Tag Archives: Nostalgia

City of Quality

27 Sep

Rochester is in the process of demolishing its version of the Main Place Mall & Tower. Here’s a video from 1963 touting the Midtown Plaza Mall’s arrival.

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It’s Morning in WNY

17 Aug

I think some of you have lost your damned minds. I give up.

Some people took my post about the downtown shootings and their affect as anti-city. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I’m quite frankly astonished that it generated those types of responses.

So instead of further explaining something that I’ve already communicated quite clearly, I’m going to go with…well, with this.

I think it’s quite clear that Canal Side isn’t ever going to get built, nor should it at this point. Oh, we’ll get the street grid and infrastructure, but there won’t be any sort of shopping district built. Shopping, after all, is a bourgeois pursuit exercised mostly by the racist suburbanites and their evil cars and satanic parking. The city is too pure and perfect to permit such things as “fun things to do with families after 5pm on any given day” to happen. Instead, the city ought remain the way it is, with its islands of semitainment districts, inconveniently peppered miles away from each other. It makes perfect sense that businessmen can’t buy a tie downtown, and that even though the festivals prove that people will come to Buffalo in droves given something to do, that we give them nothing to do on a regular basis. Only periodically. That’s quite clearly good enough.

After all, We have loads of nice, walkable places in WNY to go shopping. WIth a broken economy and a shrinking population, we should completely throw in the towel on doing anything meaningful with the waterfront and just leave it as is – which is a marginal, incremental improvement over how it’s looked for 50+ years.

Maybe Tim Tielman’s diesel bus can show people around where the brothels and speakeasies used to be whilst spewing NOx particulate at passersby. (Remember: old diesel bus good, new ULEV cars bad). After all, particulate matter harkens back to Buffalo’s heyday.

And it’s not just the economy or the shrinking population. We should make it crystal clear to the Canadians that they should continue patronizing the malls in the Towns of Niagara and Cheektowaga. We can pretend like they will come to Elmwood because it’s such a unique and significant walkable community, and we should therefore ignore that Toronto has about 30 of those. Of course someone from Oakville (Toronto’s Greenwich, CT) will come to Elmwood to see a smaller, less compelling version of Oakville’s own long, tony, walkable downtown! North Yonge and Queen West. Leslieville, the Annex, Bloor/Yonge, Spadina. Ur-Elmwoods, all.

Keep everything as-is, at this point.

Because with respect to Canal Side, whoever doesn’t get their way is going to sue, and the winning project will be enjoined from moving forward. No matter how open, transparent, inclusive, responsive, or sensitive the ECHDC decides to be – that ECHDC could hold a public hearing at lunchtime, televise it, hold a referendum, hear a thousand people speak, and do it over the course of a decade – but whichever group doesn’t get its way will throw a tantrum and sue. Guaranteed. And the arguments they make will be filled with lies. Guaranteed. Past as prologue.

Why put ourselves through it anymore? Why raise people’s hopes and then have them disappointed again? The answer, clearly, is to not raise hopes anymore. Let’s give up. We should focus our collective civic attention on decrying how the Scajaquada, the 33, the 190, the Skyway, and the bermed Route 5 are what keep the city back. We should demand historical accuracy and recreation, except when it’s inconvenient to do so.

All new projects should only celebrate Buffalo’s past, because no one has a vision for its future worth embracing.

Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia. Nostalgia for lost football seasons and dissolved neighborhoods. Nostalgia for dead architects and the wealthy people who hired them. Nostalgia for 40 year-old mistakes, endlessly rehashing them. Nostalgia for a world without cars, or parking. Nostalgia for a growing, vibrant city that was all about progress and invention. Nostalgia for manufacturing and the toxic particulates that used to turn the sky orange and coat the region with soot. Nostalgia for a time when factories were the highest and best use for the waterfront, and the resulting brownfields that no one has the political will or financial capital to remediate. Nostalgia for everything. It’s natural for a place with loads of history and no future. We like to blame the politicians and the politics. It’s easy to point to this group or that group, but the fact that Buffalo is a nostalgia shack with no vision for the future is your fault – it’s my fault. It’s everyone’s fault.

We’ll lurch from silver bullet project to lawsuit to smaller-scale project to lawsuit to no project. Some will sell their souls out to politics, others to big business, and others to big foundations. The actual number of people who hold what passes for wealth and pursestrings in this town is rather small and intertwined. It’s been thus for years, and it’ll be thus forever. Newcomers are viewed with suspicion – everyone knows their place. No one cares to change it, and no one – not the city, county, or state – has a plan (or the will to plan) to retain or attract people or business, instead relying on the status quo because this is how it was in the good old days of half-million-people Buffalo, so if we just keep everything the same, we’re bound to double the population again. All we need is more tchotchkes and museums.

Turn the whole city into an early-50s version of Old Sturbridge Village, recreating Buffalo’s heyday – the streets of the district will feature five-and-dimes and Studebakers. Everyone will smoke Luckys. We can charge $25 admission.

Maybe the bermed Route 5 really does separate downtown from its waterfront. Maybe if we got rid of it, 50 years of failure will turn around. Maybe if we get rid of the 33, people will flock back to Buffalo regardless of the crime, political dysfunction, and school system that’ll get better just as soon as we throw more money at it, (whilst the brave people who shout “Clarence Pundit!” at me due to their moral superiority of living in the city busily work to make damned sure their kids go to a charter school, away from the hoi polloi). We should take more advice from people who don’t just live in the suburbs, but live hundreds or thousands of miles away.

And this post is one that I wrote after deleting a post about the Ground Zero non-mosque community center, because I think the whole country has gone crazy.

Today, I’m going to have a great day. I hope you do, too.

Who’s Talking Reform Now?

20 Feb

I sincerely hope that the New York State Republican Party runs one George Pataki (R-Obscurity) for United States Senate to replace Kirstin Gillibrand. Gillibrand’s own problems notwithstanding, I cannot stress how apt it is for the state Republicans to be so rudderless that they can only look backward to 90s-era glory days. Gotta run someone for Governor? How about damaged goods Rudy Giuliani? Gotta run someone for Senator? How about damaged goods George Pataki. I realize that nostalgia is one commodity that we don’t lack in this state, but the 90s are well over, and it says a lot that this is the best the GOP can do. Hell, why not bring D’Amato back from the pasture?

On that same note, it seems that it’s the Democrats – the Democrats – who are talking about conservative things. Things like our crippling tax burden and the crushing cost of so many redundant taxing governmental entities. Where was Pataki on this? What has Giuliani ever said or done about this? Where is the new Republican blood in New York State?

Assuming Cuomo runs for governor, he would crush Paterson in a primary, and he’d crush a Giuliani in a general. Cuomo’s on the way up. Giuliani’s old hat, looking to suckle again at the public teat.

New Yorkers are interested in a comprehensive review and overhaul of the way state and local governments operate. They are responding to a growing clamor for fundamental reform – not piecemeal headline-grabbing pseudo-reforms that do little. Cuomo understands this.

And make no mistake – this speech is Cuomo’s unofficial gubernatorial announcement:

During a press conference at the University at Buffalo, Cuomo said the time has come for New York to streamline its laws so the state’s 10,500 governmental entities can be consolidated at a savings to taxpayers.

“That’s why the state of New York has the highest local taxes in the country,” Cuomo said of the state’s burdensome system of government.

Cuomo called on state officials to join him in supporting legislation that would simplify New York’s system of laws in an effort to make it easier to eliminate state authorities, special districts and other governmental entities that are often expensive and, in some cases, totally obsolete.

And from the UB Spectrum:

Cuomo also felt that reorganizing local municipalities would also provide a better answer to the state’s fiscal woes rather than the traditional practices of raising taxes and cutting spending, sensing that these acts in reality are counterproductive.

“You raise taxes now, you are going to be redistributing the burden on individuals and families and it will be so negative that it will make the state of New York less hospitable,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo noted that New York residents pay the highest amount of local taxes in the country, roughly $73 per $1,000 of income. This is sharply higher than the average of $43 per $1,000 of income by the rest of the country. By cutting down the estimated 10,500 governments in the state, he thinks that this will allow the Empire state to become more competitive economically.

Cuomo also cited the fact that school districts in New York have dramatically condensed their numbers over the last several decades. He stated that in the 1930s, there were 10,000 school districts in the Empire state and there are now fewer than 700.

“If you can tackle and manage the consolidation of school districts then you can do this [reform],” Cuomo said.

I think the momentum for this sort of thing is growing. If we can keep it up, the people who will be traditionally opposed to it, who will be running inflammatory ads throughout the state about it, can and will be defeated.

All is Quiet on New Year’s Day

1 Jan


This has been a bizarre whirlwind of a week, replete with fixing cars, fixing eyes, fixing sinks, fixing faucets, having way too much champagne, watching the kids play and grow, watching movies with my wife, having quiet nights interrupted by panicked 2 year-olds at 3 in the morning, making and re-making travel plans, mocking things left and right, trying something at Starbucks called “gingersnap latte” which – seriously – just sucks, hitting the sales, playing Wii, and wondering where the time flew.

I don’t really do New Year resolutions because of the hype. At best, I try to be choosy about the hype I bother with. But generally, when something gets too much hype, I refuse to have anything to do with it. (Tangential example – the movie “Marley and Me” is being hyped left and right. Because of this, I refuse not only to see it in the theater, but never to see it on DVD or on broadcast or cable TV. Ever. I couldn’t care less how good it is.)

We have a couple more days off, and we’ll enjoy them restfully before everything jolts back to normal on Monday. One mission I have is to get a wicked good eggs benedict between now and Sunday.

I will predict generally that 2009 will bring Buffalo and WNY more of the same. We will continue to be nostalgic for the good old days – whether they be the 1950s, 1970s, or 1890s – and we will ever forget to discuss and act on ideas that would bring about a better future for this region. We will continue to bitch & moan about the symptoms of a shrinking, economically weak region and forget completely to address the underlying disease.

Oh, yeah. Happy New Year!

(Photo credit: BlogTO)

The Endless Pit of Buffalo Nostalgia

15 Dec

In a Canal Side post, Buffalog Craig recounts that Dave Franczyk doesn’t like the idea of a public market downtown, because we’ve already got a city-owned public market on Broadway. Craig says,

It’s the Broadway Market that should be called something else. Hm, let’s see. How about “obsolete political pander where Buffalonians’ money goes to die.” Yeah, that’ll work. In the meantime we can hope for a real “public” market on the waterfront that people actually want to go to.

Do Buffalonians cling to past glories for far too long, against all reason and hope? Really, is it the Broadway Market that people pine for, or is it the notion of a well-attended public market where the community came to shop & mingle many years ago? It’s not the building that matters – it’s what happens in it, as far as this particular example is concerned.

What difference does it make where the market is, as long as people go regularly?

If nostalgia was a money-making industry, Buffalo would be wealthier than Beverly Hills or Scarsdale.

(Photo by Mike in WNY @ Flickr)