12/21/2007

Two Sides of Main Street

fixBuffalo readers will remember MJ's amazing aerial photographs of Buffalo, NY that I've posted as Air Buffalo and Air Buffalo Part II. Just found this one...two very different sides of Main Street.
In the foreground is the City's near east side. That's Artspace off to the left and St. Vincent's orphan home, in the center.
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12/17/2007

Byron Responds

Finally got my hands on Byron Brown's response to Jake Halpern's recent Wall Street Journal article about development and economic issues here in Buffalo, NY. The following letter appeared in the Decemeber 11th issue of the Wall Street Journal.
Wall Street Journal - Letter, 12.11.07
The full text of Jake's December 1st article is available here - Delivering Redemption.
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12/16/2007

Bethel Update

Drove by Bethel Headstart's new building at the corner of Woodlawn and Jefferson yesterday morning and noticed the Savarino sign hanging on the fence.
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Clicking into this Savarino link, noticed that Foit-Albert Associates are the architects, too. No renderings on either site.
If anyone knows more about this, let me know.
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Delivering Redemption

A few fixBuffalo readers passed along Jake Halpern's recent Wall Street Journal article about Byron and Buffalo, NY. If you haven't read Jake's take on Buffalo, you should.
I grew up in Buffalo, New York, which may best be known as a place that people like to leave. Indeed, since 1970, the city has lost almost forty percent of its population. In some parts of Buffalo, this never-ending exodus has created a landscape worthy of the great post-apocalyptic thrillers of our times – films like Escape from New York or 28 Days Later. As kids, my brother and I would explore these modern-day ruins, venturing into crumbling train terminals and abandoned factories where moss carpeted floors, rainwater gushed down empty hallways, and peeling wallpaper rustled in the wind like the frayed bark of birch trees. Of course, Buffalo has plenty of inhabited and very well-maintained neighborhoods. I have lived in a number of cities around the world and I’ve never seen a street more lovely than Delaware Avenue, in Buffalo, with its grand old mansions, stately carriage houses, and immaculate gardens.

No matter how one spins it, however, the fact remains that Buffalo is in trouble. Abandoned houses are such a problem...read the rest.

Very cool comment stream about Jake's article about Buffalo in a recent BuffaloRising post and don't forget to check out his take on various contemporary cultural issues from his site, Jake Halpern.

I noticed that our Mayor responded with a letter to the editor, last week. As soon as I can locate it on-line will make it available.
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12/02/2007

New Bethel Building...Update

Checked out progress at Bethel's new building here at the corner of Jefferson and Woodlawn.
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Place looked like this just a few weeks ago. Rev. Stenhouse is doing this project. Will continue to watch what's happening here.
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Vinyl Foreclosure Sale

A few more 'vinyl victorian' foreclousures crossed my desk this week. Went and took a look at two of them on Saturday afternoon.
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The first one here at 404 Madison is just a block away from the new suburban dreamscape at Sycamore Village. Originally sold in 1994 for $86000. It's currently assesed by the City for 65K and today the asking price is $27,000. Expect it to finally sell in the mid to high teens.
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This 'vinyl victorian' foreclosure is located at 757 Woodlawn Avenue. Place originally sold for $84,500 in 1998 and is currently assesed by the City for 54K and the asking price today is $45,000. Similar homes in this part of Buffalo have been re-selling in the low to mid-thirtes.

If you haven't visited Sycamore Village yet, here's the archive. I've been keeping track of a number of additional 'vinyl victorian' foreclosures in the same area - here and here. I mean why buy a brand new 'vinyl victorian' in Sycamore Village, when you can buy one for about 10% a block or two away?

Anyone see a pattern developing?
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Another Save!

I checked on the Lyth Cottage over on Harwood Place yesterday afternoon.
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16 Harwood Place was recently sold to a local guy during the City's special September 22 auction. The sale price, $3800 - yes, thirtyeight hundred! Fortunately he's already taken some steps to seal the place for the winter.
The City previously owned it for the past 10 years. Here's some of the fascinating historical details and story of - 16 Harwood Place.
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11/30/2007

Byron's Discount Card

Saw this on Jefferson Avenue today.
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Called this afternoon to see what the program is about. Anyone know who's paying for the billboard? Has anyone spotted these signs in other places? Let me know.
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11/29/2007

'Industry' for the Holidays!

Sean Galbraith, Toronto based photographer and urban planner, clued me into his first book, just in time for this holiday season. fixBuffalo readers may remember Sean's work over at the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home down on Dodge Street here in Buffalo - right here.
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You can buy Sean's first book - Industry - and have it delivered by December's end.

Urban decay and demolition by neglect is present in all urban settings. All buildings have a story, a history, a life, and a death. Industrial factories rust. Office buildings slowly crumble. Residential buildings are reclaimed by the elements. It is a rarity that these building evolutions are witnessed by those outside their walls. Sean seeks to go where many have gone in the past, but few go today. To explore, embrace, and bring sight to these spaces and environments from which others avert their gaze.

To document that which once was kinetic, but now lies dormant and decaying; Even with man-made objects, death is a part of life and has its own beauty.

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Push this Plan...


Had the opportunity recently to invite, listen and record Aaron Bartley talk about what's (not) happening in Buffalo, NY. In this 45 minute presentation and q&a, recently held at the Landmark Society, Aaron discussed the amazing intersection of poverty and the built envrionment in Buffalo and presents PUSH Buffalo's 'Integrated Approach to Neighborhood Revitalization'.

Click and listen.

Have been a huge fan of PUSH Buffalo for the longest time. Same group that helped draw attention to the plight of Coe Place in November 2006, here. fixBuffalo readers may also remember that Aaron appeared in the Queen City Farm film, too.
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11/23/2007

14 Years Later...

Read this past week in the Buffalo News that William Trezevant has completed nearly 75% of the work on the exterior of recently renamed Transfiguration Church. So went out yesterday to take a closer look at the new Sounds of Joy building.
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Roofing and window repairs on the former Transfiguration Catholic Church are about 75 percent complete, and efforts are under way to obtain government funding for interior renovations, the principals of the effort said Wednesday.

Court proceedings involving the 19th century structure were delayed again Wednesday.

Paula Nowak, a retired special investigator for the federal Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C., and her son, Buffalo attorney William F. Trezevant, said the repair work is expected to be completed by the end of this month. read the rest...

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I've archived various posts and information about this place - Transfiguration Archive - and will be keeping an even closer eye on the work and latest court date.

14 years is a long time...
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City's Newest Superfund Site

Last March I stumbled upon the burned out and rotted hulk of a two story warehouse building sitting near the railroad viaduct at 202 Walden Avenue [google map]. Wrote about it here - What if? - and followed up in May with - Wide Open...Why? Found the place to be secured today, more than a year after a devastating fire ripped through this place, the former home of Bandag Tire.
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Couldn't help noticing the construction trailer and fencing oppostite the former Bandag site recently and quickly noticed the EPA Superfund signage, too.
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Here's the facility detail report from the EPA site. Rather amazing as this place is located next to two city schools and has been 'wide open' for the better part of a year.
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click image to enlarge
Will call on Monday to get the update, 'till then anyone know more about this? Any estimates on the cost of the building's demolition or who's going to pay? Let me know.
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11/20/2007

40 Miles Away...still!

Remember Perrysburg?

Was tipped off to the following article that appeared in the Buffalo News last week by a new fixBuffalo reader.
Buffalo’s plan to sell property it owns in Perrysburg to a logging company has been voided by a state appellate court.

The 649-acre site, once home to Buffalo’s tuberculosis hospital, has been the focus of a three-year dispute. Preservationists have battled plans by Buffalo and the state to allow Trathen Land Co. to acquire the former J.N. Adam Developmental Center.

Trathen has promised to manage the woodlands “responsibly” through sustainable logging. read the rest...
And today I received the following letter from Peggy Watkins, Perrysburg resident:
The “friends of JN Adam” have claimed a court victory in stopping of the sale of the JN Adam property in Perrysburg. Who is this victory for? The residents of Perrysburg? The residents of the City of Buffalo? The taxpayers of the State of New York?

The on line petition of the “friends” has 113 valid signatures. 8 of these signatures are from residents of Perrysburg and the surrounding communities. Several are from out of state, most are from Buffalo or Depew or Amherst. read the rest...

I first visited Perrysburg in January 2005 and quickly became interested in various issues surrounding what I've previously described as municipal malfeasance. Bottom line still - we can't even take care of our own backyard, I mean since this debacle down in Perrysburg began, Buffalo got a Control Board and vast areas of the City's east side have continued to burn out of control. Why are we so arrogantly inserting ourselves in the life of a community 40 miles to the south? We can't get things right a mile from Elmwood...so why are we trying so hard down in Perrysburg, NY - 40 Miles away?

Road tripping soon, for updated pics. Meanwhile here's January 2005 flickr slide show.

And here's the Perrysburg Archive. This is not going away anytime soon...stay tuned.
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11/14/2007

Smart City.

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Completey forgot about this segment of Smart City Radio...

Smart City is a weekly, hour-long public radio talk show that takes an in-depth look at urban life, the people, places, Create Documentideas and trends shaping cities. Host Carol Coletta talks with national and international public policy experts, elected officials, economists, business leaders, artists, developers, planners and others for a penetrating discussion of urban issues.

This Last weekend...listen here!

Even America's most depressed downtowns are showing vigorous signs of life. It's a surprising development no one predicted in the bleak years of the 1970's and 80's when many so-called experts dismissed the idea of downtown revitalization as wishful thinking in the age of surburbanization.
  • Dave Feehan, who heads the International Downtown Association, is here to tell us how downtowns have defied predictions and come back strong. David has devoted more than 35 years to rebuilding and revitalizing cities, directing downtown programs in Des Moines, Detroit, and Kalamazoo, and neighborhood development programs in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis.

  • Also with us is Dennis Maher, a sculptor working in Buffalo who brings new life to abandoned buildings by using the waste of other restoration projects. Dennis defines his work as "afterlives, the attempt to renew and to give another life to the wasted remains of a city." Dennis is an adjunct professor at the University at Buffalo.

Listen to host Carol Colletta - list of additional stations/times - 7pm Sunday on WNED - 970 in Buffalo, NY. Past Shows are archived and the newsletter is published regularly.
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Sycamore & Herman - One Last Time

I was recently introduced to Verlyn Klinkenborg's The Last Fine Time (1990). It's an amazing read if you're interested in post-war Buffalo social history and the decline of once thriving neighborhoods and cities. Klinkenborg focuses on the lives of the people who made 'George & Eddies' an everyday destination at 722 Sycamore Street, corner of Herman. Today the corner is vacant.

722 Sycamore Street - Buffalo, NY
Seven twenty-two Sycamore Street looks like a patch where the very idea of property has been voided. Its vacancy is the sign of something larger than deeds. It resembles a Midwestern field where the stand of crops shows odd variations: the sign of a buried well or a bulldozed farmhouse or soil where there once grew a border of crabapple trees. This lot was Indian territory. It was part of the Great Northwest, a wheat growing region, the breadbasket of a very young nation. It was part of the rise of Buffalo. It was all the things it has been since those long ago days. Now 722 Sycamore Street lies fallow. - The Last Fine Time, p. 202
From a 1940 Sanborn Map of the neighborhood.

722 Sycamore Street, Buffalo NY

Here's the Amazon link - The Last Fine Time. Verlyn Klinkenborg is also a New York Times editorial board member. Here's some recent writing and bio.
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11/13/2007

Air Buffalo - Part II

MJ has recently shared another extraordinary set of aerial photos involving some of Buffalo's most amazing industrial sites.
Air Buffalo - II
Slide show - Air Buffalo Part II

fixBuffalo readers may recall MJ's earlier slide show - Air Buffalo.
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11/12/2007

Suburban News...In the City!

fixBuffalo reader tipped me off to the following article inthe latest issue of one Buffalo's coolest weeklies - The Downtowner.
Update...11/20/07...931am If you're arriving here because of a link in the comment stream of a recent Buffalo Rising story - make sure to click through the Sycamore Village Archive and here or here, too. Some chilling foreclosure action in a few blocks adjacent to the Sycamore Village site. Like who wants to spend 180-200K and be saddled with a big mortgage when you could scoop up a new house for 13-20K?? Further signs of a stable neighborhood, huh?
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Here's the Sycamore Village archive to bring you up to date!
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11/08/2007

New from Buffalo ReUse

If you haven't checked out the latest from Buffalo ReUse, you really should. They're relocating to Buffalo's near East side at 298 Northampton Street near Jefferson [map].

Amazing new Buffalo ReUse blog. Check out some of their recent pics - Buffalo ReUse on Flickr.
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Tools and site navigation...

A few small house keeping items. You'll quickly notice that I've placed a new link in the template - latest blog comments which helps readers keep track of the dialog around some older posts from months and years ago.

I also learned that Google's blogging service, that I've been using since day one, now has enabled an email notification system for comments, too. Very easy to use so you can keep track of what's happening here without having to log in. Very brief explanation - right here - if you're not used to these things.

Rss feeds, bloglines and feedburner will still update you as we go along, too.
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11/07/2007

Down on Dodge Street, again...

I had an opportunity to check in on one of my favorite sites this morning, down on Dodge Street. Every building here remains wide open.
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The Community Action Organization of Erie County has owned this place for almost four years. Brian Davis - City of Buffalo Councilman is the President of the CAO's board. No Housing Court for the CAO, wonder why?
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Check out the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home's archive, for additional information and pictures, inside and out.

Here's an overview of the entire complex.
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Sycamore Village Neighborhood Foreclosure

Just learned that another Sycamore Village area vinyl-victorian has been taken back in a bank foreclosure. This house at 466 Monroe Street was first sold for $86,500 in 2004. Citimortgage took it back recently - mortage balance and fees placed this foreclosure at $96, 600. The City has assessed the property for $66,500.
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So, will someone please help me understand why the City is constructing a suburban development just a block and half from 466 Monroe.

Bank is Citigroup. Wonder why they are taking hits? Mortgage melt-down begins right here on Monroe Street. Place will probably re-sell somewhere in the mid 20's.

Remember 241 Monroe, from last week?
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Running Buffalo - Part II

Posted about RUN Buffalo recently - Running Buffalo - this past August. Late last week I received a press release from the folks at New Era Cap, one of RUN Buffalo's corporate sponsors asking for volunteers to help out with the landscaping over here on Sycamore Street.
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fixBuffalo readers may remember this post - Buffalo's Death Row - from summer 2006, where Yvonne Peterson's body was found in the partially boarded City owned house at 830 Sycamore Street, one of the three houses recently demolished here.
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Well those three houses, on one of the most devasted sections of Sycamore Street, are in the landfill. RUN Buffalo will be maintaining the vacant lots, for like forever. Very interesting arrangement and am wondering who actually owns the property. Anyone know who actually paid for these three demolitions?
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New Bethel Building...

Progress on Bethel Headstart's new child care center here at the corner of Jefferson and Woodlawn.
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fixBuffalo readers will remember that Rev. Stenhouse is guy behind the scene with this project. I recently profiled some of his other work here and understand that the Buffalo News will be following up on his Housing Court case, very soon.

Will be keeping tabs on both developments. This same corner looked like this, last week.
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11/06/2007

Niagara & Re-Thinking Cities...

Just in from the Toronto crew...
Register here for the conference and learn more about Toronto's Artscape and how other cities mix up art and older spaces. Sean from TO is a never ending source for information here about Florida's Mega.

I visit Florida everyday.
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11/05/2007

Who's Sydni?

fixBuffalo fan tipped me off to this link on the City of Buffalo site - The Sycamore Village Experience!
Sycamore Village
Check out the various descriptions and floor plans - here.
Latiesha_cover Juliet_coverdonna_cover
I've been keeping track of the Sycamore Village experience - Sick Yet, Part II. So, who's Sydni?
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Buffalo's Newest Partnership

Julie Barrett-O'Neill, Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeeper, just called my attention to an amazing new group here in Buffalo, NY that's organizing around some very progressive policy initiatives - Partnership for the Public Good.
The Coalition for Economic Justice (CEJ) has launched a Partnership for the Public Good (PPG) to promote a community-oriented vision of a revitalized Buffalo. CEJ is joined in this effort by other groups such as PUSH Buffalo, Buffalo ReUse, the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, and Buffalo First, as well as by faculty from Cornell ILR and the University at Buffalo Law School. PPG is a "think-and-do" tank that will perform research and advocacy and will support the efforts of the broad array of organizations working to revitalize Buffalo.
Various policy briefs are archived, here.
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11/01/2007

Following Glaeser...

If you haven't read Edward Glaeser's Can Buffalo Ever Come Back?, you should. Little bit of traction here and was later picked up by Buffalo Rising with a fire-storm of comments - 106 at last count - Teary Eyed Buffalo Bashing.
The conversation continues with Tyler and Alex at Marginal Revolution with a great comment stream. Noticed another thread at Sky Scraper Page, too. Just finished reading Deputy Erie County Executive Bruce Fisher's response to Edward Glaeser in the most recent issue of Artvoice - What Will it Take? way worth reading.

Let me know if I'm missing any other threads...
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Revisiting Florida

Sean from Toronto tipped me off to Richard Florida's newest blog Creative Class over at The Globe and Mail. Tip comes via post at Spacing Toronto. You'll want to add both of these to your daily read.
flag-gam-nameplate

logo-toronto
If you haven't been following Florida's take on integrated regional plannig issues impacting Buffalo, make sure to check out the growing critique here - Putting the Buff in Tor-Buff-Chester.

Love this pic! Richard, Sean or anyone - have any more?
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10/31/2007

Crazy...

Got word this week that 241 Monroe was sold, again. This time for $13,055, last month.
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Brand new, this single family home - two short blocks around the corner from Sycamore Village - first sold for $69,100 in May, 1993.

Current assessment - $52,000.
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10/30/2007

Bridge to Where?

First time in months that I've seen any activity surrounding the bridge between Hauptman Woodward and UB. Remember hearing that it wasn't part of the original plan as electrical panels at HW had to be relocated to make room for the cut.
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What's time frame here? Heard the first contractors went belly-up. Last posted about it - Bridge to Nowhere - in June. Anyone know?
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Sick Yet? - Part II

As the true costs associated with the latest urban planning debacle continue to mount over at Sycamore Village - site assembly, environmental remediation, cost of law-suits with MJ Peterson and property tax abatements for new (sub)-urban property owners - it's looking closer to a 9 million dollar project with costs/house hovering somewhere around 400-500K.
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I swear, I did not photoshop this pic. Just as I found it. Visited Sycamore Village in late August - Sick Yet - with links to all sorts of background information about the place.
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The question of course is where are the new home owners going to come from? Hamlin Park? Have heard lots of talk - mostly people towing the Mayor's line - that people are actually going to move here from the suburbs. Comps and recent neighborhood foreclosure activity simply say, invest elsewhere. And last time the City forced the housing market on a contaminated site, that's right the Hickory Woods settlement is still pending, last time I checked.
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October's Vinyl Solution

Noticed this place on Genesee Street this afternoon. I've added it to my collection.
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Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. Mcguire: Plastics.
See My Vinyl Collection for additional inspiration.
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Vacancy News...

Good to know that other communities are dealing with shrinking cities, landbanking and alternative land use in ways that that aren't even part of the dialog in Buffalo...yet.

This morning on NPR we hear about what's happening in Flint, Michigan. Listen here.
Abandoned homes are a big problem in Flint, Mich., a former manufacturing stronghold that is losing jobs and residents.

In some neighborhoods five or more houses in a row are boarded up, as one owner after another packs up and leaves. Once they have sat vacant too long bulldozers come to demolish them.

Yesterday, in The Star I noticed this from our friends in Toronto - New Life for Neglected Buildings.

A new group of housing activists wants the city to take over neglected and underutilized buildings and convert them into affordable housing. In other words, they want property owners to face a "use it or lose it" bylaw.

Learned today that local congressman Brian Higgins has authored a new piece of federal legislation that might - huge maybe folks - help us deal much more effectively with that interseciton of urban policy, federal money and a much more effective strategy in dealing with abandoned, boarded, derelict and vacant property in Buffalo. You can track HR-3498 as it makes it way through the legislative meat grinder.

Word is HR-3498 probably won't make it out of committee. Well intended, but it won't get funded. Reason of course - we like re-builidng cities in the Middle East more than we do our own. Nice try. Back to the drawing board.

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Artpark and Headstart News...

While walking the neighborhood the other night I noticed some signs I hadn't seen before. Went back Sunday afternoon to the corner of Woodlawn and Jefferson and noticed for the first time some additional development here in the neighborhood.

Here's looking at the northwest corner of Woodlawn and Jefferson Avenues.
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Seems like another Rev. Stenhouse's organization - Bethel Head Start - will be getting a new building. In light of all the press generated around Rev. Stenhouse's other activities - here - guess I'll be keeping a closer than ususal eye on this.
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And diagaonally across the street on Woodlawn and Jefferson I spotted this sign for the first time, too.
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Here 50 Women with a Vision are creating the East side's newest neighbhorhood park.
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Both of these projects are just steps away from the Erie County's newest library - the Merrieweather - and the new Arts Academy. Very significant developments for a community in need of good news and additional positive development.
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10/29/2007

Half a world away...

Never really know who you're going to meet on tour. On Saturday while doing the Squeaky Wheel thing Dan and Em, from Adelaide South Australia, tagged along and just posted about some of their initial impressions of our City.
Full of abandoned post-industrial and domestic architecture, it's a black and white photographers dream. The usually rich fall colour palette of Buffalo's West side is pressed against an amazing array of buildings, from monuments of faith to those of industry, each layered with textures and cries of decay and decrepitude the rest...
Dan Monceaux and Emma Sterling plan to be in the City at Squeaky Wheel.
Regular faces on the club and arts circuits in South Australia, the Supermarket team's live audio-visual show will launch this year in Buffalo, New York after a month long artists' residency there. more...
Very cool...
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Arts Academy - Grand Opening Concert

Email this afternoon from Kevin Kazmierczak, Principal at the Arts Academy.
We are having our first in a series of Grand Opening events at the new school. Having completed $35 million dollars worth of renovation, we wish to show off our professional stage and concert hall, art galleries and school. I am writing to artists, art organizations, fellow administrators, business people and friends in order to invite you to support our foundation by coming to this great concert on November 13. You'll hear some of Buffalo's finest musicians and some rising stars as well in a night to remember. We will have ample and secure parking.
All proceeds go to our Arts Academy Foundation, begun by Ani DiFranco with the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo. It is our vision that this foundation will support the future students of the Arts Academy by paying for guest artists to do master classes and be in residence; as well as purchase items for which the public school budget cannot provide.
For tickets contact::Kevin E. Kazmierczak, Principal - Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts
450 Masten Avenue Buffalo, NY 14209
716-816-4220
email:kkazmierczak@buffaloschools.org
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10/28/2007

Still in Second Place

The intersection of poverty and the built environment here in Buffalo, NY - the country's second poorest city - represents a series of issues and problems that most residents and observers of Buffalo probably wish would just go away. Not only are we the second poorest city we also have the second highest rate of vacant properties - see recent New York Times article, here. Double punched.

Cover story of today's Buffalo News - For Today's Children a Different Kind of Poverty - places the problem front and center on everyone's table, living room floor or recycle bin. Check out the editorial explanation for the three part series, here.
Adam Zyglis Cartoon
Ntare Ali Gault, 40, is a poet and spoken word artist who has lived his whole life in Buffalo's Fruit Belt. He is reading from his poem "In This Life" during a video tour of some of the city's worst poverty.
I know, by mid-week Sunday's paper will be in the trash, story and problems out of mind. Yet I'm left wondering. If this election cycle included the mayor's race this year, what sorts of questions would we be asking Byron or other candidates.

Related stories:: (check back for additional posts/articles)
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