Wilson Street - Urban Farm

I went over to Wilson Street early this afternoon to take a closer look at the Steven's farm location. The first pic looks north on Wilson Street and the second is looking south towards St. Stanislaus.
Wilson Street - Looking North
While walking on Wilson Street I counted three houses on the Broadway/Sycamore block, one appeared to be occupied. Across the street there were 14 garage/barn structures. Two appeared to be in great shape and the rest, in various stages of decay. I don't know anything about the ownership of the property on Fillmore (next block over) except that Council President David Franczyk lives on the block a few doors aways from this location - Death at 830 Fillmore Avenue - that I visited in January.
Wilson Street - Looking South
I spoke the Mark Byrnes, Common Council President David Franczyk's staffer while leaving Wilson Street earlier this afternoon. He informed me that all the calls coming into the office are overwhelmingly positive and supportive of the Steven's plan and vision for this part of the planet.
Later I spoke with Judy Einach the Executive Director of New York Sustainable Agricultural Working Group. She's very supportive of this urban farming project and shared the following statement in an email with me.
The administration seems to think economic development means houses. Get a little out of town into rural areas and farming is the economic development base. Farmed well that 2 acres could be a terrific business venture. Now there are some economic advantages attached to farmland that might decrease what the city can take in from taxes but for so many reasons this makes more economic development sense than does housing on that land. Besides a great little farm would probably be such an asset it would raise the real estate value of the surrounding properties. Agriculture remains the number one industry in NYS. We in Erie and Niagara Counties have too many policies restricting farming compared to other counties. Very backwards given food system trends.
I'll be taking a closer look at and running a property ownership analysis on nearby streets in the next few days. Seems like this part of Broadway Fillmore is full of city owned vacant parcels. Many of my Urban Prairie pics were shot in the same neighborhood over the last few years.

Meanwhile, consider joining the Wilson Street Urban Farm Group on Facebook. Read Chris Byrd's posts over at Broadway Fillmore Alive and check out the latest comment stream on Buffalo Rising about this project - Urban Farm vs Housing.
ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that a nearby urban farm is a potential attraction that could dovetail nicely with the Broadway Market, especially if the Stevens can make some small accommodation for visitors, people who come to shop and also want to see the farm. Being in a city, I hope they plan for how they will meet & greet the public.

Plus, it is way cool that they might get some of those barns back in service!

Anonymous said...

Is there a soil test performed on these urban farms? I would hope so.

Anonymous said...

Is it known if the Harris 'pioneers-from-Clarence', a few doors away, & the Stevens' have linked up?

The Harris pd $2.5K on 1/29/09 for their tax auction buy of #798, while the Stevens pd $23.5K for #812 on 11/10/08 (perhaps a bit high on Fillmore, but they are kind Christians?)

There could finally be some critical mass developing in that troubled neighborhood.

Also: It might be good to lobby Habitat. Hopefully this may be another chance to urge them to question relentless construction of NEW housing as Bflo housing vacanies are growing relentlessly (15,500 in 1990, 22,854 in 2000, perhaps 28,000 in 2008?)

At least get them to eliminate thoughts of new housing in ugly alleys!!





Harris purchase of 798 Fillmore
COPY: http://www.speakupwny.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25345&highlight=Clarence+couple

October 22nd, 2008, 10:38 AM #1
Michele J
Gold Member

By Brian Meyer
News Staff Reporter
When an East Amherst couple told friends they planned to buy a decaying Fillmore Avenue building and spend up to $90,000 turning it into their new home, they faced dumbfounded stares.

“A lot of people think we’re crazy,” said Paul V. Harris, a mechanical engineer at Praxair Inc.

He and his wife, Anna J. Harris, grew up Clarence.

“We’re died-in-the-wool suburbanites,” she said. “But I’ve always liked the idea of living in the city. I don’t mind living in nitty-gritty surroundings.”

The couple celebrated Anna’s birthday Tuesday at the city’s property foreclosure auction. They placed a winning bid of $2,500 on the sprawling structure at 798 Fillmore Ave. between Sycamore Street and Broadway. While many homes on Fillmore are well-maintained, some nearby streets have been in decline for many years and are dotted with vacant buildings.

The long-empty two-family building the Harrises bought has commercial space in the front and includes a cottage in the back. As they checked on their new acquisition, Paul Harris said he’s not fooling himself about the gargantuan rehab project that awaits them.

The city originally placed the property on its demolition list. Paul Harris credited Housing Court Judge Henry J. Nowak, Common Council President David A. Franczyk and Assessment and Taxation Commissioner Martin F. Kennedy for helping to save the structure from the wrecking ball.

“It needs a lot of work,” he said, eyeing broken windows and other signs of decay. “But it’s a structurally sound building.”

Work will be done in phases, and the Harrises hope to move into the first renovated section by June. They have no plans to lease commercial space or rent the cottage. Married for a year and a half, they hope to fill the cavernous structure with a large family. Anna Harris is one of 12 children. “But we’re not going to have 12,” she chuckled.

She is also an artist who works in pastels. She’s looking forward to having a large studio in her new digs.

The Harrises have close friends who moved into a home on Fillmore Avenue a year ago. Mark Stevens and his family relocated from the Wyoming County Town of Pavilion to be closer to friends who are part of a non-denominational Christian fellowship.

Paul and Anna Harris belong to the same fellowship, and they said having the Stevenses as neighbors is a huge selling point. Paul Harris added that he’s also looking forward to a shorter commute to work.

Franczyk lives less than a block away on Fillmore, and he praised the Harrises for believing in the neighborhood. “This is exactly the kind of thing we want to see,” Franczyk said.

Michelle Johnson, a housing activist in the city’s Broadway- Fillmore area, said it’s rare but not unheard-of for suburban residents and out-of-towners to relocate to the neighborhood. “There are some really beautiful homes in the Fillmore District,” she said.

“People who live in the area feel things are getting better,” Anna Harris said.

Stevens agreed, noting that a number of exciting neighborhood initiatives are under way, including an urban farming project.

The city’s annual foreclosure auction continues today in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

October 22nd, 2008, 04:40 PM #9

Harris's did good research

The Harris's $2.5K purchase of 798 Fillmore is in an area with more potential than many areas in Bway-Fillmore.

It is close to the major intersection of Bway & Fillmore Ave, doors from Bway-Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Service (BFNHS, #782) and across from the offices of former County Legislator David Dale (#805). Their nextdoor neighbor is perennial political candidate Ron Fleming, who earns his living as a gun safety instructor. Also close by is longtime former Franczyk-aide Bob Sienkiewicz, as well as Council President Franczyk.

Having gotten important media attention, the Harris's are positioned to demonstrate how well the city supports such suburban 'pioneers'.

For example, does BFNHS have programs to support such new homeowners?

The status of the agency is unclear. They have apparently disassociated themselves from the NHS network, as their outdated 2005 annual report is gone & the agency is no longer listed on www.Neighborworks.org. And, so far in 2008 they have listed very few transactions with the County Clerk: purchase of 131 Hirschbeck for $500, & two foreclosures.

One piece of advice to the Harris's. Despite the last sale on 8/23/00 being $11K at another tax sale & the previous sale being $25K on 5/30/97, the rundown complex is assessed at $38K. They should appeal their $38K assessment in December. They will need all available resources to bring back their long neglected buy.

Dick Kern

smurbaniak@ymail.com said...

This is one of the most realistic, common sense and practical projects I have ever seen in my life for that part of the city. i grew up there on Woltz ave. MY mom grew up on Woltz ave, and my dad grew up on 923 Fillmore ave. I used to be able to as a kid walk to the market to shop for my grandmother and now I don't even want to drive through there. The only way (I believe) to fix that is great projects like this along with homeownership. That said, there are plenty of places to build homes but 2 acres of land to farm are great. With that said the stevens should be able to farm that land and be able to show the childeren in that area something positive. Believe me i left alot of my feelings out of this because I wanted this to be a positive note. God Bless.