BUFFALO: Bottom-Up or Master Plan? A blog inspired from my trip to New York City
As the girl who is content staying in her beloved Buffalo, I had to leave it for a week. The tension escalated as the days neared. I am not fearful, in any way, of experiencing what the World has to offer; however, I have never been happier living my life in the Queen City. I was asked to travel to the Big Apple where I’d attend professional development seminars at Columbia University. Our hotel was the Hampton Inn at Times Square and all expenses were paid! This was an opportunity of a lifetime, yet it was difficult to leave Buffalo. I decided to optimize every second after being released from the University to discover what NYC was doing that Buffalo is not yet doing, but could be. I posted my mission on my FB wall before departing and was told that Buffalo could never be NYC… OBVIOUSLY, nor was I trying to say that it could! I was simply on the hunt for different, smaller elements that Buffalo could mimic and implement that they have not.
I am not the “commercialized” type of “tourist,” as I like to explore crevices of cities that are more natural and relevant to history. I did the first thing that all people do, that being a Google Search and NOT to my surprise, I saw the typical attractions pop up… I assume that with all of the ridiculous money that some of those phony places rake-in that they would have phenomenal Site-Engine-Optimization (SEO) and would pop up first. I, however, wanted the ‘beneath the surface’ type of places to visit. So, I called a member of BuffaloEXPAT and Preservation Ready Sites. He currently resides in NYC, but has a major influence on Buffalo. I asked him for advice and he was able to respond! Thank you Frits!
First up on the list was the High Line ( http://www.thehighline.org/ ). The High Line was originally a meat-packing transit line that ran 13 miles from 34th street to St. John’s Park Terminal that delivered meat and mail. It has been “abandoned” and nonoperational for way too long, 1980. It was discussed to tear it down until Robert Hammond stepped in. I’d like to name him the ‘ReUSE Superman’. He saw it as a ‘Park in the Sky,’ as a place that was not yet extinct! The High Line had life left to live, just in different ways! What some saw as a perished eye-sore was reincarnated into a new life. A life in which people could enjoy for a walk that was not directly on the busy city streets. So many of the original elements were maintained. For example, the plant life. The decisions for the plants were inspired by “self-seeded landscape that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks during the 25 years after the trains stopped running. The species of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees were chosen for their hardiness, sustainability, and textural and colorful variation, with a focus on native species.” Other elements that were maintained were the tracks themselves. Things such as boardwalks, sitting areas, and food stands have been added to the equation. I am currently on a mission to track this ‘SuperMan’ down. I’d love to have him as a guest in Buffalo. I’d take him into one of our grain elevators and literally ask him, “What visions do you have for our industrial history?” If he doesn’t have a straight answer, then hopefully he could provide some insight for Buffalo holistically. There are so many essential areas of Buffalo that should not be decaying away. The High Line is one example of history that was brought back to live a new glorious era! (continued below)
“He [Robert Caro] said Robert Moses would have hated this project because it’s bottom-up. It started with a small group of people rather than a master plan.” ~Robert Hammond
Next, I visited NYC’s Pier 17! Wow! I have so many adjectives to describe what I felt while there. Pier 17 is essentially what Buffalo’s Waterfront thrives to become, but is no where near that status. Upon arriving, there were the classic cobble-stone streets and replicated canal-side / pier style historic buildings. It was flourished with locals and tourists, which is the most ideal situation! I had dinner at a brewery that is practically synonymous to Buffalo’s Pearl Street. The food, the beer sampling, and the atmosphere was basically congruent to it. I felt like it was a home away from home. I couldn’t help it, I had to ‘take in’ all of the beauty of the vicinity. Pier 17 has stores, markets, restaurants, kiosks, boat rides, music, dancing, events, etc. Buffalo’s waterfront has some of that, but not all of it. The entire area where Buffalo’s Aud once lived a grand life should duplicate Pier 17. Shopping centers housing both local and non-local businesses would attract the Canadians, tourists from the States, and locals. Local vendors could utilize kiosks, artists could paint scenery and portraits on the spot, and at night time, we could light up the board-walk by Buffalo Harbor Kayak and have Hispanic dancing, etc. The old NFTA subway storage unit could be developed into markets and restaurants, as already proposed. Then eventually as this new wave continues to sprawl, developers may come in and decide to “flip” one of Dart’s coined grain elevator into a hotel, gym, or condo… OR a combination of all three. As for the Skyway ramps being in the way, ha! There was an on-ramp 10 yards from where I sat eating dinner in NYC and I hardly noticed it because there were so many other things to view around it. Underneath them housed kiosks, etc. They didn’t allow something such as an on-ramp to stand in their way to develop, nor did they consider demolishing the bridge. Buffalo’s waterfront -Inner, Outer, and everything in between- has the potential to obtain the same status as Pier 17! (continued below)
I, of course, visited many other areas of the city, but it all made me realize that NYC is a nice place to visit and then go home to Buffalo. You may call me a hypocrite because I am trying to make Buffalo a larger city, but let me clarify, NOT THAT BIG! New York City could be classified as its own state and may even be more populous than some small countries. I definitely want Buffalo to have a better rep. It has more history than just wide-right, no goal, and cold climate. We were once the 8th largest city in the country with more paved-miles of asphalt road than anywhere else in the world. We hosted the PanAmerican Exposition, capped off the Erie Canal as it Western-terminus, had presidential residents and mayors, were the home to philanthropy, three architectural wonders are located here, and we boast Olmsted Parks. We never should of had a decline… but now it takes the young to revamp our city and if it takes visiting other cities to get ideas, then so be it!