12/18/2006

It's time...thank you...

I've actually failed rather well in accomplishing what I set out to do...that is attracting private investment to an area of Buffalo just down the street from my own place - the Woodlawn Row Houses. They are located in what i thought might be considered a rather fertile area of the City's near East side and firmly within the boundry of a recent infusion of 50m of public investment in the arts and education.
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update 12/20/06....130am
I appreciate the dozens of emails of support that I have received in the past few days asking me to reconsider my decision regarding closing this blog. In addition the comments below have surprised and overwhelmed me with kindness. Thank you. One person suggests that I've changed their life - love to know how. Someone else...well you can read 'em if you want to. Marc over at WNYMedia links my shutting down with the recent Elmwood Hotel announcement as various commenters at the BRo post have done, too. Really, no connection. AllthingsBuffalo has something to say about my decision and Allen at BuffaloPundit does, too. Mike from the Central Terminal and Broadway Fillmore Alive has a post, too that i just read. Thanks....

This decision was not made lightly. Year end is always a good time to re-evaluate priorities and existing ways of doing things. Be it personal matters or here in the 'hood, coming to terms with what I've observed as accelerating neighborhood decline in our post-industrial weak market City, well...let's remember one thing - hope is not a plan! Poorly conceived short term decisions, have long term consequences.

Spend time with those you love this time of year, explore Buffalo...and never go into vacant buildings alone!
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I've spent the past six weeks working with an investment group - east and west coasts. They visited the Woodlawn Row Houses three times, did legal work, met with City officials and hired a local architect to complete a feasibility study. Learned this week that it's not going to fly...tried hard and failed well. If anyone is interested in that study, let me know as I could make arrangements with the architect.

Aside from the very recent sale of 39 Coe Place - not a single vacant house in my neighborhood has received any love in the past five years. The abandonment and hollowing out continues to happen at what seems to be a record pace. Houses that are in good structural shape get demolished and houses that I once thought were occupied are now actually vacant.

Just got back from a walk around the neighborhood and eight houses, including the Woodlawn Row Houses are wide open - five of them owned by an organization controlled by a member of Buffalo's Fiscal Stability Authority. One house 1470 Michigan Avenue - owned by the City - still has water running after the copper was stripped out, filling the basement, despite dozens of calls to have it turned off. I simply can not keep up with the pace of decline that's happening less than a block away from my house. Walk around at night at least twice a week and keep track of which places are open...in 26 months this is a record.

This blogging thing has become many different things for me. I've met some amazing people here in Buffalo and on-line...you know who you are...and have received what might be considered a graduate course in urban studies from various people that have been very kind in helping me understand what's happening. Yet after considerable reflection and 26 months of posting, it had to come to an end sometime. That time is now...

A resurection may be possible at some point...yet at this time, I doubt it. May think differently after some additional travel time, completion of a rather innovative project around the house and some academic work. Don't know.

If you've enjoyed the writing and pics, thank you. I'll keep the comments functional for awhile and gradually shut things down. Bye.
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Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faqmy flickr
buffalo olmsted parks conservancy

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your time, dedication, and purseverence. Please know that at least you have succeeded in innumerable ways, particularly by bringing the problem of blight and deterioration to the attention of many why may not have known the extent of the problem from first-hand knowledge. I for one appreciate all your efforts and applaud your sense of purpose, intensity, and insight. May God bless and keep you ... and the near East Side too!

MJ² said...

Well David,

I am quite sad and shocked to hear this. This blog had become one of may daily reads. Days without new posts always created a void. Now appears that it will be permenant.

I was telling my girlfriend about you the other day after the Flickr meetup. I think the way I phrased it was: "He seems to be the guy I've always dreamed to be." You seemed to be actively living my dream of finding an old building, renovating, and trying to create something good again for a neighborhood that is regressing into a prarie for no good reason. Trying to give hope to those there, especially the children. Trying to instill the honor and self reward of putting up a fight and taking the hard road.

26 months is a long time, I guess. Especially when having to live amongst the battle you are fighting. I know over the years I have, at times, actually worked myself into tears over what the east side was becoming.

It may be for selfish reasons, but this is a shock and I hate to see this blog end. If only because you seemed to be doing what even the elected officals were not willing to do. But sadly, I think you are not just fighting a gov't body, but society as a whole. As we can see now, the blight is passing over the city line into the Pine Ridge area of Cheektowaga. I highly doubt that gov't will be able to curb the slide either. People will keep taking the easy way of running further out. There is no loyalty anymore. There is no fight to save our history. There is no fight to create something great and long lasting for eveyone.
We have too much money, to much land, and not enough respect. Like wasteful children, we need some kind of parental body to put an end to our waste and sprawl.

Being the person you appear to be, I know your striving for something better for the area will not end here, even though we may not be able to read it on a daily basis.

I'd ask if you'd be so kind to send me an e-mail over at Flickr. I'd appreciate being able to keep in contact with you, hit some of those walks, do some urb-ex etc as I continue to search and dream about my 2/3-story brick loft.

Best of everything to you in the future. You've earned it.

Jefferson said...

David- I'm saddened by your decision as I really liked reading your blog (AT LEAST daily) and your photos. You've accomplished more that you realize by drawing attention to the plight of the east side. But 26 months is a long time I guess. Sometimes you work and work and push and push and all you do is a get a sore head from banging it against locked doors. I hope that though you won't be blogging and photographing you'll still work for a better east side. And your Saturday walks, no more? Anyway, Good luck. Hope you'll be back.

BuffaloRox said...

David,

I am sorry to read that you'll be shutting down this blog and hope you'll reconsider.

Your success or failure should not be measured solely by the ability to attract buyers for languishing residential property. You are a major source for info on the East Side. You have highlighted treasures that have or are being abandoned and the beauty that still exists on the East Side. You are an advocate for an area without many advocates.

Good luck,
BR

urbaneyes said...

d, thank you for changing my life. may you receive all that you give and better than you dream.

STEEL said...

I encourage you to reconsider. INertia is a very powerful force. It may seem like you are getting little done but remember you can not stop a frieght train ion a dime.

Change will come to this area of the city but not without the few like yourself who dedicate their efforts to make that change happen

Mark Nowak said...

I agree with the others: saddened to hear this, and hope you'll reconsider. It is difficult to cope with the pace of change in Buffalo, but this blog has always been (for me) a light at the end of the tunnel.

Wishing you the best in whatever you decide.

Mark Nowak

fix buffalo said...

i appreciate the comments. really.

i have no specific access to short term policy decision making which is necessary to reverse or even be able to address the decline here on City's near east side.

We are just coasting, downhill. Things - despite the 50m in public investment in arts and education - have gotten worse here in the last two years. And as one commenter has suggested living - writing and photographing - in the decline is beginning to really take its toll on my psyche...

while awareness and interest are at an all time high - at least with my 10 year perspective of living here - there is a wholesale lack of meaningful interest and commitment to actually buy houses and move here. people have their comfort zone and the city's near east side is outside of this...

taking action...is what's needed. This neighborhood is rich, beyond comparison.

And again, like to thank 100's of my regular visitors - the one's who arrive here through a serendipitous search, too - for taking the time to read and value what i've been learning.

Just got to bunker down for awhile and regain my strength. Seed catalog just arrived in the mail...been planning a garden for the side yard this spring,too.

Happy Christmas!

Lisa said...

I'm really sorry to read this. I haven't been following your blog regularly, but just last week got caught up on your recent posts. By the next day I was thinking, maybe it really is possible for one person to make a difference in his or her own neighborhood, and maybe there are things I can do, in my own part of town, to help nurture and protect the things that make this area so rich and unique. Optimism and hope aren't enough to do the job, but without them, there's no place to even start.

Best wishes to you.

gabe said...

David, so sad to see this go!

You've done a wonderful service for this city and provided an educational experience beyond anything I've ever come across when it comes to the East Side.

The ES will eventually rebound, but not at this point in time. As long as oil remains cheap, and water remains relatively plentiful, Americans will continue to sprawl across the land, eat up more and more precious space, flocking to warmer climates as long as copious energy and technology renders geographic constraints irrelevant.

Until mother nature eventually sets us straight, the majority of Americans will continue to be ambivalent toward historic and sustainable urbanism. Cheap and new crap will regin as king until that time.

Those who do value urbanism locally, will continue to live in their comfort zone neighborhoods as long as the city doesn't gain population.

For now, Buffalo will continue to shrink. The best thing that can be done in neighborhoods like yours is to properly plan and manage the shrinkage. A ban on new Vinyl Vics might be a good start, alas we all know how things roll in this corrupt city.

Oh well, I hope you're doing alright and best of luck with any future endeavor!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Torke-

I've been one of the many keeping tabs on fixbuffalo, and for some time. I'm also sorry to hear you're hanging it up for now, but wanted to tell you that I respect what you've done. Like fellow Flickrite MJ has said, "If only because you seemed to be doing what even the elected officals were not willing to do. But sadly, I think you are not just fighting a gov't body, but society as a whole."

I'm also looking forward to the day I set out to buy my first house. It will certainly be within the Buffalo City limits. It will, hopefully, be next door to a great neighbor, such as yourself.

Take a good rest, enjoy your garden and keep fighting the good fight.

dave

WestCoastPerspective said...

David-
I'm also very sad to hear that you're blogging. Please don't consider yourself a failure- getting the message out and creating awareness is a significant accomplishment. While the lack of visible progress can be discouraging, I think you've made a significant difference. Where would 'Midtown' be without you? You're a beacon shining the light on economic and social problems that are impacting a wide area of the city and calling for the public and politicians to start paying attention. I still believe that the impact of ArtSpace and other public/private investments along Main Street are bound to spill over into the east side. The bones are there, and so are the pioneers and the many who haven't given up on some of Buffalo's oldest neighborhoods, it takes time. If not on FixBuffalo- keep plugging!

CS

Derek J. Punaro said...

I agree with westcoast's comment - you can't consider yourself a failure because your blogging didn't bring about change on the East Side within two years. Blogging is a good tool to bring awareness and highlight issues that mainstream media wouldn't otherwise cover. In itself, it rarely will force action. People banding together can effect change, and blogging can help to bring those people together. That's where your niche is - you're one of the few talking about issues on the East Side, living and showing others what they don't want to see for themselves.

Don't put so much pressure on yourself. Take some time off. Enjoy the holidays. Come back in the new year refreshed and keep up the good work.

Michele J said...

David,
Im not surprised by your announcement but I am saddened by it...You are a fabulous photographer...I am sorry to hear about the row houses I know you did put alot of effort into finding them a new owner..If you can for 1 minute think about this..
How many people even knew the rowhouses existed before you started blogging about them?I know where you are coming from I often feel discouraged but as you know the only positives happening are because of Grassroots efforts and we will lose more than we win but eventually we will win more than we lose..Many properties that needed demolition in your district are now down..Many that you blogged about needing demolition so obviously someone was listening!Rome wasnt built in a day and it took alot longer than 26 months for the Masten district to fall into disrepair remember that:o)

Mary Ann said...

Hi David,

Gee it was GREAT seeing my comments and column posted on your site. Overshadowed only by your announcement that you're leaving me -- after I JUST found you.

Say it ain't so, PLEASE! If nothing else, you know this is crunch time for the beautiful ancestral churches that haven't as yet received a formal death sentence from 795 Main Street. I am hoping that you would find it in your heart not to abandon us brave souls who are on this "incredible Journey" in faith and grace and would at least keep your blog going to address this topic.

I truly believe the diocese can be pressured because to them, image is EVERYTHING. And unfortunately as we all know, the Catholic Church in the U.S. hasn't had much to crow about lately. If the diocese's true motives for closing churches are exposed, it won't be quite so easy for them to hoodwink their flock. And if our persistent efforts save even one historical church from the wrecking ball (or worse!), it will be a major victory.

So please don't throw in the towel just yet. You are not fighting this fight ALONE! Unfortunately, my other columns as they appeared in the paper are not online, but here is the text from the latest one that ran on Saturday and received awesome reviews from a lot of not-so-blind sheep

Regards,

Mary Ann

Clearing up a Cloudy Issue

Alan said...

David - despite the fact that we don't see eye-to-eye on many issues, I always thought your blog was a must-read and it never left my attention or my sidebar. I hope you reconsider. The change you seek can't be realized in two short years. It takes time. It's a certainty that, without your site, that change will take loads longer to realize. In any event, cheers & best of luck in whatever you decide to do next.

Judy Einach said...

David,

Passion and posting are difficult to sustain...especially in the face of increasing decline, as you report.

You've made your mark among those who care.

Blog or no blog, your continued presence is requested in our struggle to make a better community.

Anonymous said...

David.
I think your full of shit, and i am calling you on your bluff.
Michael J

Fed-Up in Buffalo said...

I didn't get the chance to read your blog as much as I should have. This is my first comment here. I don't know you & I probably don't qualify [enough] to tell you that at some point we all feel the things we worked so hard on didn't mean anything to anyone. By reading most of the comments here, you mean something to these people. We can't fix everything alone, we may never be able to do it together, but we'll never know unless we try.

[Don't let my blog name fool you] I love Buffalo & I think you do too. [I think] We owe it each other to keep writing. We may never have the chance to do everything we want to do... but atleast we have our words. Chances can be taken away but words never die.

Anonymous said...

I hope this doesn't mean that the lower east side will no longer see whites on bikes rounding the corner at Emslie and William. You sure made heads turn and jaws drop. Haven't seen that many white folk on Emslie St. since the cops shut down the crack house across the street.

I will miss reading you every morning. If you accomplished nothing else, you managed to document the post industrial decline of Buffalo's East Side over the last two years. Imagine other alternatives. You could be living in Baghdad.

Thank you David, I look forward to seeing you in the hood.

Bruce Beyer

Lori D. said...

David,
I am sorry to hear this, just when I discovered you. But, I hope it helps to know that you have inspired me to start a blog to help Blackrock, you have not failed if you inspire others.

b said...

Failure doesn't have to be a bad thing, and your intellectual honesty in holding to your original goal for the blog is a great credit to you.

Beyond that, you've proven yourself a tremendously effective communicator and you have a lot of substantive things to say - quite an unusal combo!

I join the others in hoping you'll decide to return to this type of forum at some point soon.

Perhaps in the next iteration it might be less draining on yourself if you allow your topic focus to broaden just a bit more than you usually did in this go-round. Not that you'd need to, the blog was always supremely readable, but those few blocks of town are so important to you that it's understandable how the intensity can be a lot to bear over time.

Your takes on larger topics of Buffalo life and ecomomy, urban issues, etc., would find a lot of interest IMHO.

And that idea you kicked around a few months ago about getting Buffalo data for a "ChicagoCrimes" type service has a lot of potential. No idea if that's something you'd have interest in ever pursuing, but just a thought. I've thought of looking into that myself, but no time either for now. Hopefully somebody will.

Take care and good luck with the house and all future endeavors.

Mark Williams said...

David,

Though, I am but a recent reader and enjoyer of your blog, I am both surprised and saddened by your decision to close this blog.

The constant up hill journey on a bicycle with no tire pressure has, apparently, taken its toll and I can only express my sympathy because I really do understand.

I am in the transitional stag of leaving western New York, though, I am not leaving the State, I am forced to leave the area because of economics.

I am an Industrial Design Draftsman who ended up designing commercial kitchens which is nothing short of retarded for me. My last ditch effort was an interview with Uniland Development who gushed-over my portfolio, to the point of embarrassing, only to send me a rejection letter three-weeks later…

I have also been involved in the Buffalo Schools Project since its inception but LP Ciminelli wouldn’t give me the time of day.

Unfortunately, this is a normal scenario for many of us who really want to remain in the area but it has become impossible to find viable employment. Actually, I am one of the fortune ones because I am only a four-hour commute away.

My compliments to you for being an advocate for the City of Buffalo and I suspect that your work will continue in other forms; perhaps you may be a contributor to Buffalo Rising….

Regards,

Mark

Chip W. said...

David,

I am going to miss your regular news & commentary on things Buffalo. I
only discovered your site a few months ago, but since then, I have
recommended it to several friends.

Those of us in Rochester often look upon Buffalo with misplaced "pity",
behind which lies the unspoken thought, "It can't happen here!" Well,
it already is happening here. As I've said, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica,
etc. are headed down the same path; Buffalo's just ahead of us.

Within Rochester's city limits, we have the same population decline, the same loss of industry & jobs, the same shrinking tax base, the same problem of abandoned houses, crime, etc. In the fifties & sixties, our city planners made the same mistakes Buffalo's did, just on a smaller scale. The same unintended consequences have come into play.

Please keep in touch; Tony & I are discussing another Buffalo trip; we'd be glad to meet with you again to see more of the East Side (and
possibly visit Central Terminal).

Chip Walker

Anonymous said...

David

I have been a dedicated reader since being one of the first signers of your online petition to save the Woodlawn rowhouses. I really have appreciated your perspective and attempts to save what is beautiful and unique in Buffalo.

After living in Buffalo for 15 + years I am now relocated to Toronto. I used your blog to stay in touch with what I miss the most.

Whether thru blogging or some other endeavor I know you'll continue to make a positive contribution.

Best Regards

Rebecca

Lori Hoffmann aka olygirl said...

Oh David...

I will miss your straightforward, passionate way with words...

YOU have not failed anyone or anything, you are a gift to Buffalo and have inspired many...including me!

Take good care of YOU...plant that garden and play a LOT!

And please, let me take you out for a Judyburger when I move to Buffalo this Spring :)

fix buffalo said...

Lori & others...

thank you so much for your kind words and support...

i find myself in a position where i am gathering considerable strength and wish everyone a joyous and prosperous new year...

Anonymous said...

Hey David,

I think you'll be up and running sooner than later. We're all beset by individual nonsuccesses, like this recent rowhouse deal. We need to look to the longview - major investments, a world class Metro Rail system, new interest... it all takes time to have an impact, in any city growing or declining. Twenty-six months really isn't a long time to a city planner. When we're both 80 years old, even small victories will seem large to us. To think that, at some point, there will be some young couple, not even born today, living at the Ward House on a jem of a street that could have been an ever-expanding parking lot. When Artspace is running, the progress will seem even more visible.

If I measured progress in months alone, or tallied losses too greatly against successes, I'd get discouraged real quick. So... get that garden going, and when Artspace is complete, get back back up and running. There aren't enough David Torkes out there in this town, and one less is too substantial...

Chris