Search results for '"elevator to the moon"'

And An Elevator To the Moon

23 Oct

Not real, authentic (This Stadium Matters; Stadium, For Real)

Way back in late 2004/early 2005, one of the first Buffalocentric topics about which I decided to write was an NFTA debate that was then brewing over three competing plans for Buffalo’s beleaguered, forgotten Outer Harbor. Eight or so years later, it remains almost equally beleaguered, with some aesthetic and functional improvements in access, but still amounting to grass and weeds. Eight or so years later, the NFTA still controls it, while the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and the City of Buffalo bicker over who should control its development, and the contracts and jobs that go with it. 

What else have we seen? We’ve seen that while civic debate focuses on extremes, we are capable of reaching compromise when necessary. For instance, attracting a Bass Pro to the waterfront – it wasn’t at all a bad idea. Putting it in the Aud, on the Aud site, or even right up against the water at the foot of Main Street – none of those were per se bad ideas. But Bass Pro isn’t coming, and that, too, is OK. We don’t need it, but it wouldn’t have hurt. On the other side of the argument, we had the armies of preservation demanding green space, no buildings against the water, “authenticity” as defined by them, and now a fetish for defunct grain elevators and warehouses that haven’t been demolished because there is no one to pay to demolish them – haven’t been used because they are economically difficult to justify re-using. In spite of the Fred Kent placemaking sideshow scam, Buffalonians seem pretty happy with the compromise Canalside being built, the Pegula hockeytorium, and the other incremental – but, finally, visible and palpable – improvements being done to the Inner Harbor. 

So, we look again to the Outer Harbor and we have a new proposal being trial-ballooned whereby we build a billion-and-a-half-dollar stadium for the Buffalo Bills with a retractable roof, a new convention center, a hotel complex, and 5,000 parking spots. Of the silver bullet proposals to come down the road, this is the silveriest, bulletiest of them all.  This has a former county comptroller candidate involved in commissioning an epic set of images showing off our newest Elevator to the Moon, complete with a sports museum to be built and run by the people behind Rochester’s Strong Museum of Play. 

Neighborhoods crumble under the weight of economic decay and desperation, and we have $1.5 billion to spend on playing catch? We struggle to make ends meet with Medicaid funding, heating assistance, and day care for the working poor, and we’ll throw a billion dollars at a hotel and Buffalo Skydome? Is there even a local corporate sponsor who will buy naming rights, or will we just name it after Ralph Wilson, too? Renovating the Ralph is estimated to cost $200 million, which is also a tremendous sum of money for this area, and even that is a deal not yet done. For decades this region has been trampled underfoot by opportunistic politicians with toxic policies, and we have yet to devise an attainable vision for the future and a concomitant plan to get there.  But, hey – domed. Stadium

Functionally, the Outer Harbor is a geographical bottleneck – accessible by Skyway or on Route 5 from the South or in from Tifft Blvd from South Buffalo.  Three points of entry to get to 5,000 parking spots to service a stadium for 72,000 people. Arithmetically, the people behind this proposal think that the state will pony up $400 million, and that the NFL will provide between $200 to $400 million. That leaves a gap of $700 to $900 million that needs to be filled by private investment and, presumably, county money. That kind of money approaches the county’s entire annual budget. As a practical matter, the soil on the Outer Harbor is toxic and in need of multimillion dollar remediation. 

But we’re still debating the likelihood that the Bills stay in this region after their owner inevitably passes away in the near future. The team is more than just a sports franchise – it’s a powerful symbol reminding Buffalo that it was once in the major leagues; a legacy we cling to by a thread.  Does this area have enough idle money lying around to (a) enable local investors to buy the Bills and keep them here when Wilson dies; and (b) fund a massive stadium project for the Outer Harbor, which would effectively prohibit any other kind of development from happening there? 

So here we are, with a massive silver bullet pipe dream to try and keep our disappointing football team in town. A shiny object to raise the hopes of the few not yet beaten down by inevitable cynicism; something to occupy hours’ worth of inane AM talk radio chatter, with angry people talking angrily about their anger over money and the crappy team. This has the appearance of being aspirational, but is really evidence of desperation. If we give the Bills this nice new home, maybe they’ll stay. Maybe they’ll stop sucking. On the other hand, we’ll have the self-appointed masters of authenticity decry any proposal involving sports, parking, roadways. We’ll have arguments about how we should spend a billion dollars to improve storefronts on Grant Street, or maybe to spend on more ancillary projects at the Darwin Martin House. We’ll hear how Buffalo is “real” and “authentic” and that this monstrosity does nothing to further enhance our standing as a tertiary stopover on the cultural tourism checklist. We’ll ultimately argue over how many trees and painted Adirondack chairs are available on the grass, whether the water taxi will be able to accommodate gameday crowds, and hey, how about a solar-powered carousel? 

But let’s cut through all the hype. The people proposing this have two things – a corporate entity and some diagrams. They haven’t talked to the Bills. They haven’t talked to the NFL. They haven’t talked to the State. They haven’t talked to ECHDC. They haven’t talked to the NFTA. They haven’t even taken a survey of the local population to vet the idea of a billion-dollar domed stadium on the Outer Harbor. So far, they’re scheduled only to speak with the City of Buffalo – an entity that has, and would have, no say in the matter whatsoever. We haven’t yet figured out how we’re going to fix up Ralph Wilson Stadium, and we’re already talking about out-Torontoing Toronto’s downtown Rogers Centre. 

This ought to be fun. 

 

 

Elevator to the Moon Cancelled

19 Dec

Uniland/Opus One’s grandiose pipe-dream plans for the outer harbor are finished. This is a good thing.

Now, maybe we can get an overall plan for both the inner and outer harbors.

Elevator to the Moon Revisited

28 Aug

Way back when, I criticized the plan the NFTA ultimately chose for the outer harbor, joking that the only thing it was missing was an elevator to the moon. In January 2005, I said it wasn’t doable.

Today’s News indicates it probably won’t get done – thank goodness.

Here’s something on which to chew.

Imagine if the city had taken the Waterfront Village area and mapped out a street grid. Imagine if utilities had put everything in needed to support a new neighborhood. Imagine if the city had instituted a mixed-use zoning plan that would have guaranteed a good mix of commercial, office, and residential.

Now imagine that the code had specified that the buildings not exceed a certain height, and be built to certain architectural standards that would ensure that it would be on a proper, manageable scale and aesthetically pleasing. Something like, say, brick brownstones, no more than 5 stories high, with parking located either under a set of parks, or behind the buildings.

You’d have a nice, mixed-use neighborhood that didn’t resemble Sheridan Drive in Amherst.

So, what the city ought to do as far as the outer harbor is concerned is learn from its mistakes. First, clean up the pollution. Then map out a grid. Zone it and code it. Offer parking, but hide it. No one wants to see it. Make the water accessible. Retail is a key factor. Extend Metro Rail to this new community so that doctors and lawyers and other downtown workers can get to their offices without a car.

Government should lay the groundwork. Private industry should develop the land according to the code.

If the growth of downtown housing has taught us anything, it’s that incremental growth based on market demand is going to be far more beneficial in the long run than getting a huge, expensive project done fast.

Everything from the Outer Harbor to #BringBackOurGirls

13 May

Remember last year, when I began a semi-weekly excoriation of Donn Esmonde and posted things about the Clarence schools budget crisis/vote? I’m sparing you the ugly details this year because I’m putting on my dusty activist hat and making sure the perfectly reasonable budget that the school board passed unanimously is passed next Tuesday, and also campaigning for a school-friendly slate of candidates. This is why posting here has been lighter in recent days. That, and the fact that there’s nothing new under the sun.

For instance, it was late 2004 when my blog transitioned from one that focused on national politics into one that looks more closely at local matters. Since that time, local political blogs of all partisan stripes have come and gone, but I’m still here.  The first local thing that really got me going on a roll a decade ago were three competing plans for Buffalo’s Outer Harbor that the NFTA was pimping. They ranged from bucolic park-like setting to mid-density brownstone to what I called “elevator to the moon“. Of course, nothing came of any of them and in 10 years we’ve seen the Outer Harbor be the focus of patented Buffalo inertia and hand-wringing.

The best we’ve done has been to improve access to the area, and even that was met with false yelling about  how Route 5 was a “wall” that separated downtown from her waterfront, never mind the river and grain elevators you had to get past before you ever reached the road.

So, if I wasn’t currently concentrating on schoolkids and their futures, I’d be writing about this:

1. The Outer Harbor: it’s a state park! It’s a sports complex! It’s the location of the Bills’ new stadium! It goes to show you that there’s nothing new under the sun. 10 years down the line, we’re still arguing over what to do with a patch of dreadfully contaminated real estate on a chilly lake.

A few weeks ago, Pat Freeman, the sports director for WUFO was on Twitter and Facebook urging people to contact  Governor Cuomo and urge him to back the museum/stadium on the Outer Harbor. Someone even got a hold of my cell phone number and the same message was – unsolicited – texted to my phone on two occasions.  And Facebook messaging.

Freeman blocked me after I asked him how and why he got my number. Suffice it to say that it’d be swell if the city or Erie County Harbor Development Corporation would put whatever property won’t be a park on the market and sell it, complete with a comprehensive plan and mandated architectural standards.  Government’s job should be to pave the streets, wire the electric, put in the plumbing, and extend the light rail.

2. David Torke is one of the bloggers who’s still at it 10 years later. He’s morphed into a preservationist activist, so he’s totally in with that local clique. I recall some years ago, he would take people on tours of the East Side, where he lives, and show them how owners of properties – the city in particular – would let them become uninhabitable solely through neglect. He’s revived the “tour de neglect”, and the News’ Colin Dabkowski joined one this past weekend.  On on the one hand, it’s good to open people’s eyes to the problems plaguing a huge swath of the city that’s seen little of the incremental good news we have on the West Side. On the other hand,

Most of the conversation focused on buildings; there was very little talk about the East Side’s current residents, many of whom could be negatively impacted by the kinds of development strategies now being enacted or proposed.

You help the East Side of Buffalo get better by addressing the pervasive socioeconomic difficulties present there. The East Side isn’t a crisis of architecture, but of poverty. We can’t – and shouldn’t – be concerned with the potential we see in buildings until we address the potential in people. It will be people, after all, who will ultimately help to change the East Side, and it’s addressing poverty and violence that need to be in the forefront. Like the annual invasion of the relatively affluent to a poor neighborhood to get drunk on Dyngus Day or shop at the market in someone’s grandparents’ neighborhood, a group of affluent, privileged white faces biking through a neighborhood should be focused first on people, not on cornices. This, to me, is the fundamental flaw in all the planning and preservation activism in Buffalo.

3. A local bar owner is planning on bringing a branch of the iconic Bavarian Hofbräuhaus to downtown Buffalo. Seeing as how Buffalo likes beer, sausage, and boiled cabbage, this has some potential. You’ll just have to learn to pronounce “dirndl“, now. No word yet on how a German chain might affect our sense of place or authenticity.

4. Camille Brandon is apparently one of the Democrats who is planning to run for the Assembly seat most recently kept warm by creep Dennis Gabryszak. In the News’ article, our own local political Snidely Whiplash, Steve Pigeon, just can’t help but to suggest that he might bring in his acolyte, Kristy Mazurek,  to run as well. But if you pay close attention, note that both Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner and his chief rival, Frank Max, are backing Brandon. Any effort by Pigeon to insert Mazurek into the race – and the brutally defamatory race that would ensue – would go a long way towards maintaining the Democratic infighting on which Pigeon thrives.

Make no mistake, Pigeon’s insertion of Mazurek has more to do with preserving Tim Kennedy’s Senate seat than the useless Assembly.

5. Much of the natural gas located in the part of the Marcellus Shale that’s in New York isn’t as marketable as what Pennsylvania has. Because of the fracking boom that’s scarred, among other places,  the Pennsylvania countryside, the price of natural gas has plummeted. There are too many unknowns, and the people shilling for drilling are likely overstating the potential economic benefits for New Yorkers. I think that fracking in New York is inevitable, but I hope they regulate how it’s done and ensure that people know what chemicals are being injected into the rock in order to extract the gas. It’s not worth it, e.g., to sacrifice clean drinking water for a short-term boomlet of natural gas.  Although it has to do with coal, not natural gas, use West Virginia’s Elk River disaster as a cautionary tale.

6. A Muslim terrorist group in Nigeria kidnapped 276 schoolgirls and is supposedly selling them off into slavery. Nigeria doesn’t have an especially competent government, so there haven’t been any credible attempts to do something about this. People are trying to bring attention to this tragedy through social media, using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.  Even Michelle Obama tweeted a picture of herself holding a piece of paper with the message on it.

Of course, because Mrs. Obama got involved, the right wing is politicizing it. They mock the notion of hashtags and efforts to inform people about something horrible that happened.

But it wasn’t Michelle Obama’s idea. It’s not her thing. It was started by a Nigerian lawyer.

It’s thanks in large part to an initially uncoordinated campaign launched by local Nigerian activists that the girls’ disappearance didn’t continue to fly under the radar at major news providers. The campaign began on April 23 with a single tweet by Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim M. Abdullahi, the first to use the now viral #BringBackOurGirls tag, amid what he calls “complete dissatisfaction” with his government’s response to the incident.

As Abdullahi watched a live address on that date by former Nigerian Minister of Education Obiageli Ezekwesili, he tweeted a phrase she used as follows: “Yes #BringBackOurDaughters #BringBackOurGirls declared by @obyezeks and all people at Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014.”

The lawyer and activist tells DW it is a “great joy” and “heartwarming to know that [the campaign] has gone so global,” as #BringBackOurGirls today nears three million uses on Twitter since April 23. In the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Abdullahi says a group of around 20 campaign volunteers has expanded into more than 100 individuals. They meet daily to monitor progress on finding the girls and follow how the viral campaign is developing.

I don’t get what’s so wrong about this. Suddenly, people are talking about it. British Conservative PM David Cameron even joined in. The point is that the online effort has brought much needed attention to what happened in a part of the world that Americans especially tend to ignore completely. Conservative mocking of #bringbackourgirls is, in effect, saying that we shouldn’t raise awareness about horrible things that are taking place. With this crowd, no matter what Michelle Obama does, she’s just the President’s fat wife who is micromanaging kids’ lunches or whatever. At least #bringbackourgirls brings attention to something worthwhile. #tcot is just a typical conservative circle-jerk of hatred. I suspect that conservatives on Twitter won’t be abandoning #tcot, though.

The Outer Harbor. Again.

11 May

When I first started blogging about local issues in mid to late 2004, one of my first topics was the Outer Harbor. At that time, the NFTA was circulating three competing centrally-planned proposals for that land – the parkland proposal, the nice proposal, and what I called the “Elevator to the Moon” proposal, because it seemed to offer everything up to and including that feature.  I also called it Amherst-sur-Lac. (Of course, the NFTA picked that plan way back in early 2005. We’re still waiting.)  The Buffalo News endorsed it, as well. 

Parkland Edition

Mixed-Use Version

Elevator to the Moon Plan

The biggest problem with the Outer Harbor isn’t land use; it isn’t whether we lay a strip of parkland along the lake, or whether we turn the whole damn thing into little more than a seasonal festival grounds. 

The biggest problem is how contaminated that area is – and that’s not counting the fact that our self-perpetuating governmental, quasi-governmental, authorities, and public benefit corporations can’t decide who should own the land and control the process. It falls under the ECHDC’s jurisdiction, but is owned largely by the NFTA. Still. 

I’m not sure why the bus company owns land on the waterfront. Or why it should. Or why it hasn’t divested itself of it yet.  Or why it’s sat on it for 50 years. 

The contamination is longstanding and acute. It makes “what to do with the Outer Harbor” a moot question until millions of dollars are spent to fix it. 

Ultimately, what’s going to happen is a lot of finger-pointing, a never-ending process of public hearings, public “debate” over how the land should be used, and absolutely zero direction from Mayor Brown. We’ll probably have at least one or two lawsuits, and Donn Esmonde will periodically exit his semi-retirement to scold everybody, invariably supporting whatever group is first to court to seek injunctive relief. We’ll have the NFTA protecting its turf against the city, the state, and the ECHDC. We’ll have loads of renderings, 3D models, and maybe even a fly-through video presentation of what might be built there, but none of it will ever happen. 

10 years from now, the Outer Harbor will likely look largely as it does today because the primary goal of all these competing entities and interests is self-aggrandizement and self-perpetuation. It’s going to take initiative and motivation to pull together the money it’s going to take to turn that land into something that won’t poison anyone who spends more than a few hours at a time there, and money is hard to come by nowadays. 

Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter whether the NFTA owns the property or someone else does. What ought to happen is that government involvement should be quite limited. A zoning plan with architectural guidelines should be drawn up, streets should be plotted and paved. Utilities should be brought to the properties, and a broker retained to market them. 

When it comes to projects such as this, Buffalo seems allergic to anything except a centralized plan, but what happens to this potentially valuable property ought to be left almost entirely up to the private sector. 

As for the parkland demanded by the Citizens for a 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor, I don’t have any problem with direct waterfront access being preserved for the public, and don’t have a problem with a strip of parkland bordering whatever development takes place and the water. What I would be opposed to is any notion that the entirety of that property be turned into parkland.   

The Outer Harbor should someday be home to people and retail businesses that support residential city living. Access should be available by boat, car, and the Metro Rail should be extended south to the small boat harbor and Tifft Nature Preserve.  

This area has been patiently waiting for decades for someone to carefully restore it to a safe and attractive use. Maybe this time we’ll get it right. But I’m not holding my  breath. 

Waterfront – Everyone Relax

16 Nov

Norstar Rendering of the Outer Harbor: 2005

WestEnd (Jerde/Ciminelli) Plan for the Outer Harbor

Buffalo Lakefront Development

While Mark Goldman and the “Canal Side Community Alliance” call for a four month “pause” in the Canal Side development project, I thought it a perfect time to revisit Buffalo’s other waterfront – the outer harbor.

Back in 2005, when the concept of “New Buffalo” had caused otherwise perfectly normal, Buffalonians to temporarily replace cynicism with “hope”, the NFTA solicited bids from three development groups to answer the question, “what the hell do we do with the outer harbor?”

At the time, the NFTA was in its fifth decade of controlling (read: neglecting) the windswept ruins of Buffalo’s Lake Erie waterfront.  Shown above are the three forgotten, scrubbed-from-the-website proposals for the NFTA’s outer harbor.  This was a time when the last half-assed proposal had been Joel Giambra’s “E-Zone” tented amusement park nonsense.

The images above represent – from top to bottom – the three plans. Norstar’s emphasis was on green space;  the WestEnd proposal was a reasonable mixed use development; and then there was the Buffalo Lakefront Development plan, which I derisively termed the “everything but an elevator to the moon” plan.  It included a 3,500 room convention hotel, a 300,000 SF convention center,  (the current one has only 110,000 SF), a 500,000 SF “festival pavilion,” 200,000 SF of Class A office space, and a 215,000 SF sports center.  Just what a shrinking city with dysfunctional state authorities, a horribly ineffective city government, and fights to the death over the smallest development plan needs.

Seriously, you have to see the whole thing in detail to believe it. Click below.

Click to enlarge

What we’ve got on the waterfront now are mistakes that can’t be undone, and I think people want to be exquisitely careful to not make the next 100-year screw-up.  So, while we can’t do anything beyond cosmetic with the Marine Drive blight, we have some plots of shovel-ready (or soon-to-be-shovel-ready) land that were all set for a bait shop that isn’t coming.

On the one hand, we have an ECHDC that has a plan that is missing a huge puzzle piece. On the other hand, we have the “Community Alliance,” which is railing against “faux canals” and underground parking.

Well, maybe we don’t need faux canals anymore.  But I’ll tell you that no matter what ends up down at Canal Side, it’ll need some parking.  And if it’s going to need some parking, might as well do it underground.  And if you’re going to do underground parking, might as well do it now, before you figure out what will go above it.

Five years after the NFTA decided that it absolutely lurved the elevator-to-the-moon plan, and subsequently did nothing about it, the only thing that’s happened out there has been improvements to the waterfront, a walkway, and the much-improved Fuhrmann Boulevard, and access to it from Route 5.  There is no plan, no developer for the outer harbor.  There isn’t even so much as a street grid, zoning, or utility service there.  Because that’s what government ought to do – ready the area for future growth, not create artificial “growth” out of whole cloth.

Likewise, the inner harbor is in a state of flux now that the anchor tenant idea seems stalled.  Bass Pro is gone, and there’s no one lined up to replace it.  I don’t think there’s an anchor tenant worth pursuing for that spot.  Without the anchor tenant, the Benderson mixed-use plan is probably due for a re-think.  So, ECHDC should plan to re-create the street grid that existed before the Aud and the Donovan.  It should pave them, zone the resulting lots, add utility service, and let people put in whatever they want.  Let people buy the property and build on it.  Set up very stringent design criteria for any buildings so we don’t have a waterfront packed with beige Dollar Generals and TJ Maxxes.

I think everyone can get on board with that.

Finally, the issue is – without the anchor tenant, how do you draw people to the waterfront?  How do you get businesses to build? Why would tenants open there? Why would people from the city come down there on a snowy day?  How do you get suburbanites or Canadians to take a detour downtown as opposed to the Niagara Outlets or the Walden Galleria?

You turn the downtown area under the jurisdiction of the ECHDC into a sales-tax-free zone.  That 8.75% discount on almost everything would be a big draw.  ECHDC ought do an RFP for property maintenance and security services to ensure an appealing and safe day or night out.

This stuff isn’t all that complicated, and it doesn’t need to be ridiculously expensive for taxpayers.  The last thing the waterfronts need is more decades-long delays because everyone wants to turn what should be reasonable discussions into Albanian mountain blood feuds.

Why Did ECHDC Hold A Press Conference Yesterday?

15 Dec

That was the question we were asking when, apropos of nothing, the ECHDC called a press conference to announce, well…not really much of anything.  They updated their designs to demonstrate progress.  However, it seemed odd that they would call a press conference when they lacked any real substantive declaration to make.

Speculation amongst the political rabble after the press conference ranged from theories that private developers were getting nervous about the slow progress, that Bass Pro needed a feel good update, or that there was some sort of issue pending with public financing.

Today, we found out why they called the presser.

Mr. Paterson said his plan is meant to fill a budget gap totaling $15 billion for the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends March 31, and the following fiscal year. State law requires that the budget be balanced.

The administration is also expected to propose eliminating the controversial Empire Zone program, which offers tax incentives for business development across the state, but has often been criticized for failing to deliver promised job growth.

The Canal Side project and the placement of Bass Pro as the retail anchor tenant are ultimately dependent on the availability and utilization of Empire Zone benefits.  While much of the project is financed with money from the NYPA settlement, Empire Zone benefits like wage tax credits and zone capital credits are essential to completing the project and populating it with businesses.

If the Empire Zone program is shutdown, the long term viability of the Canalside Elevator To The Moon project is certainly in doubt.   It would seem as if their hastily called Sunday press conference was intended as a preemptive public relations effort to fight the proposed empire zone cuts.  Since the ECHDC invited local politicians to take a look at the designs on Friday afternoon, this also seems to be an effort to rally political support for the project in Albany.  Interestingly enough, Mayor Brown was not at the press conference yesterday and neither were any of his notable surrogates.

If I Had a Nickel for Every Dreamy Outer Harbor Rendering…

13 Dec

I’d probably have about 35 cents.

On December 15, 2004, then-owner of the Outer Harbor NFTA revealed three competing visions for that brownfield.

1. WestEnd (Ciminelli/Jerde)

I actually liked this one. It was nicely designed and not at all a pie-in-the-sky type project. They dubbed it a “lakefront creative community”.

2. Norstar Outer Harbor Redevelopment Plan

It was almost all parkland. We have a very nice waterfront park that very few people use. Parks don’t pay taxes. No more parks.

3. Buffalo Lakefront Development Team (Opus East/Uniland)

Naturally, this billion-dollar behemoth is what the NFTA selected. I called it Amherst-sur-Lac, and said that the only thing it was missing was an elevator to the moon.

4. The Riverkeeper’s “Vision”

I stumbled on this the other day. I don’t know why people think anyone will want to live, work, or shop on the canal side of Route 5 rather than near the water. But I’m just a philistine

5. E-Zone

Seriously one of the stupidest ideas ever to be proposed for the outer harbor. It would have cost $100 million, and featured Dave & Busters writ large:

* Mini Beach with Indoor/Outdoor Waterpark
* Year-Round Indoor Snow Palace with Snowboard Half-Pipe
* Children’s Playworld
* Themed retail shopping
* Themed bars, clubs and restaurants
* Performance venues
* Interactive games
* 3D/4D Motion Simulator rides

6. The Ever-Green Design Plan:

waterfront.jpg

Posted today on Buffalo Rising, I found this to be a cross between an Amherst condo complex and Epcot, only colder.

7. The WNYMedia.net plan

It’s new, it’s different, but it’s doable.

waterfrontwnym.jpg

The Outer Harbor

14 Nov

dot route 5

While I think it’s great that people are taking the opportunity to speak their mind and fight to effectuate change on issues they care about, I just wish it wouldn’t happen in a vacuum.

The New Millennium Group, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Congress for New Urbanism and other civic groups are advocating for an alternative to the currently approved NYSDOT plan to improve Route 5 along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.

After reading through the assessments and plans of both proposals, I simply find the NYSDOT plan to be the preferred alternative. Not just because it has been under design for over 10 years with extended public comment periods, completed Environmental Impact Studies, and approval from all relevant authorities…but because it takes into account the bigger picture.

I’ll stay away from hyperbole about the Skyway’s frequent closures (bogus) and the necessary lane requirements for Southtowns commuters (overblown), I’ll focus on the grander plan for the outer harbor and points south.

The City of Buffalo, Erie County, New York State, and the City of Lackawanna have spent hundreds of millions of dollars remediating brownfields in the areas immediately surrounding the area in question. Development investments have been made at the Union Ship Canal, Lakeside Commerce Park, and reconfiguration of several acres of the old Bethlehem steel site as an area for future industrial use. The regional plan is to reinvent the outer harbor as a destination for manufacturing, multimodal transshipment, and industrial use. So, I ask you, why do we want to subvert all of that planning and funding to plop down an at grade 35 MPH boulevard in the midst of an area that will require major road capacity?

Does it not make sense to continue the use of Route 5 as is and simply improve access to Fuhrmann Boulevard and the outer harbor? The construction as planned does not preclude future demolition of the Skyway and the improvements planned for Fuhrmann as an at grade boulevard with landscaping, and water access sound like a fair compromise. From the NYSDOT plan:

Route 5 and Fuhrmann Boulevard will remain along the Buffalo Outer Harbor as separate roadways. A low-speed, landscaped Fuhrmann Boulevard offers access, development opportunities and recreational use. A rebuilt Fuhrmann Boulevard will enhance and will create access for vehicular, transit, bicycle and pedestrian use. It will be the basis of a new circulation system for the Outer Harbor and the starting point for a future “surface” bridge or bridges to connect the Outer Harbor with the rest of Buffalo at any one of three possible locations previously identified by the city.

While it is fun to rail against NY Authorities for their ineptitude and near criminal ways, this plan is the product of nearly a decade of study and planning. Extensive public commentary was solicited and all hurdles for construction have been overcome. Why on the near eve of the bidding process would the Buffalo Common Council call a special committee meeting to protest a fait accompli? Grandstanding. Frankly, I’ve had more political grandstanding since I moved home three years ago than one man should ever have to witness.

It is approved and as of now, there are no grounds for legal action. Just build it. After all, the Bass Pro Elevator To The Moon Project will be started within 20 years and it has all the made up models that make new urbanists swoon.

At the risk…

13 Sep

…of sounding like Howard Stern, I have to take credit for Donn Esmonde’s diss of the Uniland/Opus One megaproject for the outer harbor. He said:

The deadline to sign a contract on the Grand Master Plan – which includes everything but a kitchen sink and a landing pad for UFOs – passed more than three months ago.

I’ve been saying for 21 months that the only thing missing is an elevator to the moon.

So, I’m claiming credit for the extraterrestrial joke.

Dammit.