unique hand-crafted artisanal coffee shops, tchotchke shops, tapas bars, etc. The point is that Esmonde and his crew are happy with the waterfront EXACTLY THE WAY IT IS. They do not acknowledge – and do not want to acknowledge – that there is more to Canal Side than what is there now.

      In any event, I’ll chalk you up as among the throng that adores the “real” and “authentic” gravel/puddle the Aud block has become, and eschews the idea of “development” or “progress” or “something” to go there. We’ll leave it in its natural state, and the people will just magically come. Or perhaps we can retain the services of Fred Kent today and he can Google Image Search “gravel+puddle+people” and throw the results in a Powerpoint, and Mark Goldman can fellate him for it, and Donn Esmonde can gesticulate wildly at how far Buffalo has come.

  23. pirate's code July 14, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    @ homebrewer — Not meant as a defense of Alan, because he does that quite well on his own. But, perhaps it is you that needs to get over the Bass Pro fixation. Most regular contributors to this site have been over Bass Pro for some time, as clearly it was dead long before the formal announcements.

    I share Alan’s frustrations that we get a sliver of what has been promised and, because it’s not Bass Pro, we are to hold a parade in its honor. Watch the video with Dee. 800 words per minute and not a single, solid commitment to anything beyond what they’ve already scrapped together. I was struck when he said that ECHDC isn’t a position to help anyone interested in buying a parcel. Really? Then get the fuck out of the way, tell me who is in charge, and let’s get to seeing who or what might be interested.

    My read of Alan’s post was that lawns and shacks and chairs are nice and all, especially this time of year, but Bass Pro or not, lots of people have promised lots more in one fashion or another and have yet to deliver. In the meantime, Fred Kent and his all-star clown circus have come and gone (with a chunk of our money) with damn little to show for it. Why the hell should Esmonde applaud that?

  24. peteherr July 14, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    I agree that it would be nice to know who owns land, when it will be available, and how to buy/lease it. Yes, it is nice that stuff is happening down there. I stopped in for a few minutes on Sunday and it was a pleasant time, but I agree……what’s next and when?

  25. Brian Castner July 14, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    I think lost in the backslapping is that there was $250M – $300Mish of state and NYPA funds available to build SOMETHING, and in tens years we have a redug canal, exposed stones and some chairs and grass to show for it. Does any lover of the current setup think that was the most desirable outcome? The highest and best use? Happy with where we are now? Ready to call it a day simply content that the consumerist itch was not scratched? As I wrote yesterday, in the last decade, while we’ve been arguing about this, Milwaukee built a new art museum extension and Great Lakes aquarium/museum on their waterfront. We had/have the money to do the same. Or do something else. Do whatever – how about we invest $250M bucks and not be content with $3000 in chairs and a couple hundred people. This newfound contentment is looking a lot like settling.

  26. homebrewer July 14, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    Okay. Since people don’t want me “fixating” on the Bass Pro, I will have to come up with some other name for the waterfront mall people have been calling for (although AB did bring up BP in his latest reply).

    @ Allan: You said “There’s not a park in Erie County that doesn’t already have all that, and several are on the water.” The same can be said for the retail stores many feel they were “promised.” Can’t people shop at the Galleria or Elmwood just as easily as they could in the… lets call it “outdoor themed water mall.” As far as the 100k, based on the amount of people using this site compared to years past, I’d say money well spent. Unlike subsidized private retail space, anybody can use these chairs and relax on public property.

    @ Brian: Many would disagree that using scarce NYPA funds for a superficial, politically motivated capital project, completely unrelated to electricity or water, would not be the highest and best use of those funds. Personally, I’d favor using that $ to fix our 3rd world storm sewers that spew feces in the river after heavy rains but that sort of basic, common sense project doesn’t make for as pretty of a photo op.

    @ both of you: Stop with the “ready to call it a day” strawman argument. I don’t think anybody is claiming that we got it perfect and all development should halt. I like the harbor the way it is, and feel it has come a long way in the past ten years ago. But like just about everyone, I’d welcome new development that builds upon what is already there.

    Don’t you think it’s possible for people to enjoy the waterfront as is AND aspire to improve it? Or do we live in a world of absolutes where people can be evenly divided into the waterside Can Jammers or people who feel they are entitled to the Outdoor Themed Water Mall.

  27. Brian Castner July 14, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    @ Homebrewer:

    1) Rule 1 of strawmen: if you call someone out for the supposed use of them, you can’t use them yourself. So no more “many would disagree” and “I don’t think anybody’s” please. BTW, I’m not beating up on strawmen, I’m beating up on Esmonde and Gee. And if anyone would like to make the point that we should stop now, for the possible reasons I gave or others, I’d love to debate it.

    2) NYPA funds aren’t scarce – they have such record profits that Higgins had to strong arm them into investing some of their hoards of cash back here. Sewer systems have as little to do with power generation as waterfront development, but we’re using their money on that too – look up the Niagara River Greenway Commission. Plus, we can use other dollars for sewers – check the work being done at the 190 interchange by the Coca Cola Field. I’d like to be able to do both (basic infrastructure plus development), and there is enough money available for both.

    3) The tone of Esmonde’s piece is not about the future, touting what comes next, its about being content with now. Same with Dee’s schitick. Gee’s the same – she says we need to move on from silver bullets, but any public outlay of more than $50M is going to be called that. The build out of Canalside will cost more than that – should we really stop?

    4) I would look in the mirror on the issue of absolutes. Alan writes about chairs and you label him a Bass Pro lover throwing a tantrum. I’d enjoy the waterfront a lot more if it felt like one step of many with a known next effort instead of an over-hyped sales job with a hazy future plan.

  28. Newsguy July 14, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    I’m not sure why you’re being so critical, Alan. I must say I don’t wholeheartedly disagree with the many arguments you offer in this column. Buffalo and its leaders have botched inner-harbor development to this point. But you have to admit that progress is finally being made. A couple of weeks ago, I was at the waterfront for four consecutive days because of what’s been happening. Tuesday, we took a Miss Buffalo cruise and enjoyed a drink afterward at Templeton Landing. Wednesday, I ran in the Buffalo Broadcasters Association run. Thursday was the Lowest of the Low. Then, Friday, I was there for the festivities surrounding the food shack and expanded wharf. Five years ago, this wouldn’t have happened!

    Yes, more has to happen. We need more restaurants and retail. And I expect we’ll see that in the coming years.
    I remember visiting the Navy Pier in Chicago six years ago and wondered why I couldn’t enjoy a cold drink or ice cream on my waterfront. Now I can. And I can take in a theater performance and a free weekly concert, and if so inclined, exercise at a zumba class. Again, at least we’re finally moving forward! And I would suggest that for now, let’s forget about October through April. No matter what’s down there, it’s unlikely this suburbanite is going to come to the waterfront during the middle of February for anything more than a Sabres game at the arena. This fact in and of itself could limit significant development because any business moving there will only be able to draw crowds for five months a year. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to do anything about this. A strong wind blowing off the lake makes the Central Wharf pretty inhospitable in winter. Perhaps museums and other indoor attractions could bring people down. But it will be a hard sell. For now, I’m just going to enjoy what we have there.

  29. Fat Tony July 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    ECHDC has pulled off the perfect rope-a-dope, sleight of hand move ever. While everyone fixates on the snack shack, they are about to hand-deliver the Donovan site with a a huge gift of public money through a very “questionable” RFP process to Benderson….the only responder to the RFP because everyone else knew the deal was cooked. The relationships between Quinn/Levy/Benderson/Philips Lytle were all documented pretty well in a Heaney column a few weeks back. So while the politicos got their grip and grin photos in front of the new chairs, the biggest giveaway of public money to Benderson goes unnoticed. Let’s call it: “sleighter, faster, corrupter” economic development.

  30. pirate's code July 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    @ Newsguy — So, waterfront development only matters in the warm weather? Yes, I get the seasonality thing, but to suggest that folks won’t go there no matter what just because it’s cold seems defeatist. I, too, am a suburbanite and, frankly, long to get out of the house during fall, winter and spring. In fact, that’s when she-who-must-be-obeyed and I do most of our restaurant hopping, theater going, museum exploring, and so on. We already have plenty of options for water gazing during a warm summer afternoon/evening, and clearly one thing Western New York has no shortage of is free summer concerts — some with or near water (Artpark, for instance), some without.

    @fat tony — Apparently, public money giveaways aren’t a bad thing so long as it’s not on the water.

  31. homebrewer July 15, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    @ Brian: Are you trying to say my calling out of your “call it a day” strawman… is a strawman argument? How so? I don’t see anything in Esmonde’s and Gee’s articles, or anywhere, that suggests anybody wants to see no more development take place. Plenty of stuff about creating demand, incremental progress, and the folly of expecting a mall to sprout out of the ground without regard to market forces, but nothing close to “call it a day.”

    We can agree to disagree over the merits of using a one of a kind revenue source on retail stores or infrastructure.

    As far as my “labeling” Allen’s comments as a tantrum: what would you call comments will all caps yelling, swearing, and insults directed at someone who raises a conflicting viewpoint. That doesn’t include the original post snark directed at others who aren’t aligned with the we-must-have-retail-on-the-waterfront camp. I thought “tantrum” was being nice.

  32. Brian Castner July 15, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    @ HB: No, your NYPA funding argument was the strawman. And you are right – you called it a tantrum after his indulgent cap fest. You called him a child pissy about a lump of coal before then. Snark pot: meet kettle.

    You seem to be arguing with me like I want some specific retail/mally thing on the water. I know that’s an easier opponent to face off with, but its not what I’m saying. I’m talking about SOMETHING, without the need to impress my own specific plan, and am referencing an art gallery and Great Lakes aquarium as something nice another similarly sized city has. Do either sound good to you? Because the present attitude won’t bring them. Gee says no more big ribbon cuttings – any SOMETHING would not fit her plan. Esmonde, in my opinion, does more backslapping than looking at the future, but even by your viewpoint, there is no tangible plan to get from here to there (where-ever that may be). Putting out chairs revealed demand, it didn’t create it. What would Esmonde like to see now? He’s never been shy about saying so, but there is precious little beyond a general “what happens, happens” attitude. One time pots of money are EXACTLY the time to build one time infrastructure – we are stepping back from an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often.

  33. homebrewer July 15, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    Actually, as I said earlier, I was speaking in generalities comparing several people who feel they were promised an outdoor themed water mall to whinny children. I didn’t call Allan anything.

    And not I am not arguing with you over whether there should a mall type attraction there. (I dare not say Bass Pro because I’m told this isn’t about them… even though the mall hopefuls have brought their name up repeatedly and the lead picture to this article is a BP rendering).

    I’m arguing that just because there is no mega project currently on the site or in the pipeline, that we shouldn’t enjoy what is already at Canalside being used by people on a daily basis. I’m just tired of the mindset that if we don’t have “SOMETHING,” that we should heap scorn on what has become an enjoyable place with a multitude of things to do. That attitude won’t bring the stores, museums, or whatever someone else deems to be “SOMETHING” either.

    • Alan Bedenko July 15, 2011 at 11:05 am #

      @homebrewer, I gave you my all caps “f you” reply (complete with smiley face and hugs) after you wrote this:

      Like an unhappy child who got coal for Christmas, people are still pissed that the taxpayer funded Bass Pro Fantasy land never came to pass. To cheer up, I’d suggest you guys actually spend some time @ the Wharf like thousands of other WNYers. Apparently these crowds of people find the “coal” you received quite enjoyable.

      It was accusatory and condescending, and may not have been directed only at me, but was directed at me and others. So your attempt to generalize nunc pro tunc is somewhat disingenuous.

      Of course, nothing I wrote in my piece had anything to do with whether a nice park and some chairs is or is not a good or bad thing. Indeed, I think it is a palpably good thing, but one which was in the works since late 2007 at the latest. The point was that people like Esmonde and Goldman are patting themselves on their backs for a “lighter quicker cheaper” waterfront simply because they’ve succeeded in delaying plans to develop the surrounding blocks. And Fred Kent is laughing all the way to the bank at Buffalo’s rube-elligentsia.

  34. Brian Wood July 16, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    I like the waterfront. I go frequently, look at the flowers, listen to the rumble of VERY fast boats, enjoy the coolth when a mile away it’s hotter than the hinges of hell. A plain old bar with views of the water would be nice (I don’t think Templeton Landing is gonna make it). Just a plain old bar. I take the grandchildren, who like the big boats.

    Will I be there in November, December, January, February, March, April, or the beginning of May? Although I grew up in New Hampshire and the Army sent me to Alaska, I ain’t daft.

  35. John July 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    Alan, aren’t you on one of the committees?  So your kind of blaming yourself why things are not getting done.

    Also if someone else has a plan than show it.  Because as far as I see it the ones your complaining about are the only ones producing any kind of plan to move forward.

    • Alan Bedenko July 16, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

      1. I was on the outer harbor committee and thought it was a fucking joke.

      2. “Then”, not “than”.

  36. John July 17, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Well than you found the source of the problem.

    • Alan Bedenko July 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

      No, not really.

      First of all, I wasn’t on the inner harbor committee. I was on the outer harbor committee. You’ll note that the topic at hand is Canal Side; i.e., the Inner Harbor.

      Secondly, my contribution to the outer harbor committee was to suggest that the parcels be sold off pursuant to a plan that involved the state/ECHDC subdividing parcels, overseeing the installation of infrastructure, contracting for the build-out of roads, etc. I then suggested that the ECHDC’s role should be limited beyond that only to setting up, implementing, and enforcement of design, zoning/land use, and architectural standards and criteria; that creating stopgap happy fun pseudo-attractions was a waste of money given that the Outer Harbor is a giant cesspool of contamination that will – and must – involve millions of dollars to remediate and make safe for building & use.

      So, nice try. Have a great day.


  1. Premature Congratubation « - July 22, 2011

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  2. Unfair Blame and Facile Hypocrisy | Artvoice Daily - June 2, 2013

    […] the one hand, he’s been a vocal anti-development preservationist. Tight with the Tielmans and Goldmans of Buffalo, he alternates between aging hippie who hates suburbs to aging, reactionary, resentful […]

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