10/24/2007

What is to be Done?

Buffalo, NY finds it's way into some national press once again. Just saw this - Can Buffalo Ever Come Back? - in The New York Sun by Harvard University's Edward Glaeser.
At the onset of the Great Depression, Buffalo had 573,000 inhabitants, making it the 13th-largest city in America. In the 75 years that followed, this once-mighty metropolis lost 55% of its population, a decline most dramatic in its blighted inner city but also apparent in its broader metropolitan area, one of the 20 most quickly deteriorating such regions in the nation. 27% of Buffalo's residents are poor, more than twice the national average...read the rest.

I've been interested in the work of Edward Glaeser for a few years where he explores the intersection of poverty and the built environment. Here, the last section of this article is particularly resonant.
The best scenario would be for Buffalo to become a much smaller but more vibrant community—shrinking to greatness, in effect. Far better that outcome than wasting yet more effort and resources on the foolish project of restoring the City of Light's past glory.
fixBuffalo readers no doubt will remember this related piece Richard Florida v. Buffalo, NY from last year and of course Beaten Down Buffalo from New York Times reporter Ken Belson last month.

Are we moving forward or still falling behind? Let me know...
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8 comments:

MJ said...

The last paragraph sums it up well. No new revelations in it though.

The rest of it is the same old stereotypes parroted.

The article's picture, although great at reinfocing the article itself, is so biased and damaging at propagating stereotypes. When was it taken? 1975? The convention center isn't even in it.

STEEL said...

I had a similar reaction to this post. That is not to say I Can not see Buffalo's problems and think they should be buried but I find this story to be very poorly written and researched. The use of a 35 year old winter picture as an illustration for the piece makes it exponentially worse as a writing exercise. Did the writer even know that the image was that old? Here is what I wrote about this earlier on another forum.


The federal government has showered Billions upon Billions on Buffalo? Huh? You mean in the form of highways that cut apart viable neighborhoods and parks?

The Ellicott rehabilitation as he calls it was never meant for middle class or wealthy people as he states. It was a slum clearance project the same as in cities across the country. The same failures happened in every city where projects like this were built.

Many northern cold climate cities are growing and vibrant why should that only be a problem for Buffalo? He did not mention that Toronto a cold climate city just a few miles away is booming. Minneapolis, Chicago, hello! cold places lots of growth!

He lists a few government subsidized projects that don't come anyplace near Billions upon billions and then fails to make any point about these projects. He also fails to mention that HSBC bank (subject of one of those projects) employs thousands in WNY.

He fails to mention that the feds encouraged Buffalo's Aerospace industry to move to out of town.

He fails to mention that the loss of industry suffered in Buffalo has to do more with global trends than with Buffalo as a place


He fails to note that the federal government spend trillions upon trillions to make the sunbelt a growth engine at the expense of the rustbelt

he fails to mention the Buffalo's rail has among the highest ridership rates in the country and that it is also very small because extensions have never been funded. He neglects to mention that transit ridership across the country is declining. When you neglect to mention things like this you make them seem specific to Buffalo which is misleading. To me that is poor writing.

Surprised to see this from a Harvard Professor.

Anonymous said...

Steel -- That's the first I have heard of the Fed's encouraging Buffalo's aerospace industry to leave the area. Do you have any sources for that?

STEEL said...

I have read that someplace. I will try to dig up where. I think they wanted their contracts consolidated into a few localities. I am not absolutely sure on this one but I did read about Bell and Buffalo and its eventual exit form town someplace.

Eric said...

Yes, following WW2, when we took out a german ball bearing plant and crippled the german aerospace industry, there was a push to decentralize anything that was important to national defense. The 400 was built, and contractors were moved to the outskirts (Moog, for example). This way, our defense industry couldn't be taken out by one bomb to the center of downtown Buffalo.

There's a great article that discusses this and other 50's era federal moves that affected our built environment, but I don't remember where I read it.

MJ said...

Did you comment on the Sun article Steel? I did.

Anonymous said...

More Buffalo bashing and from some clown who has probably never visited the city in his entire, privileged, life and what is with the vintage photo?

Gee, no kidding, Buffalo has made some major mistakes and they are all “water under the bridge” and yes, we all know that the City of Buffalo needs to re-invent itself and we still have not, if ever, will fully recover from the St Lawrence Seaway ~ as if the individuals who created the project didn’t know that it would be the demise of Buffalo’s grain industry…

When did Buffalo become a dumping ground for the rest of the country?

Sharon Centanne said...

Public transit use is growing in Florida. We have seen growth of approximately 20% per year on our city buses. The cost of gasoline is the primary factor. We are in a growth area with constantly expanding bus service, and it is wonderful. It still does not equal the great ten minute service we had in Buffalo in the 1950s however.

Sharon Centanne