New Suburbanism

9 Jun

The Congress for New Urbanism came to a city to talk about how great cities are. It went out to some of the suburbs that are on the urbanist-approved list, and apparently engaged in some interesting discussion about how prosperous people like their development and planning. 

We’re talking, of course, about a Buffalo that is overwhelmingly poor; joblessness and underemployment are wildly popular careers. But we’re meant to believe that “bad development” and “parking lots” are the real socioeconomic plague in western New York

Celebration, FL

This is a city where the weekly Monday columnist writes about the city’s “strategy” for dealing with scores of vacant lots – not surface parking mind you, but straight-up grassland. The East Side of Buffalo was liveable and walkable. It was compact and diverse. If it’s what everyone wants, why did everyone leave? 

It wasn’t just racism, you know? It was the postwar American dream – to abandon noisy, crowded cities, slums, and tenements to chase the American dream. To have a little patch of land and a house and a quieter existence. To this day, some people like living in a suburban environment for a variety of reasons. To each his own. 

I agree that New Urbanism can do a lot to improve the ways suburbs develop, grow, and change. I would love for every town to resemble Celebration, FL, the Disney-developed New Urbanist model. It has sidewalks, mixed use communities, a distinct downtown, it’s bike-and-pedestrian friendly, the garages are in the back and not fronting the street. Houses are closer together. It’s very nice. It would be great to have a development like that locally. 

Buffalo, though. This is a city where the Monday paper reveals how the at-war school board is so feckless and incompetent that 1,000 families have no idea where their kids are going to school next semester. That doesn’t matter to the childless, though. 

Through Colin Dabkowski, we learn some more about the CNU

But something [CNU speaker Jeff] Speck said toward the end of his presentation gave me serious doubts about the movement’s claims to inclusivity and its interest in improving life for all urban residents. Speck espouses a theory of urban development he calls “urban triage,” a term that means infrastructure investment should go largely to a city’s densest and most-prosperous neighborhoods at the expense of outlying areas.

In explaining that philosophy, Speck said cities need to “concentrate perfection” in certain neighborhoods, distribute money in a way that favors those neighborhoods and focus primarily on downtowns in an effort to increase the health and wealth of citizens.

“Most mayors, city managers and municipal planners feel a responsibility to their entire city,” Speck wrote in his book “Walkable City,” a follow-up to “Suburban Nation,” the so-called “Bible of New Urbanism” that he co-authored with Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zybek. “As a result, they tend to sprinkle the walkability fairy dust indiscriminately. They are also optimists – they wouldn’t be in government otherwise – so they want to believe that they can someday attain a city that is universally excellent. This is lovely, but it is counterproductive.”

Interesting concept. As someone on my Facebook page pointed out, the point of triage is to identify and treat the people who need it the most, not to follow the path of least (and wealthiest) resistance. 

As a movement, New Urbanism seems primarily concerned with making prosperous neighborhoods more prosperous and then hoping against hope that the benefits of that prosperity magically extend into sections of town untouched by their charming design sensibility. Hence “urban triage,” a term that connotes a lack of concern for the human occupants of those neighborhoods deemed unworthy of infrastructure investments.

On a recent bicycle tour through the East Side led by activist and East Side resident David Torke and local planner and New Urbanist Chris Hawley, it’s obvious that this neighborhood needs infrastructure development and that local activists and urbanists recognize this need. To suggest that we need to choose between developing our downtown and improving the lives of residents in blighted neighborhoods, as New Urbanists’ “urban triage” philosophy would suggest, is beyond irresponsible.

You need to read the whole thing, right down to the time that another speaker – Andres Duany – casually threw around “retarded” to describe things he doesn’t like. 

Celebration, FL

The underlying ideas of New Urbanism are great – who doesn’t like pretty New Urbanist places like Seaside or Celebration? Who doesn’t like East Aurora or Hamburg’s new downtown? Who doesn’t like pretty things over ugly things? Right? Who doesn’t want to eliminate ugly surface lots and replace them with some nice infill development, right? 

But consider this: 

 She later (Tweet since deleted) argued that many people she knows who live in the suburbs are depressed as a result of being “bored shitless”. Of course, depression is an illness – a treatable disease. It’s due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, which explains why it can be treated with medicine. To suggest that depression is triggered by some sort of mystical bored shitlessness is ignorant and helps to perpetuate the myth of depression as mental weakness rather than disease. 

And that’s a lot of what I find from Buffalo’s urbanists – new and old. They don’t like the suburbs (or the people who live there), so they denigrate them and the people in them. At some point yay cities becomes boo suburbs. I don’t quite understand why that is, but whatever makes you feel better about your choice, right? 

You don’t like the suburbs? Bully for you. I do. Bully for me. But I don’t have to justify my choice by denigrating yours.

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100 Responses to “New Suburbanism”

  1. Tom Beecher June 9, 2014 at 7:32 am #

    I have suffered from bouts of depression for years, diagnosed and treated by professional psychologists. It angers me that people in the world conflate that to be related to where I pay property taxes, just to try and make a ‘Buffalove’ point about some abandoned property.

    Just once I’d like to see one of these ‘young preservationists’ man up and move to the east side. Buy a property there. Live there. Effect real change, not just lip service to the Buffalo Rising and Artvoice crowds.

    • Andrew Kulyk June 9, 2014 at 8:12 am #

      Tom you asked to name one individual from the preservationist movement, well I can name several… David Torke bought an abandoned home in the Woodlawn/Masten area for one dollar and brought it back to life, and now lives in the shadow of where Offerman Stadium once stood. Mike Puma put his stakes down in the Hamlin Park neighborhood near Humboldt Pkwy and is renovating his new home, while advocating others to join him in purchasing homes and becoming his neighbors. Jason Wilson and fiancé Bernice Radle of the Buffalo Young Preservationists are buying up distressed properties on the west side and restoring them, much of it sweat equity. I honor and treasure these people, my friends and neighbors, for their leadership by example.

      My experience as a lifelong Buffalonian crosses three swaths – the near east side, Cheektowaga, and now downtown Buffalo. All three living experiences came with their problems and issues, yet at the same time their awesomeness. Alan is right. Our city is great. Our suburbs are great. Our countrysides are great. We’re all in this together.

      • Tom Beecher June 9, 2014 at 8:40 am #

        Full marks to the folks you’ve mentioned who have done just that. Those folks are doing it right, and probably no coincidence that their names are not super vocal in most circles; they’re busy working.

        However, let’s exclude Jason and Bernice from that discussion. Their sweat equity involves abusing ‘Buffalove’ to get free labor from friends and internet denizens to enrich their for profit development company. To be clear, I have no problem with someone making some money by putting in the work, but doing it by exploiting an idea doesn’t sit well with me. If you want to get people to come spend a weekend working on a property that ostensibly, you’re flipping and will make a profit from, and doing it for a TV show that’s paying you for your appearance, then give some of those dollars to those working. Don’t offer them Wegmans subs and bottles of water.

        Ms. Huber and ‘Dedicated to Buffalo’ are described in an Artvoice interview as a group that ‘documents disinvested buildings in Lackawana to draw attention to their possibilities’. I’m sure she does more than that, but one thing we don’t need around there is that. We have hundreds of people around here who drive by a building and make a drawing of what it COULD be, all the while ignoring that the real costs involved to bring it up to basic building codes make it economically prohibitive.

        On top of all that, insinuating that moving to Amherst or Cheektowaga will increase one’s chances at developing mental illness is probably one of the most patently offensive things I’ve ever read. And then she defends it?

        In closing, to the people actually doing work, thank you. To the people asserting that the chemical imbalance between my hears is somehow influenced by my zip code, fuck you.

      • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 9:46 am #

        Lackawanna.

        Isn’t that technically a suburb?

      • betty barcode June 9, 2014 at 10:37 am #

        No, it is technically a city.

      • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 10:39 am #

        It has a city form of government. Apart from that, what differentiates Lackawanna from, say, Cheektowaga? Is White Plains not simultaneously a New York suburb and a city?

      • betty barcode June 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

        By sniffing out racism & classism where it doesn’t really exist, Colin’s column provided ideological cover for those who prefer suburban enclaves that are, in fact, deeply segregated by color & class.

        We can debate ’till the cows come home what percentage of post-war urban policy was motivated by racial fears & hostilities, but as Dan Blather admits, racism was a factor.

        Does anyone really believe that after leaving the CNU conference, Rust Belt planners & officials everywhere are rejoicing, “Woohoo! Now I can write off the East Side [or local counterpart]! Speck & Duany said so!” Or are they maybe thinking that a road diet will not kill their downtowns? Or that it won’t be a disaster to allow apartments above stores again?

        It is kind of head-spinning to suggest that wanting to remove highways that damaged African-American neighborhoods represents some sort of insidious racial bias.

        It is kind of head-spinning to suggest that installing protected bike lanes in neighborhoods where only 30% of households own automobiles represents some sort of insidious racial bias.

        It is head-spinning to suggest that improving and expanding public transit so that workers can better connect with jobs (and maybe get off public assistance!) represents some sort of insidious racial bias.

        But there you have it. Those who prefer segregated suburbs will grasp at any ammunition against those who would undo the policies that directly or indirectly undergird that segregation.

        Good going, Colin! Suburban pundits everywhere are grateful for your dedicated service.

      • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

        By sniffing out racism & classism where it doesn’t really exist, Colin’s column provided ideological cover for those who prefer suburban enclaves that are, in fact, deeply segregated by color & class.

        Or who lived in cities and no longer find that they suit their needs or preferences. It’s very very easy and convenient for some people to hurl scorn and derision at people who choose differently, but let’s not pretend like the City of Buffalo itself is not deeply segregated by color and class. In fact, Lovejoy is whiter than Clarence. Nottingham is as wealthy as Spaulding Lake.

        You’re not disputing the accuracy of what Colin wrote, so you’re merely saying his conclusion was incorrect, but what do you call it when someone says urbanists have to perform “triage” and first help the most prosperous, least helpless areas?

        We can debate ’till the cows come home what percentage of post-war urban policy was motivated by racial fears & hostilities, but as Dan Blather admits, racism was a factor.

        No one said it wasn’t.

        Does anyone really believe that after leaving the CNU conference, Rust Belt planners & officials everywhere are rejoicing, “Woohoo! Now I can write off the East Side [or local counterpart]! Speck & Duany said so!” Or are they maybe thinking that a road diet will not kill their downtowns? Or that it won’t be a disaster to allow apartments above stores again?

        Nope. The facts of East Side write-offedness speak for themselves. It existed before, and will exist after, CNU goes away.

        It is kind of head-spinning to suggest that wanting to remove highways that damaged African-American neighborhoods represents some sort of insidious racial bias.

        Who said that?

        It is kind of head-spinning to suggest that installing protected bike lanes in neighborhoods where only 30% of households own automobiles represents some sort of insidious racial bias.

        Who said that?

        What Colin was arguing – and he’s absolutely right – is that “New Urbanism” is a movement that is largely white and largely privileged.

        Like Clarence!

        Buffalo looks great from atop a mountain of white privilege, but a poor family living on SNAP benefits isn’t too concerned where their next bike lane is going to come from. The single mom who can’t find daycare isn’t so concerned with infill development, “road diets” or tactical urbanism.

        It is head-spinning to suggest that improving and expanding public transit so that workers can better connect with jobs (and maybe get off public assistance!) represents some sort of insidious racial bias.

        What’s stopping anyone from doing that?

        But there you have it. Those who prefer segregated suburbs will grasp at any ammunition against those who would undo the policies that directly or indirectly undergird that segregation.

        Good going, Colin! Suburban pundits everywhere are grateful for your dedicated service.

        It’s as if you didn’t read a thing I wrote, so let’s put it another way.

        The best way to give Buffalo the new urbanist future that you want so desperately that you gleefully call anyone who lives outside of its arbitrary municipal boundary a racist, is to give people jobs and to grow wealth.

        The way to do that is to get rid of red tape, streamline the process, make city hall user friendly, and lift all boats economically rather than with bikeshares. The way to do that is to overhaul the city schools so that they aren’t such a colossal embarrassment that parents are clamoring to enter lotteries so that their kids don’t have to go private. You want to grow downtown? Turn downtown into a sales-tax free zone and make it a reverse Empire Zone – an idea I brought up a decade ago. You do that, and you’ll get downtown retail in spite of the elevated expressways.

        You could get rid of every highway from here to Batavia, but abrogating those symptoms isn’t going to touch the underlying disease.

        So, you should just keep on with the them vs. us shtick. Lots of people – even influential ones – seem to like it.

      • betty barcode June 9, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

        Colin played the race & class card, not me.

      • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

        No, you just suggested that Colin was acting as a useful idiot for people like I, who are a priori racist.

      • betty barcode June 9, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

        Yeah, and it sucked, didn’t it? Yet that is pretty much what Colin did to Speck & Duany and those of us who follow them, with your ringing endorsement.

      • Alan Bedenko June 10, 2014 at 6:05 am #

        Do you condone Duany’s reported overuse of “retarded” as a euphemism for “thing I disagree with”? Do you disagree with his interpretation of what Speck said?

      • Dan_Blather June 9, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

        > What Colin was arguing – and he’s absolutely right – is that “New
        Urbanism” is a movement that is largely white and largely privileged.

        http://theblackurbanist.com/

        Anyhow, lack of diversity is something that many CNU 22 attendees noticed: where are the black new urbanists? I met a few passionate black new urbanists who wondered the same thing. Go to any planning conference — CNU, APA, CIP, whatever — and you’ll see a dearth of black faces and voices.

        There’s a lot of self-filtration in the planning profession; whites and Asians heading into current planning, comprehensive planning, transportation planning, environmental planning and urban design, while blacks steer towards housing and community development. In my graduate program, the urban planning and architecture students were almost exclusively white and Asian, while the urban studies students were almost entirely black, Hispanic and mixed race.

        See http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=28524 for some discussion and links to reports about minorities in the field. As one black planner wrote:

        “There are lots of blacks who want to get an education that allows them to get jobs that help change the urban environment, but somehow very few know about the field of urban planning. I think a lot of us blacks assume that the societal aspects of the built environment are what needs changing most, and that any physical improvements are an outgrowth of social changes. That leads people into developing program-based solutions for revitalization. Many ultimately work with CDCs or in non-profit fields and specialize in community development.”

        TL/DR: white planners have a greater interest in the built and natural environment, while blacks have a greater interest in less tangible social and economic issues. New urbanism started as a design movement, so it’s going to have more appeal among those who are interested in the physical environment.

      • BlackRockLifer June 9, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

        Good points, my experience supports your take on this. The big challenge is convincing less affluent people (white or black or whatever) to recognize the value of the built/natural environment while at the same time convincing more affluent new urbanist types to recognize the value (and need) to address social and economic interests.

      • Jason Haremza June 10, 2014 at 11:22 am #

        “urbanists have to perform “triage” and first help the most prosperous, least helpless areas?”

        Both you and Mr. Dabkowski seem to misunderstand the concept of triage. As a practicing planner in the nation’s 3rd poorest city (Rochester), what I got out of it is this: prioritize your resources and leverage your assets. So it’s not about “writing off” the East Side of Buffalo. It’s about saying “Ok, we have a limited budge for sidewalk improvements, where does that make the most sense on the East Side.” Maybe you can’t do every street but you start with the areas that will benefit most, the ones with the best chance for the best outcomes. Maybe Broadway and Fillmore, or Bailey and Kensington. Then work from there.

      • Dan_Blather June 9, 2014 at 10:56 am #

        it’s really an industrial satellite, suburban in location but not form or function, much like Camden and Norristown outside of Philadelphia, or East Cleveland and Lorain outside of Cleveland.

        Cleveland is surrounded by suburbs incorporated as cities — City of Shaker Heights, City of Cleveland Heights, City of South Euclid, City of Parma, City of Lakewood, etc — even though the structure of local government in Ohio is similar to New York (cities, towns, incorporated villages that are technically still part of a town). Even the very wealthy Chagrin Valley ‘burbs are cities – City of Hunting Valley, City of Gates Mills, etc.

      • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 11:44 am #

        Also, in many metros, a place like Lackawanna and other inner-ring suburbs would have long ago been annexed by the dominant city. New York doesn’t make that sort of thing easy.

        But in any event, a city charter doesn’t make a suburb any less a suburb. I mean, Anaheim is about as sprawly and suburbany as you can get, but it has a city form of government.

      • JKR June 18, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

        1914/1915 the NY legislator made “city-suburban” annexation close to impossible. The various towns and villages didn’t wanna get gobbled up like the NYC consolidation of 1898 thus adjusting state law basically turning sun-belt type amalgamation close to impossible.

        Buffalo City needs to remind itself it is only as large as it’s 1910 borders. Filling the East Side with ‘Lancaster-Depew Style’ does nobody any favors but that’s a different subject of urbanism.

      • Chuck Banas July 3, 2014 at 2:11 am #

        This is perhaps a semantical point, but the last time the City of Buffalo annexed territory was 1854. The city’s area has been at the same 42-odd square miles for the last 160 years. It is both interesting and important to note that many other cities across the nation have annexed significant areas since the mid-19th century. Many quite recently have absorbed first- and second-ring suburbs or moved to a fully regional/metro form of government of the kinds prohibited by New York State law. Thus many (if not most) city-to-city comparisons of physical size, demographics, income, population density, and other metrics aren’t quite valid. Despite our many serious challenges, Buffalo compares much more favorably to other places than conventional statistics show.

      • Jason Haremza June 10, 2014 at 11:27 am #

        Ok, I will make one more plea to stop flinging around the terms “city” and “suburb” with impunity. Don’t get wrapped up in the peculiar semantics of local government in New York State.

        What most urbanists are talking about is built form. There is walkable, pedestrian oriented and driveable, auto oriented. Urb, suburb, city, town, village, hamlet, neighborhood… whatever… you can have auto-oriented cities and pedestrian oriented suburbs. You can have wealthy walkable communities (Elmwood Village, East Aurora) and poor walkable communities (downtown Patterson, NJ, Clyde, NY).

      • betty barcode June 9, 2014 at 11:37 am #

        Tom wrote, “Ms. Huber and ‘Dedicated to Buffalo’ are described in an Artvoice interview as a group that ‘documents disinvested buildings in Lackawana to draw attention to their possibilities’. I’m sure she does more than that, but one thing we don’t need around there is that.”

        That is what real estate agents and redevelopment agencies do–or should be doing, only they expect to be paid for it. Huber does it as a volunteer on her own time. She is a schoolteacher by day. I am sure she’d welcome pro-bono rehabilitation estimates from construction managers & engineers.

      • betty barcode June 9, 2014 at 10:59 am #

        Plus Matt who bought & is restoring the Lyth cottage, as was documented at fixbuffalo.

  2. UncleBluck June 9, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    “As a movement, New Urbanism seems primarily concerned with making prosperous neighborhoods more prosperous and then hoping against hope that the benefits of that prosperity magically extend into sections of town untouched by their charming design sensibility”………..ie…Trickle down economics…………………………

    • betty barcode June 9, 2014 at 10:56 am #

      Which is exactly what is happening on the west side. Haven’t you noticed what properties west of Richmond are fetching these days?

      As more people get priced out of the Elmwood village, they invest nearby, thus tipping the balance from absentee landlord to owner-occupied (O-O). This in turn attracts more O-Os, who start doing the things that O-Os typically do: form block clubs, start community gardens, lobby City Hall, organize clean-ups, and basically make a commitment to a particular place. This starts a cycle of stabilization that interrupts the cycle of decline.

      Is this strategy sufficient? Like we can all pack up & go home now, everything’s fine, what’s on TV tonight? Of course not.

      But it is worth pointing out that this cycle is mostly-market driven and does not require massive government intervention. Mostly, it requires government spending that attracts private investment instead repelling it. CNU is, amongst other things, about replacing stupid expenditures (expensive highways that destroy neighborhoods) with smart ones (cheap interventions that promote walkability & bikability, such as road diets).

      • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 11:19 am #

        When was the last new highway built in WNY?

      • betty barcode June 9, 2014 at 11:26 am #

        How about the re-highway-ization of Rt. 5 when we could have had an at-grade boulevard? Thanks, Brian Higgins!

        The point is that by maintaining urban expressways, we are throwing good money after bad. We are spending great sums to suppress property values & destroy tax base.

      • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 11:37 am #

        Route 5 was reconfigured to actually make access to the Outer Harbor much easier than it previously had been.

        When was the last new highway built in WNY? (Not resurfacing or reconfiguration of an existing highway – the last new highway.)

        As for the Outer Harbor – there is no property value nor tax base. It is a contaminated wasteland that will take millions to remediate before anyone can do anything meaningful with a shovel. It had been mismanaged by the NFTA for generations until transferred to ECHDC, which is trying to do some damn thing with it.

      • betty barcode June 9, 2014 at 11:41 am #

        And the Kensington/Scajaquada? The Niagara section of the 190? Can’t wait to hear what sorts of wonderfulness those have bestowed on Our Fair City and how people clamor to live near them.

      • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

        1. False premise. I never wrote or suggested that the Kensington or Scajaquada or 190 were “wonderfulness” or that people “clamor to live near them”. Ditto the Route 5 expressway along the Outer Harbor.

        So, let’s swing back to my original question, which I now pose for a third time.

        Earlier, you indicated that,

        CNU is, amongst other things, about replacing stupid expenditures (expensive highways that destroy neighborhoods) with smart ones (cheap interventions that promote walkability & bikability, such as road diets).

        OK. So, when was the last new highway built in WNY? Work on the Kensington began in 1958. The 190 section you cite was completed in 1964.

        By my reckoning, the last new highway built in WNY is still under construction – the 219 which is supposed to eventually help link Buffalo with Washington, DC. We’ve just recently extended it south past the Cattaraugus Creek.

        The last completed roadway is the I-990, which was completed around 1979. There haven’t been any new roadways that “destroy neighborhoods” for about 50 years. Just imagine what would have happened had we not had the original mid-70s highway revolts. Buffalo Beltway? East Side Expressway?

        So, CNU is about replacing stupid expenditures with good ones. Let’s say that a highway is what led to the decline of the East Side. I disagree with the central premise, but concede that it may have played a role. So, if we’re to eliminate or otherwise abrogate its effect – cut & cover or tunnel – is that a good expenditure or a stupid one? Is there any data to show that doing this would lead to a rejuvenation of the surrounding area, or the East Side in general?

      • Dan_Blather June 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

        I’m not a fan of urban expressways, but railroads always seem to get a pass from the “they cut up cities” argument. Railroads sliced and diced through Buffalo’s nascent 19th century neighborhoods in a way that would have made even Robert Moses think “that’s a bit too much.”

      • betty barcode June 9, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

        OK, got it. No new highways since 1964. So what?

        I can do numbered lists, too. My point, and that of the New Urbanist movement, is that:

        1. The urban expressways we have continue to cause damage and

        2. Now cost more to maintain & bring up to current standards than they did to build and

        3. Removing them opens up real estate for new development and boosts the tax base

      • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

        That costs a lot of money – removing old highways. You say that this is a fiscal priority for state, local, federal governments? I’ll repeat my earlier statement,

        So, CNU is about replacing stupid expenditures with good ones. Let’s say that a highway is what led to the decline of the East Side. I disagree with the central premise, but concede that it may have played a role. So, if we’re to eliminate or otherwise abrogate its effect – cut & cover or tunnel – is that a good expenditure or a stupid one? Is there any data to show that doing this would lead to a rejuvenation of the surrounding area, or the East Side in general?

        A great many cities throughout North America seem to be doing quite well in spite of their urban expressways. So, perhaps removal or downgrading of them is not necessarily the path to development and tax base benefits you seek.

        Perhaps it would be better instead to focus on ways to make it easier to grow or start a business in Buffalo. To remove the red tape or facilitate the process. Perhaps it’s not so much the hardware but the software that needs nurturing. Perhaps if we had political and economic conditions that led to organic job growth and creation, we’d find that the buildings and houses and communities repair themselves.

        If urban expressways killed cities, Toronto, Boston, and New York would be dead.

      • Jason Haremza June 10, 2014 at 11:15 am #

        Removing a portion of the Inner Loop Expressway in downtown Rochester is costing $20-$25 million. The state just spent over $100 million expanding a single interchange in another part of the Rochester metropolitan area and will soon spend $250 million re-constructing another single interchange.

        You cannot simply look at the cost of removal, but also the long term costs of infrastructure maintenance. Removing an expressway and replacing it with a regular street means lower maintenance costs long term (fewer bridges, retaining walls, less pavement, etc.)

        I agree with you that expressway removal is not the only solution to our urban problems. Removing red tape as well as the crony-ist, “pay to play” development culture endemic in Buffalo is also a big part. But urban expressway removal is part of the solution and a fiscally responsible one at that.

        In my opinion, decking or tunneling the Kensington is a terrible solution: you are ramping up the infrastructure and increasing the ongoing maintenance costs. Replacing it with a relatively cheap and easy to maintain at-grade boulevard is the way to go. If it takes commuters from Cheektowaga or Lancaster 5 or 10 or 15 minutes longer to get downtown, they can move closer or simply budget some more time in their day.

      • Alan Bedenko June 10, 2014 at 11:55 am #

        First of all, I find your comments to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, and I thank you for that.

        As for the 33, setting aside for a moment the “rejuvenate the East Side” argument, doesn’t the city run into a bit of a Catch-22 with respect to downgrading major commuter routes? On the one hand, let’s agree that it would be great to downgrade the Kensington to an at-grade Boulevard. But is it beneficial to the city to make it more difficult for people to travel to the city for business or pleasure?

        As it stands now, whenever a big business (let’s say Geico or National Fuel) decides to re/locate, they always go to a suburban office park because, the press releases tell us, their people prefer a campus-like setting. This is, of course, nonsense. They locate to the suburbs because the office parks have free parking that follow the WNY Law of Benderson: parking only exists if you can see your destination from your spot.

        I believe that downgrading of expressways, if promoted seriously, can only be done in conjunction with several other action items:

        1. An expansion and improvement in our public transportation system, including expansion of Metro Rail.

        2. A comprehensive and modern plan for smart parking throughout the city, abolishing BCAR and relinquishing control back to the city. There should be a parking census, and municipal lots should be peppered throughout downtown, and inform motorists of available spots in which lots and on what floors. They should all take plastic and mobile payments, because it’s 2014 and not 1955.

        3. Some sort of effort – whether by legislation or taxation – to effectively render downtown surface parking economically untenable.

        4. Imposition of a state & county sales-tax free zone in downtown Buffalo in order to attract retail back to the downtown core to benefit not only the Main St corridor, but also possibly Canalside.

      • Jason Haremza June 10, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

        “On the one hand, let’s agree that it would be great to downgrade the Kensington to an at-grade Boulevard. But is it beneficial to the city to make it more difficult for people to travel to the city for business or pleasure?”

        Yes, because it benefits the citizens of the city, not those passing through or visiting. Also, I don’t consider an extra 10-20 minutes (if that) spent taking surface streets “more difficult.”

        To your other points:

        1. An expansion and improvement in our public transportation system, including expansion of Metro Rail.

        Agreed

        2. A comprehensive and modern plan for smart parking throughout the city, abolishing BCAR and relinquishing control back to the city. There should be a parking census, and municipal lots should be peppered throughout downtown, and inform motorists of available spots in which lots and on what floors. They should all take plastic and mobile payments, because it’s 2014 and not 1955.

        Agreed

        3. Some sort of effort – whether by legislation or taxation – to effectively render downtown surface parking economically untenable.

        Agreed.

        4. Imposition of a state & county sales-tax free zone in downtown Buffalo in order to attract retail back to the downtown core to benefit not only the Main St corridor, but also possibly Canalside.

        Agreed. Except that that was the original intent of the Empire Zone program. Politicians just cannot help themselves to limit these types of programs to the places that truly need them. First downtown Buffalo…. then downtown Lackawanna and Tonawanda…. then Harlem Road in Cheektowaga…then Central Avenue in Lancaster… then Main Street in East Aurora… until the program is so diluted and assisting places that really don’t need assistance as to be pointless. That, I believe, is the point Mr. Speck was trying make re: triage.

      • BlackRockLifer June 10, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

        “Yes, because it benefits the citizens of the city, not those passing through or visiting”, exactly, what a novel idea, actually considering the impact highways have on the neighborhoods they bisect. There is very little thought given to the actual costs incurred by the host community including depressed property values, lower quality of life, and air/noise pollution. Here in Black Rock the 190 severed the neighborhoods historic connection to the Niagara River and uprooted many families and business interests. The highway was just one more negative that pushed long time residents out while diminishing the environment for those that stayed. It is difficult to quantify the real costs of highways but the convenience of commuters should never trump the rights of residents.

      • Alan Bedenko June 10, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

        I’m sure the 190 brought with it many negatives. But didn’t the canal that preceded it?

      • BlackRockLifer June 11, 2014 at 8:29 am #

        The Erie Canal was responsible for the growth of Black Rock and Buffalo, the canal brought waterpower and commerce to the area. The canal increased property values and spurred huge investment, the polar opposite of the 190.

      • Alan Bedenko June 10, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

        I don’t know if 10 – 20 minutes is accurate, as you’re talking about bringing a large volume of traffic onto surface roads. But doesn’t an influx of people and money with minimal use of city services also benefit the citizens of the city?

      • Jason Haremza June 10, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

        And thank you, by the way, for your thoughtful response.

  3. BlackRockLifer June 9, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    I am a hands on preservationist and I completed an award winning restoration of a condemned Federal Style house here in Black Rock. I also have been involved in preservation for over 30 years and know many of the activists. Some preservationists can be a pain in the ass but they in the minority, most are quietly working hard to improve their neighborhood and city.
    A couple of points,
    -I agree the new urbanist movement tends to be elitist, after all Black Rock has all the qualities celebrated by new urbanists yet because the neighborhood is not affluent it is ignored.
    -Racism did indeed play a major role in suburbanization, to ignore that reality reeks of revisionist history. I grew up in the 60’s and was part of the de-segregation of Buffalo schools, race issues dominated debate at that time.
    -“But I don’t justify my choice by denigrating yours” Sorry Alan but that statement is false for many of those residing in the suburbs. I can tell you I have had to defend my choice to stay in the city and raise my children here on a regular basis. I have had people say all kinds of things about my city, some are just rude and ignorant, others just uninformed and naive. A look at the comments on the Buffalo News will confirm this anti-city bias. Not a day goes by without my city being called a slum, cesspool, pit, hole, etc. by my suburban neighbors. I don’t see the same level of vitriol leveled at the suburbs, in fact except for a few new urbanist types any criticism of the suburbs is rare and usually polite.

    • Tom Beecher June 9, 2014 at 8:55 am #

      “I can tell you I have had to defend my choice to stay in the city and raise my children here on a regular basis.”

      No, you don’t.

      You make your own choices about where to live. Where to raise your children. Where to work. Where to go to school. You have to defend those choices to nobody but yourself.

      • BlackRockLifer June 9, 2014 at 10:18 am #

        Maybe in a perfect world that’s true but to ignore the fairly regular criticism of my city and my choice would just embolden ignorance and allow misinformation to be taken as fact.

      • Tom Beecher June 9, 2014 at 11:28 am #

        Far be it from me to tell anyone how to react, but I could give a shit if someone wants to criticize where I live, be those criticisms correct or incorrect.

        It’s not my role in life to be the arbiter of correctness. I have more important things to worry about.

      • BlackRockLifer June 9, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

        Fair enough but my role has always been to advocate for my neighborhood and city. It is important to me in that I have worked for many years to improve Black Rock and counter the false perceptions that undermine our efforts.

    • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 9:48 am #

      1. Other people’s ignorance doesn’t excuse your own. (I mean that rhetorically – not at you personally).

      2. I didn’t say racism didn’t play a role. I said it wasn’t the sole reason. And it wasn’t. As with most things like this, the reasons why people left cities when they did is a complex socioeconomic and political issue. Like the flight to the suburbs, contemporaneous “urban renewal” didn’t take place in some racist vacuum.

      • BlackRockLifer June 9, 2014 at 10:16 am #

        My point was the level of anti-city vitriol is by far more intense, more common, and seems to be more acceptable. I am not sure you realize just how smug, self righteous, and arrogant many suburbanites can be when it comes to the city. As a life long advocate of Black Rock I have been exposed to this attitude more often than not. Some people are just rude and crude, others just can’t comprehend why I would choose to live in the city and some even insinuate raising children here borders on neglect or endangerment.

      • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 11:37 am #

        Well, the ignorance of one does not excuse reactive ignorance of the other.

      • cs June 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

        Using the logic you are trying to force on Blackrocklifer, this blog entry shouldn’t exist. Its calling out ignorance and defending a lifestyle choice just like they are. While taking pot shots at the city, the cnu and an industry, but its ok cause of the truce offering at the end?….just saying

      • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

        No, I’m saying that just because some people are assholes to city dwellers does not give city dwellers carte blanche to do the same thing to others, willy nilly.

        In this piece, I look at the various things that have been written about CNU and new urbanism, and I am commenting on them. In fact, I went out of my way to add that I like the idea behind new urbanism and agree with its goals.

        But as with most things in Buffalo, we swing back to a discussion of “something we need” versus “this would be nice”.

  4. cs June 9, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Well seems like the author got a lot out of the CNU. For every yay city boo suburbs person there is someone in the suburbs pushing back, this isn’t a one way street. There is a bit of arrogance in this movement, it comes from the thinking that the suburbs is the easy way out right or wrong. The appearance is you just box up all your social problems and put them in urban area’s and sit back and judge. That doesn’t solve the problems, and when the problems get to where you’ve fled to, you just pack up and build a new house further out. If you live in the city and have a kid there is some sort of underlying tone that you don’t love your kid enough to buy a home in a good school district. Or that you are conducting some sort of social experiment with your child, like putting your kid in a school that is 99% white with a relative like socioeconomic background is any less. I think everyone who lives in Buffalo has heard I don’t know how you live in the city, I only go down there for Sabres games and I get out as quick as I can. It’s no less arrogant, just as counter productive.

  5. Dan_Blather June 9, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Duany isn’t necessarily anti-suburb, but rather, pro-urban, and
    pro-choice when it comes to choosing your ideal living environment.
    Basically, if you don’t want to live in a city, don’t live in one, but
    at least be aware of the consequences and costs to yourself and society
    for living in a typical suburban environment.

    “In [the
    traditional New England town], one can live above the store, next to the
    store, five minutes from the store or nowhere near the store, and it is
    easy to imagine the different age groups and personalities that would
    prefer each alternative. In this way and others, the traditional
    neighborhood provides for an array of lifestyles. In conventional
    suburbia, there is only one available lifestyle: to own a car and to
    need it for everything.”
    – Andres Duany, Suburban Nation

    • BlackRockLifer June 9, 2014 at 11:20 am #

      All true but racism was a greater force (and continues to be) than most would like to acknowledge. I can’t think of any other issue that influenced behavior, conversation, and debate during the 1960’s here in Buffalo.
      Also, on the “obsolescence” of city homes, many of those cottages with space heat, no basement, and bedrooms off the kitchen, living room, and dining room served families well for generations. These smaller homes are cheaper to maintain, cheaper to heat, and generally are less expensive to purchase. In a city with so many low wage workers these homes are the best option for those with limited means to own their own home.
      I think there is an unrealistic expectation that everyone can or should have a large home with all the amenities. Those with less means far outnumber the wealthy and middle class, we can not ignore the great need for low cost more modest housing.

      • Dan_Blather June 9, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

        I agree with your points on smaller/older cottages. However, for the most part, the market doesn’t, considering their widespread abandonment on the East Side and some other parts of town.

        In more desirable areas like those on the fringes of EV and Allentown, some are willing to spend the money and effort to update a cottage to modern standards, or willing to deal with their quirks. The economic lives of these houses are extended by the high quality of their setting. Same thing with Ithaca’s folk Victorians with their 6 1/2” ceilings, tiny Toronto rowhouses featured on various HGTV shows, or Manhattan tenements with a bathtub in the kitchen.

        However, Buffalo is a city where housing remains extremely affordable for the most part. If a struggling family can easily afford to rent a 1920s-era semi-bungalow in Schiller Park or Fillmore-Leroy, why would they choose a worn-out cottage in Genesee-Moselle instead?

        Resilient neighborhoods are diverse neighborhoods. Many of Buffalo’s neighborhoods have housing stock that is essentially a monoculture. Broadway-Fillmore is hollowing out so fast in part because its housing stock is overwhelmingly dominated by worker’s cottages built around the same time, which now have reached the end of their economic lives. Sure, telescopers would make decent enough homes for struggling houses, but what’s the cost of doing so, versus renovating a newer, more functional bungalow in a more intact neighborhood? Should we really be perpetuating a monoculture of housing in Buffalo’s neighborhoods? What’s the future for places like Cheektowga, where the vast majority of housing in the town is made up of small postwar starter houses?

        TL/DR – neighborhoods comprised almost entirely of cottages will be 21st century Buffalo’s version of Dutch Elm Disease.

  6. MaxPlanck June 9, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    Kunstler and others argue – correctly I believe – that the preoccupation with the suburban template has left America’s ill-suited and ill-prepared to withstand the economic chasms of energy shortages and disarray of distribution, which are far more complex than mere pharmaceuticals and ridding ourselves of those ugly strip malls can overcome.

    • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 11:39 am #

      I think he overstates this point. He seems to be of the opinion that there is nothing that can be produced to replace a fossil-fuel based transportation system. I think he’s probably wrong about that.

      • MaxPlanck June 9, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

        We’ll see; there’s some encouraging developments on the alt fuels front but Kunstler doesn’t see any coming on-line on a scale larger enough to meet the nation’s current demands. I do think it won’t be one solution, but many.

  7. Chuck P. June 9, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    I think it is inaccurate to say or insinuate that depression is caused only be a chemical imbalance. Depression is caused by various factors, or a combination of factors, that don’t have to include a chemical imbalance. Granted, she is talking about people on meds, and that usually denotes a chemical imbalance, but there isn’t a chemical test doctors perform. They make a guess based on the person’s mannerisms and overall expressions of how they feel. But one can be depressed from post-traumatic stress disorder, from past abuse, from various other things that have ZERO to do with a chemical imbalance. And just because someone is on “meds” doesn’t mean they have a chemical imbalance. It’s just the culture of our healthcare system: Ohh you’re down and sad? Here’s some Prozac. Oh, not working? He’s some abilify to add to your prozac regime. Oh not working? Then let’s try wellbutrin. Don’t bother thinking that maybe this person DOES NOT have a chemical imbalance.

  8. Michael Rebmann June 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    Careful, “bored shitlessness” may just find itself in the DSM VI to enable pharmaceutical companies to sell more pills.

  9. BlackRockLifer June 9, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    “Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit more alone for the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth” (from the song Subdivisions by Rush)
    While growing up I spent many weeks in the summer staying with my cousins in Amherst, Grand Island, and West Seneca. They in turn would each spend some time in the city staying with us. They couldn’t wait to get here, we would explore the neighborhood, head down to the river, go over to Squaw Island, or fool around up by the rail yards. We would explore the abandoned grain elevator, climb the trestle, or just hang out with all the other kids. My cousins also really enjoyed going to the little mom and pop stores (that the burbs didn’t have).
    My visits to the suburbs were pretty dull, we hung around the yard, swam a little, and watched TV. Unless you had car you were pretty much isolated and there were no public gathering spaces for kids to interact. I would be bored after a couple of days and even then I knew they were missing something we took for granted in the city. It was adventure we needed, for better or for worse.

    • Kevin Hickey June 9, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

      I had pretty much the same experience. I wish I could upvote this a thousand times.

    • Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

      Jeez. I grew up in the suburbs. All my friends went to my school. We would walk or ride our bikes to visit each other all the time. We went to day camp during the summer, and came home. We had playgrounds and parks and we’d sneak onto nearby golf courses until we got kicked out.

      We rode our bikes to Gedney field and would play catch. We’d ride to the mom & pop stores and buy Bubble Yum all the time. Sometimes, we’d have enough to grab a sub and a soda. I had a wonderfully full childhood and adolescence in the suburbs, and my kids enjoy living within easy walking/bike distance of most of their friends now. They ride down the bike path, go to the coffee shop in the four corners, or walk to the soft serve place or pizza place that are even closer.

      • Kyriacos Stavrinides June 11, 2014 at 9:44 am #

        When most people think of suburbs they think of tract housing, big boxes, big arterial roads, giant parking lots and lots and lots of cars. What you grew up in is not by the CNU’s definition the a typical suburban development but a very nice neighborhood.

    • jimd54 June 11, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

      My family moved from the east side to Amherst in 1957, you can guess why. I loved our new neighborhood. We certainly did have mom and pop stores. There was a golf driving range across the street and we would hang out drinking 5 cent grape soda. What is now the UB north campus was woods with Ellicott Crk meandering through it. The fishing was great. As the area built up kids moved in and I developed friendships to this day. Our summers were spent playing baseball, football when the season changed. Sweet Home elementary school (which no longer exists) offered arts and crafts. Bored we were not.
      The one thing I will give you is your neighborhood probably looks a lot more like it did when you were a kid than mine.

      • BlackRockLifer June 11, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

        My uncle built a house on Hartford Rd around 1963, I remember there was a dairy farm just past Millersport Highway and much of the area was undeveloped. I used to go with my cousins to the Sweet Home Elementary School playground as well. By the 1970’s the area had lost that more rural feeling and was fully built out. I did enjoy those early days visiting there but by the time I was a teenager (in the early 70’s) the area no longer appealed to me.
        As for my neighborhood, it still looks much like it did when I was a kid but has suffered from disinvestment, absentee ownership, and other problems common to old city neighborhoods. I chose to stay here and work to improve the old neighborhood (where my roots go back 7 generations) and after decades of decline we are finally starting to see progress.

      • jimd54 June 11, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

        What was your uncles name? Ok if you would rather not say. I actually like Black Rock. Nice neighborhood bars, Spars. My wife works there.

      • BlackRockLifer June 11, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

        His name was Louis Nixon, he grew up on Herman St, moved to Black Rock-Riverside after WWII and then to Amherst.

      • jimd54 June 12, 2014 at 11:10 am #

        Knew him well. Marilyn just recently died. I see the boys around once in awhile but don’t stop to talk much. I could tell you stories about that family that would have you laughing your ass off. PS Did Yacht Club beer go out of business after he died?

      • BlackRockLifer June 12, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

        A small world, Louie was a character for sure, I can still see him by his pool with a bottle of Yacht Club in his hand. Marilyn was my moms sister and the Nixons lived upstairs from us in the city before they moved to Amherst. The Nixons were the wildest bunch in our extended family, there was always some action with four boys in the house.

      • jimd54 June 12, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

        Hey I helped dig that pool. Louie and Marilyn were cute, they adored each other. It was obvious to me even as a kid.

  10. Alan Bedenko June 9, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    As a side note, check out this Gizmodo piece. The best way to get rid of surface parking in Buffalo? Create the economic foundation to make it worth more to do infill development than to maintain it as parking.

  11. Danielle June 9, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    I would like to put it out there that Mr. Bedenko took an article that I simply RETWEETED completely out of context and is exploiting me by not relaying all of my tweets and only portions of some. I grew up in the suburbs and had a great childhood. I lived on Leydecker Rd in West Seneca and my family owned property all of the way back to the Transit Rd bridge. I played in the woods daily. I hiked, camped, and played in the creek. I enjoyed where I lived. I would ride my bike to the Southgate Plaza and Kone King. I tweeted that too, yet Mr. Bedenko failed to share that in the blog. I never criticize people’s opinions or freedom to choose how they live their lives. Twitter is social media and allows for far too little characters to express your thoughts completely. I simply stated what people that I know, with whom still reside in the burbs, have told me… I can not believe that by me retweeting a video that I watched would make someone make me sound like a hater on a widely read blog. I’m not a hater. I do prefer to live in the city and I do not like many of the attributes of a suburb, but that is my opinion just like Mr. Bedenko has his. I would personally like my name removed from this blog as all of the tweets were not stated and I when I clicked retweet on that video article (in which was a Ted Talk with good reputation), I didn’t realize that it said the depression portion. I know better than to post that intentionally, as the word choice is not even word choice that I would use. This article is slandering my name and I request that it is taken down. I presently volunteer my time in the community on a daily basis and work very hard… to the point of exhaustion. I also do not want my mistaken retweet to reflect poorly on all of the people that work so hard in this city.

    • Tom Beecher June 9, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

      You did more than just retweet a link. Which by the way, clearly says the words ‘depression meds’ in it, so pleading ignorance of the subject matter is a questionable position. When Alan questioned you, you defended said subject matter. Of course, since you’ve gone the cowardly way out and protected your Twitter account, nobody can see that, which is quite convenient based on your argument.

      Take care Ms. Huber. I wish you well with your efforts, no matter what they may be. My hope is that the next time you consider making a crack about mental illness, you stop and think first.

    • Alan Bedenko June 10, 2014 at 6:09 am #

      You did realize it had the depression portion, as you went on to opine about how suburban people suffer from depression in record numbers thanks to being “bored shitless”.

      You Tweeted something from a public account, in public. Every Tweet has an “embed” code baked right into it, and all I did was use it. If you don’t want your words to be scrutinized, don’t share them publicly. I can also assure you that there’s nothing here that slanders anybody. Shame on me for not posting the “the suburbs got you, too” reply you popped off just before the depression one.

      • Danielle June 10, 2014 at 6:25 am #

        So you admit that you scrutinized my words and did not include all of what I said and the tone in which was used. As far as “getting you too” … I was trying to lighten the situation and that was humor. You took all of this too seriously and only saw what you wanted to see. I deleted all of it because this is ridiculous and I will not patronize you any further. Beyond the article that I shared/retweeted (which I admit wasn’t read carefully), you’re twisting my words and I won’y have any of this. I deal with all sorts of people daily and I respect EVERYONE. I apologize if my tweet(s) came off otherwise and if you were offended. It was not meant to offend anyone. Please just leave it alone. I am a good person. I’ve always tweeted good things (until this one), it’s sad that you didn’t notice those. My life is surrounding with goodness and happiness. One poor choice tweet shouldn’t bring me under gunfire, in which you did. I dare you to find another rotten thing I’ve said, because you won’t be able to. I make a difference in people’s lives daily. Again, I apologize if I was misunderstood and if i offended anyone…. that was NOT my intention. Have a good day. Let’s end this NOW!!!

      • Alan Bedenko June 10, 2014 at 6:45 am #

        No, you’re right. I didn’t include every Tweet you’ve ever posted from the beginning of time until today. But you’re wrong – I didn’t “scrutinize” anything you wrote/write, except having noticed that one Tweet. I follow almost 4,000 people, and you knew my interest was piqued because I called you on it almost instantly on Twitter.

        I included here the one that I found to be especially inflammatory as an example of the mindset that’s prevalent among Buffalo development circles that denigrating suburbs and the people who live there is a great way to reinforce one’s love for the city proper. I’ve never written a negative word about what you are or do because, frankly, I don’t care about either.

        I didn’t denigrate you or your work or your anything, except for that small handful of Tweets, and you (or your boyfriend – whatever) were so incensed that I’m a slanderous “sissy” (there go those quotation marks again!). Sissy is a homophobic term, so, your cries of good personness ring a bit hollow with me.

        I don’t think I’m the king of Buffalo. Quite the contrary – I don’t think I’m the king of anything. I’m just a guy who’s written a blog for over 10 years about things that interest me. As for my activism, it’s well-documented and I don’t need to defend myself to you. I suspect that you care as much about me and my work as I do about yours.

        But you’re right – as a Jerry Springer guest would bellow, I “don’t know you”. What I do know is that if you’re going to be an activist or promote your opinion in public, you should be able to take some gentle criticism. Otherwise, block people who challenge your opinions and keep them private.

        Have a great day!

  12. MP June 9, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    Alan Bedenko thinks he is the king of Buffalo and all of its surroundings…well guess what? YOUR NOT! Using big boy words to defend yourself is a classic defense mechanism. People have their own take on suburbs, and others have their take on city life. No matter how you try and bring people down and use your million quotation marks people will always have different opinions. Lastly when someone re-tweets a comment from another source don’t negatively exploit them like you did….sissy

    • Danielle June 9, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

      Mr. Bedenko, I have since made my Twitter profile private and blocked from you as well. I do not need people in my life to attempt to bring me down. According to Twitter, you think that I wrote this; however, it was not me. My boyfriend was quite irritated that you stooped to this level. I do nothing but volunteer my time in this community to positive proactive approaches. You don’t even know me. So have a good night and a good life. I wish you well. I would like to know what you do positively in the community besides putting down people that actually give up their lives for others (rhetorical question).

      • Jaquandor (Kelly Sedinger) June 9, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

        What a load of claptrap. You said something iffy on Twitter, got called on it, and now you want to play the victim and get all pouty about “people trying to bring you down”. You chose to enter the pool. As for your rhetorical question, if you bother reading what Alan writes about (and tweets about), you’d know the answer. The man wears his activism on his sleeve, so your implication that he does nothing other than write meanie blog posts that make you feel bad is either ignorant or willfully stupid. (Hint: Neither reflects well on you.)

      • Danielle June 9, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

        I admitted that I retweeted poorly in that message. Poor retweet choice on my behalf now let’s all move on.

    • Alan Bedenko June 10, 2014 at 6:03 am #

      *YOU’RE

  13. MP June 9, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    Same IP…not the same person…: ) I see you know basic command prompts… as do I…go you!

    • Alan Bedenko June 10, 2014 at 6:47 am #

      You’re a treasure.

      • MP June 10, 2014 at 7:00 am #

        Ok YOU’RE not a king to anything, my mistake clearly. YOU’RE a queen, drama queen.

      • Alan Bedenko June 10, 2014 at 8:54 am #

        You should get your homophobia checked out. Toodles!

  14. BlackRockLifer June 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

    Let us turn the table for a minute and just say the suburbs had highways rammed through the residential areas to benefit city commuters. Then we will concentrate all the regions poorest in the suburbs, build housing projects, low income housing, whatever it takes. Also we can imagine many city residents that are absentee landlords that don’t maintain or manage their suburban properties. Now lets relocate all the mental health services, drug re-habs, and halfway houses to the burbs as well. When we in the city want drugs, hookers, or just some action we can cruise suburban side streets or cause a ruckus at some suburban bar. We can ban suburban residents from our parks but of course feel free to use theirs.
    Now that we have all the advantages here in the city we can throw stones at the suburbs and criticize your neighborhoods, your schools, and your people.

    • Alan Bedenko June 10, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

      The I-90 barely grazes the city of Buffalo. The 290 doesn’t come near its boundaries. They both bisect residential areas from Clarence to Lackawanna, from the Grand Island Bridge to Williamsville. IDAs in the suburbs are notorious for poaching business not only from downtown, but also from each other.

      Anyhow, no one’s throwing stones at the city, but your school district does suck as a general rule, and it’s not on track to get any better anytime soon.

      • jimd54 June 10, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

        Don’t forget the 990

      • BlackRockLifer June 11, 2014 at 8:24 am #

        The 190 destroyed Black Rock and Riversides historic connection to the waterfront and greatly impacted the quality of life here. The 33 destroyed Humboldt Parkway and decimated a stable middle class neighborhood.
        Wow Alan, our schools “suck”? As I noted to Jim above, schools are simply a reflection of the economic health of the community, it is no coincidence that the top performing schools are also the wealthiest and the lowest are the poorest. Still middle class children in the city perform as well as any in the suburbs.
        My son attended Buffalo Public, went on to graduate from Yale Law School and is presently the right hand to a Federal Judge. Two of his friends from our little corner in Black Rock also attended ivy league schools, I guess the city schools didn’t “suck” for them.

      • Alan Bedenko June 11, 2014 at 8:49 am #

        *Sigh*

        I’m sure the 190 had many negative impacts on nearby residential areas, just like highways built anywhere during the 40s – 60s had negative impacts on residential areas everywhere.

        So, why is it that some communities were able to overcome this built impediment, and some are still whining about it 50 years later? The 190 is there and you know and I know that it’s not getting removed any time in the next century. Aside from the philosophical point that sometimes individual or community convenience necessarily loses out to the greater good (they had to put the airport SOMEWHERE, they had to put the Peace Bridge SOMEWHERE, they had to put the 290 SOMEWHERE), the 190 isn’t stopping anyone in those two neighborhoods from doing anything. Hell, with the pedestrian bridge to the river, one could argue you have better access to the waterfront than you did when there were canals and shacks blocking those neighborhoods from it.

        I will also note that Williamsville has the I-90 running right through it – like a “scar”, as critics call the 33. Literally a stone’s throw from the I-90, right by the Tolls at Wehrle, there are $400,000 patio homes being built.

        The Buffalo School District is routinely assessed as not only the worst in the region, but one of the worst and most dysfunctional in the state. The only cure seems to be continual, perpetual crisis mode and strife, all to the detriment of students.

        I know you have City Honors – an exam school that can pick and choose who goes there. You cannot remotely deny that it is by definition and design, elitist. Even Nichols will take just about anyone who can pay the tuition. I also know there are some bright spots in the school district, in spite of the overall dysfunction, and I know that schools are, in large part, reflective of what a child or family put into it. I am not speaking about them on a micro level, but instead macro. The Buffalo city school system is one from which people flee – whether it be to City Honors, parochial, private, or charter. It is a school district that can’t even get it together to let 1,000 kids know in June where they’ll be placed next year. It is a district that has a byzantine bureaucracy, horrible leadership, a terrible board, and more money than it should feasibly know what to do with.

        So, no, for a variety of reasons, the schools didn’t suck for your kids. But they suck for far too many. If you think your anecdote is the rule, you’re sadly mistaken.

      • BlackRockLifer June 11, 2014 at 11:27 am #

        Please provide examples of “communties that overcame” having highways rammed through the heart of their residential areas.
        Black Rock was married to the waterfront, the river was the pulse of the community and central to daily life here. Generations made use of the waterfront for business, recreation, and pleasure. My family has been here for 7 generations and owned property that was seized for the construction of the190. Other properties my family owned were devalued as well due to the highway. That real estate would be valuable waterfront property if not for the highway. I know you don’t get it but some of us have deep roots in a community, have a sense of place and pride that frankly doesn’t exist much anymore.
        As for schools, again poverty drives the performance, it is that simple but blaming teachers, administrators, and the district is the easy way out and gives cover for those that seek to avoid addressing the real problem, segregation by class.
        I don’t think my “anecdote is the rule” but again, middle class children in the city perform as well as in the suburbs, that pretty much makes my case.

      • JKR June 13, 2014 at 9:14 am #

        The South Bronx?

      • jimd54 June 11, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

        BRL, I am very happy to know your son has done well. I mean that sincerely.

      • BlackRockLifer June 11, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

        Thanks, a good debate here, I try to bring a view from my experience living here in Black Rock that hopefully will provoke some discussion. In my experience that view is under represented and can challenge so many assumptions many have about the city.

    • jimd54 June 10, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

      Sorry man this is dumb.
      1. Having worked in them for nigh on 23 years, I can tell you there are plenty of low income housing projects in the burbs. Maybe not Clarence but Amherst, Cheektowaga.
      2. Drug re-habs are where the druggies are. Go figure.
      3. If you check out escort sights etc., the majority are near the airport, again, Cheektowaga.
      4. And as Alan has pointed out, we have plenty of highways rammed through our residential areas, and thank God, it makes the traffic move
      5. And your schools do suck, sorry

      • BlackRockLifer June 11, 2014 at 8:15 am #

        1. The regions poor have been by design concentrated in the city and the city continues to house the vast majority, it is only recently that they have begun to move out into the first ring suburbs.
        2. Drug abuse is just as prevalent if not more so in the suburbs, surprised you are unaware of that fact.
        3. I am not talking about escorts but the hookers that hang out on city corners seekking suburban johns.
        4. Highways were not “rammed through your residential areas” as was done in the city. Most suburban highways were constructed before the area was built up, housing followed the 290, etc.
        5. Our schools don’t “suck”, that’s just dumb. Schools are a reflection of the wealth or lack of, Buffalo’s schools reflect the concentrated poverty in the city. Still our middle class children perform as well as any in the subburbs

      • Alan Bedenko June 11, 2014 at 8:54 am #

        1. No, the poor were not concentrated in the city. Not by the Illuminati or Clarence or the Bilderburgs.

        2. Drug abuse is prevalent everywhere, but the trafficking happens in the city and the community and the police do little about it.

        3. It’s 2014.

        4. This is untrue. The postwar housing boom coincided with the 290. At the time, living near a highway was considered to be a huge advantage. You’re looking at the 1950s through a 2014 lens, and you’re getting it wrong.

        5. See above. Your middle class does better because they take an interest in education and spend innumerable wasted hours just trying to ensure that their kids don’t get placed in a shithole. This is why you have charters – to provide a suburban school environment – and why you have City Honors, which is more selective than Nichols or Nardin.

      • BlackRockLifer June 11, 2014 at 11:09 am #

        1. The poor were indeed concentrated in the city by design, the suburbs used zoning, car dependent design, and various other methods to discourage the poor, especially minorities from moving there.
        2. We fight the drug dealing as best we can but demand drives supply. I personally would like to see decriminalization, drug abuse is a mental heath issue, not a criminal issue.
        3. Prostitution is usually sad, most of the girls are drug addicted and abused, its not like the movies.
        4. My point stands, the highways were rammed through existing stable city neighborhoods, the suburbs grew around the new highways built outside the city, a big difference.
        5. Again my point stands, those in the city that seek a quality education can be successful, a little more difficult maybe but doable.

  15. Anthony James June 10, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    Here are the first two paragraphs of the CNU Charter. Hopefully they will help correct the assumption that “At some point yay cities becomes boo suburbs.” or that CNU attenders are interested in “discussion about how prosperous people like their development and planning.”

    ‘The Congress for the New Urbanism views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the erosion of society’s built heritage as one interrelated community-building challenge.

    ‘We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy.’

  16. JKR June 13, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    Irony, the most people who read this will travel at some point this year however I wonder when a stranger as the average Western New Yorker “where are you from?” These same WNYers will travel to other US cities for various reasons however I doubt they are going to get caught up in the many idiosyncrasies of local municipal boundaries. With that said, the atypical WNYer fails to understand the regions economics of the Upstate New York in which they reside in or how these economics failed to create the “urban sprawl” that can be found in many of those Sun-Belt Cities that many WNYers are very fond off. Oh yes, we might think we are “Portland, Oregon” when in reality WNY is more like Jacksonville, Florida in so many ways its downright comical to see First Ring Suburbanites of Buffalo try and pass themselves off as “the suburbs” despite the street grids are the same, there is still public transit thus you look like “A City” without even trying… Yes I’m looking at you Cheektowaga, Sloan, West Seneca, &c.

    East of the Main Line Thruway, yes WNY starts looking like your “post war” suburbs that everybody is kind of used to in the modern era however thanks to that event called industrial revolution, railroad village still exist from yesteryear. Some WNY villages can be charming but many of the are filled with the same demographic you’ll find on the East Side minus race however even that is also rapidly changing. Yes WNY this is 2014 thus minorities can buy a house practically anywhere in WNY without no “funny businesses” of redlining and/or blockbusting that created the WNY suburbs we have today.

    “inner city madness fuels suburban growth” thus welcome to 2014 to a Western New York region that seems to be heading in 75 different directions and none of them good. The Buffalo News gets angry because the CNU crowd didn’t come to town to hang out on the Outer Harbor and help cheerlead for the Disneyfication of the Buffalo Waterfront/Downtown instead question the development patterns of the Buffalo Region and “gasp” suggest that we focus resources on communities historically disenfranchised throughout the city. Who knows, maybe the local East Side population will stop relocating to bigger and better cities thought the world if the regions powers that be placed some positive investment in the community and might grow the population of the city proper… nope, that is too much of a good idea because this is Western New York a region hell bent on carrying out the short-sided vision of our grandparents of Urban Renewal.

    Urban Renewal is a motherfucker because despite how dated and disastrous this urban policy can be to urban centers, the Upstate Cities of New York State still sign on to the program with glee because it gives High Capital Banks the chance to flatten inner cities like the East Side just to build ‘suburban style’ development throughout inner cities nationwide because this is what the market has been baring for decades. The atypical WNYer might want to forgot the advice of 2,4, and 7 and take a trip to the East Side and you’ll see series of newly built homes. Not every African American situation is like Detroit but the foolish WNYer will believe that he lives in Detroit East, despite Buffalo isn’t such a basket case but that is a different subject. Yes, East Side Buffalo rebuild however it the kind of things that the New Urbanism crowd would like to avoid. The design community is severely lacking in WNY thus the only homebuilders in the region are mainly “suburban” in style thus if you want a brand new house on the East Side is going to look like whatever new builds they get in Hamburg. All these factors fly right under the nose of the New Urbanist and rightfully so because despite the great attentions of retrofitting the inner cities into suburban subdivisions those plastic Victorians carry a horrid resale value however urban development for African Americans in WNY still carries on as if Black People can’t buy homes in Lancaster or somewhere.

    Why not “Black Lancaster?” that is where most of the industrial jobs have relocated too. Downtown Buffalo is an “optical illusion” for many WNYers of all stripes for myriad of reasons that can be applied to the East Side due to lack of diverse business and commerce. Even if a so called “food desert” exist on the East Side how far is Cheektowaga’s Thruway Mall plaza again? Yes, if Broadway and Fillmore was hustling and bussing like yesteryear then what would happen to the Transit Road corridor?

    The foolish WNYer fails to realize there isn’t enough business to go around for both Buffalo City and its surrounding suburbs so what does WNY do; blame everything on “black on black” crime. Don’t cringe, because those excuses from the 20th century still work in cities like Buffalo where ignorance is bliss when regarding the African American experience however this same ignorance leads to buildings being demolished daily through the city, those same buildings new urbanist are desperate to save.

    Wait until these new urbanist really sit down and ask East Side residents what they want in there community as they might be shocked by the answers as many aspects of a “empty city” is something I’ve gotten used to growing up because this is what America does to cities like Buffalo because American Society has built scores and scores of Suburbia for new urbanist to enjoy.

    I’m a regionalist that only see the Western New York region as “Buffalo” however I fully understand why the market creates the built environment we have today. A rising tide lifts all boats as I see skyscrapers and condos coming to town of Amherst sooner than sooner. Why Amherst, why not Amherst? Downtown Buffalo has a poor habit of falling to the whims of WNY auto sprawl versus everything is still wide open in Amherst. Discussing infill on the East Side is some kind of strange foreign concept as the East Side urban prairie continues to grow while the town of Amherst continues to grow. Foolish Buffalo City snobs fail to understand the concept of urban development or how a town like Amherst is already “city-esk” in many aspects.

    I see a bright future for the Northtowns of Western New York in general for all the wrong reasons why Buffalo will never be nothing more than just another American City off the interstate because I’m not sure what Western New York really wants to be anymore or what kind of city Buffalo is developing into. Downtown Amherst is real.

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