Tag Archives: BPD

The City Grill Shootings and What Now for Downtown #Buffalo

16 Aug

According to the Buffalo Police Department’s website, there have been 32 homicides in the City of Buffalo so far this year, not including the tragedy that happened this past weekend outside of City Grill on Main Street in the faintly beating heart of downtown Buffalo. Four people’s lives were taken after a couple of parties got shut down at City Grill, and someone outside fired a 9MM into the crowd. 8 people were shot.

The next morning, Buffalo cheerleaders were wringing their hands over how such a tragedy might play in Amherst, and whether it would harm efforts to revive Buffalo’s downtown – namely, Canal Side. Of course, this was a senseless tragedy that was anything but random. It’s interesting to watch the city police come face-to-face with the “Stop Snitching” ethos that’s so prevalent in the African-American community. Responsible voices cry out, “if you know something, say something!” but in the meantime, the police are busy arresting the wrong guy.

I’m not a cop, nor a sociologist, so I’m not going to criticize the police, or that they have no residency requirement. I’m not going to make snarky comments about Derenda’s first real test as commissioner and how he’s doing. I’m not going to rail against the Brown administration and how it routinely plays down crime statistics. I’m not going to write a tome about how the Black community can make its neighborhoods safer, or better cooperate with police.

Instead, I’m going to focus on the suburb/city split and Canal Side and how this shooting may or may not affect them.

Any suburbanite whose confirmation bias about the perceived safety of downtown Buffalo is strengthened by these shootings needs to take a step back and look at what happened. This was a targeted, reactionary shooting – not something random. Downtown Buffalo is hardly a shooting gallery on a regular basis. If anything, it’s a ghost town – a wasteland peppered with a small handful of bars.

There’s been something of an interesting intersect as to how these shootings are being linked in to the public discord over Canal Side. The Fisher brothers, Tielman, and others want Canal Side to be a parkland or a museum or something else that cannot be called a “mall”, because malls are the absolute worst thing that man ever created, or God ever permitted to exist. The suburbanites who would be expected to patronize such a “mall” are now chattering about how Buffalo is very dangerous, so they’ll spend their money in Cheektowaga instead.

It is a perfect storm of status-quo for Buffalo. One asshole with a 9MM did more to ensure that downtown remain lame than any obstructionist lawsuit or prejudiced suburbanite could ever do.

I made the point on Facebook and Twitter that “The City Grill murders aren’t going to hurt any downtown #Buffalo renaissance. It’s the lack of non-drunken things to fucking do.” One person commented with this:

Babeville (TWO floors of performance venues, independent of each other). Hallwalls. WNY Book Arts Center. (Also the new home of Just Buffalo.) Squeaky Wheel. Starlight Studio. The newly revived library. Washington Market. The Canal museum-y site. The Mansion. The Avant. ChocoLogo. The OTHER chocolate-based place whose name I always confuse with CL, neither of which is the Chocolate Bar. New Era. All the co-op housing I scoffed at when it first opened but is completely filled.

That’s just the last few years and thus does not include CEPA and the rest of the Market Arcade building, Irish Classical, the ongoing restorations to Shea’s, Spot Coffee (as social venue), Old Editions, Mohawk Place (you don’t actually have to drink when you’re there, you know)…

I replied with:

An impressive list, but of those, I don’t think a single one is open past 5pm on any regular basis, and a few of them may stretch the definition of “downtown”.

It went on from there, with Chris Smith arguing that there’s nothing impressive about that list, and

It’s a list of things that are mostly open during the day…several of which are not open to the general public all of the time. It’s a depressingly small list of incremental improvements that have happened over ten years and which serve a very specific demographic group.

Once the argument turned with the person who made the Babeville, et al. suggestions writing,

are any of you haters doing a fucking thing to make downtown better yourselves? If not, allow me to suggest a number of cities where you might be more welcome.

I was out. It’s done. I wrote one sentence decrying the fact that there is nothing to do in downtown Buffalo on a nightly basis that doesn’t involve getting hammered and then driving home, and I get the “what are YOU doing? You should just move!” argument.

Well, what I’m doing is spending my money in other parts of the city, and in the suburbs, and other places where there are things to do. The beauty of something like Canal Side is that it could be the spark that sets off a fire of entrepreneurial development downtown. If it had actual things to do that would make regular people come downtown, then other businesses could fill it in, as well as the immediate surrounding areas to support the foot traffic that hadn’t been present on Main Street downtown in generations. Maybe Bass Pro wasn’t going to be the silver bullet everyone thought it’d be, but do you have any better suggestions? A museum or park isn’t going to bring a mass of people downtown on a regular basis. An IKEA? Forget the fact that IKEA is never going to come here, or the fact that there’s an IKEA about an hour up the QEW. If you think the Tielman clique had a conniption over Bass Pro, just wait to see what they’d have to say about IKEA – which is the biggest of big boxes. Wegmans? I can’t begin to understand why that’s a good idea. Put a Wegmans downtown, sure. Put it near some other new lofts or apartments, great. But on the waterfront? What’s next? A massive Dollar General?

Given that no one will ever agree on what should go into Canal Side, and given the fact that the obstructionists will continue to obstruct forever, whatever happens there should be organic growth, and there needs to be an incentive to do so. I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again – if you want the foot of Main Street to be a mecca for people again, then a portion of downtown needs to be converted into a sales-tax free zone. It is a reverse Empire Zone – instead of the businesses getting the incentive, the consumer gets it directly. People would complain about how unfair it would be to other businesses. Perhaps. But the fact that Pennsylvania’s gas and clothes are less expensive is unfair to Chautauqua County gas and clothing retailers.

Downtown is dead because downtown is dead. If you want downtown to live again, improve the business climate and make it especially attractive.