Crossing the 33 - Part II

Last week's post about the Scar contained a number of links and photographs about the highway that divides the City. Walked around here recently and found the place to be so really alienating and numbing. This bridge connects the back side of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School to...the urban prarie.
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click image to enlarge
This is the neighborhood on the other side, the urban prairie...here and here. In January I posted - Crossing the 33 Part I - which is on this summer's Tour d'Neglect.
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Anonymous said...

Bringing on "the 33" was the "final nail in the coffin" for Buffalo's formerly beautiful German American neighborhood. While the areas of Humboldt Park, Masten Park, and the Fruit Belt had "mysteriously" been vacated of the tens of thousands of German Americans who had kept the neighborhoods beautiful for 100 years during one decade, with only a few indigenous "neighbors" remaining, living in fear behind locked doors, alas, "it was announced" that Humboldt Parkway, THE most beautiful highway in all of Buffalo leading from Main Street right into Humboldt Park (by now mysteriously renamed MLK Park). The tens of thousands who had already fled to the suburbs couldn't believe this last "dirty blow" to their former neighborhood. In my family's case, it cut our former street, Johnson St. where it meets Best, right off at North St. -- i.e. one block from Best -- so there was no longer any way to reach Genesee St. on foot, where all the German shops had flourished for decades and where most people got one of the trolleys downtown.

I had a job summers in the Museum of Science, and as I drove to work from our family suburban retreat, where most of the Germans and some Poles had now been "relocated" to, I was horrified to watch crews tearing out the boulevard and all its wonderful plantings as well as razing scores of some of the most beautiful Victorian houses in the entire city. I would tell my grandmother, who had already lost her properties in horror, when I'd come home to the suburbs, and she and the family would just sigh (and sometimes cry) about the last phases of the destruction of German Buffalo.

That the German neighborhood and its long-standing famous park (Humboldt) was THE place to "plan" this horrible "expressway" seemed no accident to those of us of German American extraction, who had been driven away by Jane Jacobs-style slum creating, real estate and banking fraud, and "mysterious" gerrymandering of ethnic "minorities" who "mysteriously" appeared in Buffalo by the thousands with no jobs, no money, no education, and no attachment to or care for the "neighborhood" into which they were dumped.

Until Buffalo comes to terms with why is won't talk about, won't deal with, and won't find any sensible remedy to this hideous spectacle of community destruction, concomitant with the virtual implementation of a hopeless black ghetto whose remnants hang out in what's left of the hollowed-out ruins, it won't be able to restore the city, as cities like Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, and so many other have.

Buffalo is still "frozen in time," with the angry descendants of those who had to flee to the suburbs virtually hostile to and afraid of the city (can one blame them?), the "politically correct" studying nothing but "Black Studies" to get their "explanation" of what happened and what goes on or needs to go on in what is now claimed by one SUNY Buffalo professor to be "a shrine of African American culture," and a continuing "hollowing out," dilapidation, and replacement of the historic housing only by HUD subsistence, vinyl-clad houses to keep the area African (how "liberal" such a plan for "diversity" is, isn't it now!)

So long as people in the area continue to hole up in their own mental and real sole "universes," things can't really change.

Meanwhile the University of Buffalo, now planning a 40% expansion in enrollment, refuses to consider putting its campus downtown to restore the city (as many progressive cities have done and continue to do). Instead, it keeps dumping taxpayer money into the status quo, making the failed "new campus" simply a bigger failure. See its grossly misguided "plan" on its website.

The "let's take care of ourselves and be on guard" mentality, combined with anger and grief from the past, prevent a community consensus that would include the city and suburbs, which is needed to turn Buffalo around.

Potential businesses and enterprises that visit the area certainly can sense the unique "disjointedness" and polarization among those supposedly "helping the city."

The 33 was its statement-in-time that there would be no more German American boulevard and park to grace the already destroyed German American neighborhoods. It was an acknowledgement that the area was now a ghetto, and since ghettos don't matter any more than German American communities, this was the place to put the nonsensical and dysfunctional eye-sore that 60s-era "planners" thought so necessary. Isn't it ironic that few people who come to the airport have business in the City of Buffalo or in the mostly empty downtown, but now have desinations in the suburbs!? How very, very sad!

Anonymous said...

Just read your recent post on the Scar. We have ours here in Rochester, too. The same dynamics of urban planning in the post-WWII era producing similar results. Interestingly, Rochester is considering removing one of its "scars", the Inner Loop. Check out the link: http://rocwiki.org/Inner_Loop
The Inner Loop, like Buffalo's 33, is mostly below street level with limited opportunities to cross. One comment on the site describes it as "a noose around downtown". The site shows a plan for elevating the roadway to street level, creating a park-like corridor.
Vehicle traffic in Rochester is now well below the volumes of the 1950's & 60's. I presume the same is true in Buffalo. Traffic study data would be revealing...

Anonymous said...

Thankfully Buffalo's inner loop never came to be:

(Think this was in a BRO article way back.) We could have it a lot worse.

Time now is to start planning what we want these roads to be during their next overhaul. The 198 and the 33. Now that 190 is finally toll free it can absorb a lot more of the traffic.

Anonymous said...

In response to the first comment here, I agree that it is sad that the German American presence in the city has greatly declined and I too had German descendant family living in this part of the city at one time. However, I'm not so sure about some of your points. When you make claims of "real estate and banking fraud" and "minorities who msyteriously appeared in Buffalo by the thousands", are you suggesting a concerted effort by some group to undermine German-American neighborhoods? I wonder how much the German, or Polish, or Italian communities for that matter are responsible for abondoning their neighborhoods at the sight of someone different.

Mark Williams said...


What a poignant and truly heartfelt rendering-of-speech statement. I actually had to read it twice and will definitely be forwarding it to my more liberal colleagues.

I openly admit that I don’t fully understand the reason behind the ever changing demographics of inner city neighborhoods. It is obvious that employment opportunities play a major role but, as someone who grew-up lower-middle class, I remain perplexed as to how a culture can place values on clothes and cars but reside in a ghetto that is of their own cultures making.

My more liberal colleagues cite “poverty” and “education” as the reasoning but that excuse falls flat on its proverbial face.

The Irish, Italians, Polish and German communities were, generally speaking, poor and uneducated but possessed a trait that appears to be lacking in other cultures; work ethics.

In every ethnic community there are exceptions to this trait but it has become the standard mode of operation in others. I have been labeled a racist because of my view points but the statement is laughable since I am the most open minded individual that you will ever meet.

I refuse to make excuses for what is simply ignorance.

Admittedly, the mistakes of the past or perhaps I should say; urban renewal, was nothing more than the final death knoll of the inner city.

I have read that there were opponents to the construction of the 33 but the number of people were too few and without any political clout. By the time the neighborhoods realized that their property was being truncated it was too late.

It is a sad retrospect but not an uncommon one. Perhaps this scar will be removed someday but not in our lifetime.