The Buffalo Blogosphere...On Urban Decline

Looks like something more than just a hipster shoot-out developing, finally!

Craig at North Coast first posted, Bill Gates Doesn't Live in Buffalo. He presented an academic article by Edward Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko and linked to a post by a former Buffalonian, (must see) and now in exile. He helps us answer that question, "Should I stay (in Buffalo) or should I go now..."

Then, Figmo at that way too cool Buffalo Rising Blog responded.

Craig shot back right back.
  • I'm a believer in "classical" economic principles. I think the Wharton paper relied too heavily on the Creative Class writings of Richard Florida. Florida, an economics professor, developed his now-stylish theories during the tech-bubble of the late 90s. His theory attempted to explain the "new economy." Remember that? High-tech businesses were exploding and they did'nt follow the old rules.
While I agree with Figmo regarding the reasons why many people live on the east-side, myself included, I think there are other reasons why people stay. They can't move.

The dynamic is difficult to understand if you haven't lived here and heard the first-hand accounts of people not being able to sell their houses for what they originally paid for them. (See.. "black" housing values vs. "white" housing values.) On my block, there are 14 houses. I know two people who have completly abandonded their property because they couldn't sell it or even give it away. Many seniors feel trapped in other parts of the 'hood and lead very quiet, desperate lives just trying to feel even a semblance of security. Not a good thing.

Of course this dynamic is made more difficult by layers of neglect. I mean the city hasn't even boarded up and properly secured the Woodlawn Row Houses, an historic property and "local-landmark." A neighbor is so concerned about vandalism and security. There were two small fires last year and evidence of forced entry again. Her house is just 4 feet away! I've been documenting this mess for 17 months. Remember these row houses are less than 100 feet away from the "new" home of Performing Arts High School.

The fact is that 15/day are leaving Buffalo. (Simple math...take the 2000 and 2003 census numbers for Buffalo...divide by 3 and then again by 365...) If 1000 people move downtown and 10,000 people leave Buffalo...Where's the trend?

Figmo referred to Joel Kotkin's piece that I mentioned last month. A close reading of Kotkin reveals a warning against relying on just the creative class for the revitalization of places like Buffalo.
  • Perhaps most important, an economy oriented to entertainment, tourism, and "creative" functions is ill-suited to provide opportunities for more than a small slice of its population. Following such a course, it is likely to evolve ever more into a city composed of cosmopolitan elites, a large group of low-income service workers, and a permanent underclass--or into what San Francisco is already becoming, what historian Kevin Starr describes as "a cross between Carmel and Calcutta."
Craig has Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics available on his blog thru an Amazon link. It should be required reading along with Joel Kotkin's The Rise of the Ephemeral City for anyone interested in revitalizing Buffalo.

And to answer the question "Why would we want him, Bill Gates, here anyway?" We should be welcoming anyone who wants to start and develop a business...
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faqmy flickr


H. Lippes said...


You and Craig seem to be pretty quick to put Figmo in bed with Florida, but Figmo never quotes him or proposes Florida's ideas, so I'm a little confused as to why he is even a part of the dialogue. And I'm pretty sure Figmo was joking when he said we wouldn't want Bill Gates to live here. Figmo challenges the rigid definition of high and low capital workers and their behavior. And the Gates comment, I'm pretty sure is a final poke at the education definition of a high capital worker and that Bill Gates as a college dropout wouldn't qualify.

The authors of the paper in question conclude that places like Buffalo are full of people who can't leave. And David as you point out, that is certainly a part of the picture--an important part that needs to be addressed. But it's not all of the picture. There are a number of people, "high capital workers", who have the ability and the mobility to leave. BUT THEY CHOOSE TO STAY HERE OR MOVE BACK for reasons that challenge traditional ideas of economic utility.


Anonymous said...

don't wait to tomorrow. heres what i said-

Figmo, that's your problem. Your whole "Everything is fine with my family and my friends are doing just great" bullshit ignores the fact that the rest of the city is shambles. The rest of the East side is in pain. We suffer racism and economic unfairness and crime while you're up in the clouds with your rich white friends pretending the sky isn't falling. Quit the bougey, academatic excuses. Right or wrong, the study is dead on saying the city's messed up. Poor folks are trapped here and all the black and white folks who can get out are getting out because this place is going to get a hell of a lot worse before it can hope getting better.Get your head out of the clouds and your happy-go-lucky white friends asses. Your Buffalos Clarence Thomas and Condeleeza Rice rolled up in one. Do you even live here? Pick a side, Figmo. It's real easy. Look at the back of your hand. The only thing white about you is your pALMS AND YOUR FUCKED UP ATTITUDE. DELETE THIS ALL YOU WANT. YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE AND YOU BETTER BELIEVE I'M COMING BACK.

Anonymous said...

Here's the other one they're probably getting ready to delete-

Figmo's afraid to speak about the real issues. Maybe the real people in charge of Buffalo Rising don't let him.His family is doing ok and his friends are all well off living large on Elmwood starting vanity project magazines so everything is fine in his world. He doesn't care that folks on the other side of town are hurting, suffering because of racism.There's nothing more sickning than when a black man has a chance to help but won't because he's trying so hard to pass. Just look at his profile. All he has to do is change Figmo to OJ and put down with all that shit he says he likes white women. Just like Clarence Thomas.And I'm going to keep calling him on his oreo shit until he gets real and starts doing the right thing.

BuffaloRox said...

While I have no problem with anonymous attacking Figmo’s argument, I do have a problem with how he goes about it. You should too. The crude unintelligent comments made by anonymous dilute the message that the conclusions in the Glaeser/Gyourko paper may indeed be applicable to Buffalo and instead highlight their racist and bigoted nature. According to anonymous, Figmo’s involvement in a project that shows off the positive aspects of living in Buffalo is shameful. Perhaps he would be more comfortable stewing in his misery if it was yet another publication full of negativity and cynicism.

In addition, anonymous uses McCarthy-like tactics to stifle a response. Because Figmo supports an opinion contrary to that unpopular and/or harmful to the majority of blacks on the East Side as magnanimously determined by anonymous (a self-appointed spokesperson), anonymous declares that Figmo is betraying his race. This attitude that your either with me or your against me sounds familiar.

Unless you desire commentary reduced to name calling that includes latent racism rather than a discussion of the merit of a particular posting, I am glad anonymous’ blatherings were deleted from Buffalo Rising; especially with anonymous’ repugnant efforts to extinguish a counter opinion.

Like it or not, anonymous ignores evidence that at least some of the points made by Figmo are accurate. People that are “high capital workers” are moving back to Buffalo from Boston, New York, San Francisco and elsewhere. Unfortunately, not enough to stop the exodus that has been occurring since the 50s.

fix buffalo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
fix buffalo said...

BuffaloRox...I don't see how Glaeser/Gyourko's work will be diluted by any single comment here. Maybe I'm wrong...

Anon's comments are real, authentic and a welcome contribution to the buffalo blogosphere that is basking in über-hipster cool and which is often void of substance. If you choose not to agree with him, well you don't have to.

I've not met Figmo, had no idea of his race until this series of posts, and have enjoyed the fact that he's reached across Main St...

"McCarthy-like tactics to stifle a response"...Rox, I didn't delete his post.

I've used the analogy in my economics lectures that Buffalo is like the Titanic. Elmwood is the deck...and the 'hood - East & West - is like steerage class. Remember the images of the people caged in, struggling to get out. It's real Rox. Any serious plan to revitalize Buffalo must include Anon's critique of what's gone wrong over here.

Let me know..

BuffaloRox said...

Fix Buffalo,

I enjoy your blog and your reply. I haven't found any others that regularly raise awareness of the East side in such an informational way.

Your post on 2 Girard Street was interesting as I pass it frequently. I have watched its windows disappear and graffiti increase. I sadly see it as a matter of time before it is lost. Hopefully there is a different end in store for the house on Humboldt that appears from your pictures to be in better condition.

I doubt there are many who don't acknowledge that there are problems of racism and economic unfairness facing the East side. I also agree with your point that this city is more than the West side and any revitalization has to include the East side.

However, the method of delivery is what I find lacking. Anonymous' slurs and attempts to denigrate Figmo personally conjure up McCarthy's personal attacks on persons who didn't fit his impression of an American or what consitituted decent American activity. His racist and discourse-suppresive diatribe was deserving of its flush.

As far as uber-cool. I'm glad that there are a few of these blogs on Buffalo. Not every venue has to be serious to the extreme and ponder the meaning of life and how messed up our little corner of the world is. Its nice to see that there are also some success stories that we can hopefully build on or rays of sunshine that we can be proud of. Otherwise, its going to be that much harder to break this city's depression mentality.

fix buffalo said...


Thanks for the kind words. Come back often and spread the word about some of the good things happening here - Performing Arts High School - despite the confounding neglect and urban decay.

Thanks for reaching out...