Tag Archive for 'buffalo'

The Crash of Flight 3407

Flight 3407 – Reuters
CREDIT: Gary Wiepert, Reuters [via]

Last night, Con­ti­nen­tal Flight 3407 crashed in route from Newark to Buf­fa­lo Nia­gara Inter­na­tion­al Air­port, just a few miles from its sched­uled des­ti­na­tion. The crash site is just five or six miles from where I grew up, in a sub­urb of Buf­fa­lo, NY.

The Buf­fa­lo News has a liv­ing top­ic page ded­i­cat­ed to cov­er­age of the event, which they are updat­ing with arti­cles, pho­tos, video and oth­er resources, as they are put up. They also start­ed live blog­ging the sto­ry, and link­ing to out­side resources pro­vid­ed by cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists.

CNN is car­ry­ing live video from the local NBC affli­ate.

My heart goes out to the vic­tims, their fam­i­lies and the near­by com­mu­ni­ties. It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that these things rarely hap­pen, but when they do, espe­cial­ly so close to home, it’s impos­si­ble not to feel sad.

Saving Buffalo’s Untold Beauty

Downtown Buffalo

Photo Credit: Tony Cenicola/The New York TimesA photo of downtown Buffalo.

The Times had a great piece yes­ter­day on Buffalo’s archi­tec­tur­al lega­cy, and recent attempts to save his­toric build­ings:

Buf­fa­lo is home to some of the great­est Amer­i­can archi­tec­ture of the late 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­turies, with major archi­tects like Hen­ry Hob­son Richard­son, Fred­er­ick Law Olm­st­ed, Louis Sul­li­van and Frank Lloyd Wright build­ing mar­vels here. Togeth­er they shaped one of the grand­est ear­ly visions of the demo­c­ra­t­ic Amer­i­can city.

Yet Buf­fa­lo is more com­mon­ly iden­ti­fied with the crum­bling infra­struc­ture, aban­doned homes and dwin­dling jobs that have defined the Rust Belt for the past 50 years. And for decades its archi­tec­ture has seemed strange­ly frozen in time.

There is also an accom­pa­ny­ing slide show, from which the pho­to above was tak­en.

Full dis­clo­sure: I’m orig­i­nal­ly from Buf­fa­lo.

What Could Possibly Make Someone Want to Leave New York and Move to Buffalo?

Buffalo #1
Lisa’s tattoo confirms that Buffalo is indeed #1.

New York mag­a­zine has an inter­est­ing fea­ture on New York­ers mov­ing to Buf­fa­lo, NY, the very city that Lisa and I were raised in and sub­se­quent­ly couldn’t wait to leave from after high school.

Some peo­ple will read this as a sto­ry of defeat. They will look at Her­beck and Cloyd and think, They came; they couldn’t cut it; good rid­dance. That’s also a famil­iar New York nar­ra­tive, one that’s espe­cial­ly com­fort­ing to those of us who stay and stick it out. Because, sure, stained glass and spare bed­rooms are nice and all, but no one moves to New York because they think they’re going to get a great bar­gain on an apart­ment. You move here because you want to live in New York City.

The writer then goes on to say that this is not a sto­ry of defeat, but rather an oppor­tu­ni­ty:

But New York, for all its mythol­o­gy, is no longer a fron­tier. Buf­fa­lo is a fron­tier. And when you think of the actu­al fron­tier, you’ll recall that no one ever packed up and moved West to a gold-rush town because they heard it had real­ly good local the­ater.

Um, okay… Truth is, I know more for­mer 716 area coders that are now in 212 or 718. But, it’s a pro­vok­ing premise for a city famous for lit­tle more than snow and four con­sec­u­tive failed Super­bowl bids.

Pool for Sale

The pool of my child­hood is for sale. My, how things fall apart!

Google Earth in 3D

Google Earth now has 3D-build­ings, and it’s real­ly fun to play with. Here is the Times Build­ing, where I work:

Times Building

A 3D rendering of the New York Times Building in Midtown, as shown in Google Earth.

If you have Google Earth installed, see it for your­self. Or, try land­ing on the deck of the Gold­en Gate Bridge, (just zoom in).

There seems to be data for a lot of cities, includ­ing my home town of Buf­fa­lo, and for­mer home of Boston.

Alma Mater

Lisa and I still keep in touch with a lot of friends from high school, some of which we’ve known since grade school. We were all try­ing to remem­ber today if there was an alma mater anthem for our High School. As none of us were par­tic­u­lar­ly rah-rah back then, we couldn’t remem­ber.

Three of us, how­ev­er, could remem­ber the words to our grade school anthem — which is a bit shock­ing, con­sid­er­ing the last time I heard it was some­time in 1988, in the fifth grade. I think they forced us to sing this thing dur­ing assem­blies, through­out the school years:

Coun­try Park­way is our school,
where we learn to obey the rules.
We do our best and take great pride,
with our Country’s flag fly­ing high.

Here we work and here we play
Learn­ing new things every­day.
From north to south and east to west,
Our Coun­try Park­way is the best.

Creepy, in its empha­sis on con­for­mi­ty — espe­cial­ly for a fair­ly pro­gres­sive pub­lic school dis­trict.

Sabres as Oasis?

Chris DruryWe’re head­ing home to Buf­fa­lo for the hol­i­day, (and my 10-year High School reunion), which reminds me of how well the Sabres are play­ing.

ESPN’s John Buc­ci­gross com­pares the Sabres to the brit­pop Oasis of all things:

At full strength, the Buf­fa­lo Sabres are unequiv­o­cal­ly the best team in the NHL. Not only do they have the full com­ple­ment of parts, but Buf­fa­lo has that con­fi­dence that Oasis had when they went head-to-head with Blur back in 1995 in a Brit­pop mano a mano, or more accu­rate­ly called boyo-a-boyo.

Noel Gal­lagher said he and Oasis’ soul was more pure than Blur’s because they grew up poor, with dirt under­neath their fin­ger­nails, while Blur was mid­dle class. The con­cept is inter­est­ing, espe­cial­ly when it is spo­ken with a rough Eng­lish accent while sit­ting in a gigan­tic and expen­sive chair.

But Chris Drury, who grew up in a mid­dle-class town in south­ern Con­necti­cut, makes $3.1 mil­lion this sea­son and prob­a­bly will sign a five-year, $22 mil­lion con­tract with some­one next sum­mer. And yet, he plays every game like some­one kid­napped his entire fam­i­ly and the ran­som is win­ning the face­off he is about to take. That’s the sto­ry, morn­ing glo­ry.

I may not agree with John’s take on the 90s Brit­pop war, but it’s hard to argue with his thoughts on Drury.


Here is my God­son, Tom­my…


Godson, by nedward.

I was in Buf­fa­lo this past week­end to cel­e­brate my Grandma’s 100th birth­day, and got to see my cousins Mag­gie, Lau­ren, Sarah, and Emma.

X-mas in Buffalo

Ornament on the familial X-mas tree

Ornament on the familial X-mas tree

Macy and Jeremy at Spot Coffee, Elmwood Ave.

Macy and Jeremy at Spot Coffee, Elmwood Ave

Exhibit at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Exhibit at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Con­tin­ue read­ing ‘X-mas in Buf­fa­lo’

Buffalo Central Terminal Update

Chuck Maley's Central Terminal picturesA while back, I post­ed about a piece of archi­tec­tur­al won­der­ment lying van­dal­ized and dor­mant in Buffalo—the old Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal. It’s a beau­ti­ful Deco train sta­tion from the 1920s, plopped into an oth­er­wise unex­cep­tion­al sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hood.

At the time the sta­tion was built, Buf­fa­lo was still an indus­tri­al and cul­tur­al cen­ter, with a pop­u­la­tion over one-half mil­lion. It was sec­ond only to Chica­go for its tan­gling rail net­work. How­ev­er, by the late 1970s, both the city and the sta­tion had seen bet­ter days. The sta­tion was board­ed up, and the trains instead stopped at a new, strip-mall like park­ing-lot sta­tion not far away.

Well, there is some good news… it seems that some peo­ple do care about pre­serv­ing the city’s her­itage. Despite its van­dal­ized and trashed inte­ri­or, the build­ing is draw­ing crowds—including some Cana­di­an urban explor­ers.

What I love about struc­tures like the Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal is that they were built for the pub­lic to use. It’s absolute­ly unthink­able to imag­ine pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions build­ing such pub­lic spaces today—I think those years have passed, (as have the years of ridicu­lous­ly cheap immi­grant labor).

Here’s hop­ing there is a devel­op­er out there with deep pock­ets and a cre­ative will.

The Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal at a glance:

  • The Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal opened four months before the Wall Street crash of 1929
  • Designed to han­dle an antic­i­pat­ed Buf­fa­lo pop­u­la­tion of 1.5 mil­lion, it cost $14 mil­lion to build
  • The 17-sto­ry office tow­er stands 271 feet high
  • The sta­tion closed in Octo­ber 1979 after years of dwin­dling rail pas­sen­ger ser­vice
  • A 1969 study esti­mat­ed it would cost $54 mil­lion to restore it for office use, and $16.3 mil­lion to demol­ish it

Basketcase City

Here is an inter­est­ing item in the Buf­fa­lo News… it seems for­mer may­or James D. “Jim­my” Grif­fin is start­ing a “grass-roots” cam­paign to recall his suc­ces­sor, May­or Masiel­lo. Just as Buf­fa­lo is start­ing to do the right things it needs to do to get out of finan­cial chaos, past specters respon­si­ble for the mess the city finds itself in are in are resur­fac­ing to reassert their influ­ence.

There is no mon­ey in the city cof­fers, and NY State is occu­pied with rebuild­ing NY City… yet Grif­fin finds it nec­es­sary to stir up pop­ulist anger at the mayor’s insis­tence that a city of 290,000 can­not afford 2-man police cars.

Now, I’m sup­port­ive of unions, and labor in gen­er­al. But, they’ve got the city hijacked—it’s just not the city of half-mil­lion that it was in 1905. My sub­ur­ban child­hood town, Amherst, prob­a­bly has more class-A office space that 10 Buf­fa­los… the reign­ing cul­ture there is one of the auto­mo­bile.

If You Build it, They Will Come
The State built the new cam­pus of the Uni­ver­si­ty at Buf­fa­lo—on unde­vel­oped land in Amherst in the 60s—in such a way as to con­fuse pedes­tri­ans. The park­ing lots and mega-steel-and-glass-box build­ings are on a scale unfath­omable to the pedes­tri­an. It could take you thir­ty min­utes to walk from the dor­mi­to­ries to class, and the only thing that sep­a­rates you are vast park­ing lots and curv­ing 8-lane roads. This sort of destruc­tive and unprece­dent­ed plan­ning will make an ago­ra­phobe out of any­one that isn’t high on some­thing… There is no urban fabric—you can’t com­fort­ably walk down a block and buy a coke at the news stand on the way to sta­tis­tics. The street isn’t lined with a buffer of parked cars or trees to insu­late the pedes­tri­an from the street. No. This would be the tra­di­tion­al way of plan­ning. Are the streets planned at all?

The fact is, the only way the Uni­ver­si­ty at Buf­fa­lo makes any coher­ent sense is from 75 mph out your car win­dow on Inter­state-990, (inci­den­tal­ly a use­less, sprawl-induc­ing high­way built to link yet-to-be-built shod­dy cul-de-sacs north of the city, to the new cam­pus). And from a reac­tionary admin­is­tra­tive point of view, this kind of build­ing assures total con­trol over the “streets”, a wor­ry of these types in the tur­bu­lent 1960s.

A Cul­ture of Dash­boards
Where was I? Oh yes. The auto­mo­bile. The Cul­ture in Buf­fa­lo. It must be changed. Or at least mod­i­fied, and we’ve got to for once put an end to peo­ple like Jim­my Grif­fin. Irish politi­cians, gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, have a par­tic­u­lar knack for killing cities for their own per­son­al gain. In my mind, James D. Grif­fin was the most cor­rupt city may­or of the past 25 years, eclipsed recent­ly only by Bud­dy Cian­ci in Prov­i­dence. His neigh­bor­hood cronies ran the city into the ground, going so far as to poi­son the man-made lake in Delaware Park, by dump­ing chem­i­cals such that it wouldn’t freeze for ice-skaters. No, Grif­fin is only inter­est­ed in tak­ing care of his clan in South Buf­fa­lo, and the whole damn rest of you can go fuck your­selves.

Speak­ing of his Irish clan, always mind­ful to under­line their white, and there­fore priv­i­leged sta­tus, the Irish politi­cians iden­ti­fy sta­tus sym­bols that might hide the oth­er­wise sad state of the city. The car, and sub­ur­ban devel­op­ment in gen­er­al, are pre­cise­ly their cho­sen sym­bols. They can’t nec­es­sar­i­ly move into a 4 bed-room McMan­sion in Amherst, how­ev­er they can afford a five-year old Chevy or Ford—and avoid tak­ing the sub­way or, god-for­bid, the bus sys­tem (which are pri­mar­i­ly employed by the African-Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion). They envy the new sub­ur­ban, car-ori­ent­ed devel­op­ment of strip malls and park­ing lots, and politi­cian like Grif­fin decid­ed that this was pre­cise­ly the kind of con­struc­tion need­ed in the city. What result­ed, was a mess. Dri­ve down main street from the 198 to down­town to see what i mean. You can lit­er­al­ly dri­ve through there with­out see­ing peo­ple on the street for blocks—and this is a 4-lane road

Cities should be orga­nized to facil­i­tate sub­ur­ban­ite com­muters. Right? Well, this kind of thing isn’t going to be sus­tain­able in Mia­mi, Las Vegas, Philadel­phia or Detroit—much less Buf­fa­lo. In fact, the finan­cial real­i­ties that are start­ing to sur­face in less-off places like Buf­fa­lo should be a kind of warn­ing. We won’t always have cheap oil, and it should be evi­dent that cities actu­al­ly offer a healthy way of life. Walk to work. Ride a sub­way car with peo­ple from dif­fer­ent clans than you. Pre­serve our his­tor­i­cal build­ings, because they were built bet­ter than any build­ing in the past 50 years.

The Restora­tion
Walk to work? These sort of ideas belong to elites, and that explains why the Irish politi­cians (and oth­ers like James Pitts, the African-Amer­i­can Com­mon Coun­cil Pres­i­dent), resist efforts in this direc­tion. They’re too caught up in what they per­ceive to be sta­tus sym­bols, i.e., cars, krispy kremes, that they don’t real­ize that the health of the city and region depends on the health of its neigh­bor­hoods. And, yes Mr. Pitts, we will have to invest in the minor­i­ty neigh­bor­hoods. But until we put some mon­ey in the cof­fers, and work on erod­ing the per­cep­tion that cities are for non-car dri­ving pub­lic-hous­ing types. It’s a mania that can­not sus­tain itself.


I real­ly am tempt­ed to write a Slate-like cranky crit­i­cism of the new Buf­fa­lo Bills uni­forms, but I will try to say some nice things: The dark blue is great. I like the stripes with the gray on the hel­met.

(Here comes the cranky part) So, if you’re going to make an “update” with the new dark­er blue, why would you keep the lighter roy­al blue? Wouldn’t it be nice to put the num­bers in red, or gray? or the new dark blue? Doesn’t that light blue look just as dat­ed now as it did last year? Why do the white uni­forms have a blue bar on the shoul­ders?

And the logo—change the f*cking logo. I think the Sabres got the logo RIGHT. It’s tough, mod­ern and looks fuck­ing great on the front of the uni­forms. The Bills logo (much like the orig­i­nal Sabres jer­seys) is the bor­ing old abstract cor­po­rate-art that is a direct rip-off of that 1970s Buf­fa­lo pro­pa­gan­da “WERE TALKING PROUD”. Talk­ing Proud? We’re talk­ing MISERY.

Let me tell you what I real­ly think. In a move true to this nos­tal­gic age we live in, the Bills tried to pre­serve many ele­ments of the old uni­forms, while updat­ing the col­ors a lit­tle. The result? It’s an inco­he­sive mish­mash of styles and col­ors, try­ing to be every­thing to every­body and it fails all around. There is noth­ing intim­i­dat­ing about these jer­seys, nor is there any­thing “new”.

Convert, don’t Build

Any­one fol­low­ing the Adel­phia bid to build a huge sky­scraper on the Buf­fa­lo water­front, has to laugh at the company’s deter­mi­na­tion to get it done. The com­pa­ny is hav­ing Enron-like finan­cial woes, yet still wants to build this tow­er in a city that has com­mer­cial vacan­cy rates that rival occu­pan­cy rates. I’m not say­ing the Adel­phia project is a mis­take, how­ev­er I think peo­ple aren’t focus­ing prop­er­ly on how to fos­ter the 24-hour down­town a vibrant city needs.

First, I think, you need to lure peo­ple who work in the city to also live in the city. Cities have cer­tain advan­tages to offer: A con­cen­tra­tion of local busi­ness­es and ser­vices with­in walk­ing dis­tance (or by train), includ­ing restau­rants, arts and cul­tur­al offer­ings, and shops. Instead of infill­ing the city with sub­ur­ban-type devel­op­ments (main place mall), or huge gat­ed res­i­den­tial projects, why not play off the strengths of city-liv­ing, by revi­tal­iz­ing dense, mixed-use neigh­bor­hoods, and pro­vide a hous­ing alter­na­tive for peo­ple?

I’ve been encour­aged to see, as I have point­ed out in my blog, that devel­op­ers in Buf­fa­lo are tak­ing inter­est in con­vert­ing old com­mer­cial and indus­tri­al space into res­i­den­tial hous­ing (lofts.) It’s been shown to make mon­ey, and I think that might be the cat­a­lyst for a true down­town recov­ery. The kinds of peo­ple look­ing for this kind of hous­ing have been will­ing to pay upwards of $1000 for a one-bed­room loft—(incidentally, in boston that would be a bar­gain, but in buf­fa­lo! My god, that’s no bargain)—so they must have mon­ey, and need ser­vices like gro­ceries, restau­rants, and bars. Presto!, urban renew­al… You don’t need to throw cat­a­clysmic mon­ey into develp­ing a new sky­scraper, when the mar­ket­place can do you just as good.

Trains are better than Cars

Cen­tral Sta­tion, Buf­fa­lo, NY, cir­ca 1930.

Presley’s sis­ter Kel­ly was in town this past week­end, and she left yes­ter­day on the Amtrak train from Back Bay Sta­tion, which got me think­ing about train sta­tions and trains in gen­er­al. Every­one in these New Urban­ist books that I read can’t fath­om how Amer­i­ca end­ed up wed­ded to the auto­mo­bile, while the Euro­peans remain con­tent­ed with trains.

I think it’s a sim­ple answer: after the war, we just could. It was the thing to do, and we had the resources. But, isn’t there some­thing won­der­ful about trains? And more impor­tant­ly, big city train sta­tions? Grand Cen­tral in Man­hat­tan is gor­geous. Mod­erin­ists moan on about how style should be down-played because it is the taste of eco­nom­ic elites, but I don’t care if putting a build­ing like that up was a cap­i­tal­ist show of wealth and power—it had beau­ty, craft­man­ship and it was a place where peo­ple of all races and incomes passed through. They destroyed Penn Sta­tion in the six­ties to put up Madi­son Square Gar­den. big whoop. If any­thing, MSG is more cap­i­tal­ist-mind­ed than the build­ing it replaced.

So, it brings me around to Buf­fa­lo and Kelly’s depar­ture… Ear­li­er in this cen­tu­ry, Buf­fa­lo actu­al­ly was in the top 5 for most rail­road track—Buffalo had indus­try, and it was locat­ed on the impor­tant route between new york and chica­go. The city built some beau­ti­ful train sta­tions (sub­se­quent­ly demol­ished), who’s archi­tec­ture seems won­der­ful­ly as grand as Grand Cen­tral itself. The last remain­ing sta­tion, Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal, still stands on the East Side, though it’s falling apart. I wish to God the city could find some new use for the facility—problem is, it is locat­ed in the most eco­nom­i­cal­ly depressed area of the city.

Boston as a Blueprint

The new Plan­ning news feed at the right of this page is already reap­ing inter­est­ing rewards—among the inter­est­ing links, an arti­cle that dis­cuss­es Boston and it’s neigh­bor­hoods. May­or Meni­no has made neigh­bor­hood-based com­mer­cial devel­op­ment a pri­or­i­ty over the past decade or so, and it’s just the kind of thing that makes eco­nom­ic sense. In award­ing grants to indi­vid­ual small busi­ness own­ers, (most of which is fed­er­al mon­ey any­way), for lit­tle improve­ments such as new store facades, Boston has cul­ti­vat­ed a neigh­bor­hood approach to devel­op­ment. Occa­sion­al­ly, big “urban-renew­al” projects, such as the new Ritz-Carl­ton mon­stros­i­ty in Chi­na­town, do get built, but usu­al­ly they include some kind of mixed-use, (even if that mixed-use is upscale in this very work­ing-class neigh­bor­hood).

It’s nev­er been a very sexy thing to talk about, but the suc­cess­es of this pro­gram can’t be ignored, and many cities are start­ing to emu­late Meni­no. Buf­fa­lo is try­ing to cul­ti­vate this, through the cre­ation and encour­age­ment of city neigh­bor­hoods such as the “Pan-Am Dis­trict” around Elm­wood Ave in North Buf­fa­lo. Even pri­vate col­lege cam­pus­es such as Can­i­sius are con­tribut­ing to the qual­i­ty of their sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods by pro­vid­ing low-inter­est mort­gages to pro­fes­sors and staff, to encour­age them to live near the schools. Now, answer me this: Why is the major state school, SUNY at Buf­fa­lo, locat­ed in Amherst (not buf­fa­lo)?

What Buffalo Was, and What it Should Be

If you’ve talked with me in the last few months, you know that I’ve tak­en an inter­est in Urban Plan­ning, and more specif­i­cal­ly those char­ac­ter­is­tics that make a good neigh­bor­hood and city. I don’t know why this sub­ject has peaked my inter­est, con­sid­er­ing I used to be in awe of places like Epcot and I grew up not far from strip-malls. But, I am deeply con­cerned about that place where I grew up, because the city of Buf­fa­lo is rot­ting at it’s core, while the end­less devel­op­ment of phar­ma­cy mini-malls, park­ing lots, and cul-de-sacs push­es far­ther out into the coun­try­side.

It used to be that Tran­sit Road was a mark­er or sorts—suburban devel­op­ment fell off notably in the town of Clarence. But now, Clarence and Lan­cast­er are becom­ing the newest sprawl sub­urbs. Hous­ing devel­op­ment is get­ting less and less dense, tak­ing up more and more land, and as a result, weak­en­ing com­mu­ni­ty ties. The goal in the Buf­fa­lo area these days, is to earn enough to “get yours”—which means a big house in the mid­dle of nowhere, with lousy archi­tec­ture, a big front yard, and curv­ing streets that don’t con­nect to oth­er devel­op­ments. You can’t walk to a cor­ner store, much less to work or school.

This, of course, means that cars must be used for any­thing and every­thing in Buffalo’s sub­urbs, and increas­ing­ly so in these new sub­urbs. Grow­ing up, I could walk or ride my bike to a cor­ner store, a super­mar­ket, a pizze­ria, a k-mart and a bagel shop. For kids grow­ing up in Loch Lea and oth­er devel­op­ments fur­ther out, this is sim­ply not an option—a ride from mom or dad is required, and an (unhealthy) depen­dence is born. Also, you spend much of your ear­ly teenage years look­ing for old­er friends, or pin­ing for that 16th birth­day, when mom and dad will pro­vide you with a car. There is a sense of enti­tle­ment that comes in such a place.

Buf­fa­lo, how­ev­er, wasn’t always so bleak. The Buf­fa­lo of my Grandmother’s youth was a vibrant and busy city. Look at some of these pho­tographs… Street­cars zipped up and down major avenues, auto­mo­biles co-exist­ed with pedes­tri­ans, com­mer­cial streets had first-floor store­fronts with apart­ments above, and you knew your neigh­bor, butch­er and neigh­bor­hood cop. I don’t want to sen­ti­men­tal­ize what was, but I think peo­ple under­stood that there was an art to build­ing neighborhoods—an art that seems to have been lost in post-war, post-indus­tri­al Buf­fa­lo. The pow­er­ful sub­ur­ban devel­op­ers like Ciminel­li, don’t build per­ma­nent places to live. They think that there is no mon­ey to be made in tra­di­tion­al (that is to say, mixed-use) neigh­bor­hoods. Every­thing is this set-back-from-the-street, bas­tardized mod­ernist, flat-roof, sin­gle-floor, hor­i­zon­tal mon­stros­i­ty, with 5 park­ing spots out front for every 1 cus­tomer.

I know I’m tak­ing hyper­bol­ic license here, but I do it only because the pre­vail­ing assump­tions are so ingrained and accept­ed that you almost need to shock peo­ple to wake them up.

We’ve been liv­ing in the age of the auto­mo­bile. Traf­fic engi­neers say we need to widen roads and inter­sec­tions to decrease traf­fic and increase traf­fic vol­ume. Every major study of road­way “improve­ments” shows that more lanes = more cars. By widen­ing a road like Tran­sit, you are actu­al­ly cre­at­ing more traf­fic in the long-run. Even Robert Moses real­ized this in 1939, when traf­fic con­ges­tion cropped up on his high­ways where there was pre­vi­ous­ly no prob­lem. You induce traf­fic, by build­ing more lanes. And, these wide inter­sec­tions you see on Tran­sit and oth­er roads, are less safe than nar­row­er, more tra­di­tion­al inter­sec­tions. Here in Boston, despite our rep­u­ta­tion for crazy dri­ving, there are rarely any acci­dents at all, due to our small blocks, odd inter­sec­tions and lack of sprawl.

Still, there is hope. I think the eco­nom­ic pres­sures that 50 years of this kind of devel­op­ment has wrought on Buf­fa­lo is start­ing to change people’s minds about liv­ing and work­ing in close prox­im­i­ty. I hope envi­ron­men­tal, and eco­nom­ic real­i­ties force the city and it’s coun­ty of sub­urbs to draw a line in the sand (and the geog­ra­phy), and say enough is enough. It’s not about Growth vs. anti-Growth. It’s about Smart Growth. Banks, devel­op­ers and city & town offi­cials need to be shown that it is prefer­able to ditch this fast-decay­ing sub­ur­ban strip-mall way of doing things. If we are going to do this, the state needs to step in and set up stronger region­al gov­ern­ment. Many peo­ple fear this, as being ‘more gov­ern­ment’, when in actu­al­i­ty it could save mon­ey by elim­i­nat­ing redun­dant ser­vices.

But there is pow­er­ful resis­tance to any kind of region­al plan­ning.