Louisiana Street: 18 years later

Back in 1995, photographer Jet Lowe snapped this image of Louisiana Street in the Old First Ward for the Historic American Engineering Record, below. Eight houses are the foreground for the Standard Elevator, 1 Saint Clair St., built in 1928. It is a portrait that communicates, better than other vantage points, the landscape of Buffalo's iconic industrial waterfront neighborhood.

I decided a few weeks ago to retake Lowe's image, below, to catalogue the change over 18 years. Only one of eight houses still standing in 1995 remains in 2013.

Louisiana Street - Buffalo, NY 2013

The change is difficult to notice on shorter time scales, but over nearly two decades, it is clear that population loss and rising vacancy is taking a toll. This toll includes the loss of one of the neighborhood's iconic scenes—the series of Louisiana Street workers cottages, captured by Jet Lowe, against the backdrop of one of Buffalo's few grain elevators that are still in operation.

According to some of the standard metrics of neighborhood health, the Old First Ward is in gradual decline. From 2000 to 2010, the neighborhood lost another 20.9% of its population and 9.2% of its housing units. Median home values declined by another 26%, to $37,100.

Will one of Buffalo's most historic neighborhoods, with offers some of the planet's best industrial vistas, survive this gradual erosion? Some signs point to yes. The hipster and the working man alike have joined forces to make Gene McCarthy's a neighborhood hotspot. New parks are sprouting up along Ohio Street, which is slated to be reconstructed as a complete, green street. Silo City is now an emerging cultural center - see City of Night.  

Time will tell if these improvements can stem the tide of decline. I'll be keeping an album going on the Old First Ward here.  Stay tuned.


Fillmore Avenue: Bulb-outs and bicycle lanes

Bulb-outs, bicycle lanes, and other street improvements are coming to Fillmore Avenue. This would have been unimaginable only eight or nine years ago, before Mayor Byron W. Brown came into office.

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During Brown's administration, the City adopted New York State's first complete streets ordinance, and everywhere improvements are being made to the City's streets, this policy is being implemented. The Green Code, a comprehensive rewrite of Buffalo's land use and zoning policies, intends to take this policy even further. Today we have a policy to do complete streets; when the new code is adopted, Buffalo will have a policy on how to do complete streets.

The Fillmore Avenue Streetscape Project represents a $2.2 million investment by the City. Bravo to Mayor Byron Brown and advocates such as Go Bike Buffalo for bringing about this culture change in City Hall. Pedestrian and bicycle investments will add so much value, especially on the city's East Side.

See also:  fixBuffalo Fillmore Avenue photo set.


CNU22: Part I

As part of a 'kickoff' event for CNU22 in Buffalo next year, Norman Garrick, Professor of Transportation & Urban Planning at the University of Connecticut and CNU Board Member, will be speaking in Buffalo on October 3, 6 pm, at the Central (downtown) Library. Mr. Garrick has done some groundbreaking work on urban expressway removal, and it would be good to engage him with the Scajaquada, Kensington, and Skyway/Route 5 expressways. 

In addition, we will be screening John Paget's latest video "Buffalo: America's Best Designed City" and learning more about next year's CNU held in Buffalo from June 4–7, 2014.

Speaking of expressway removal - make sure to check out the fixBuffalo Kensington File.   Download the event PDF and feel free to print or otherwise distribute as you see fit.  


Photo update

I've migrated my photo collection to the France-based Ipernity site.  Yahoo's buy-out a few years ago and subsequent recent changes to Flickr's minimalist aesthetic forced my hand a few months ago. Going forward fixBuffalo photos will be uploaded and hosted right here on Ipernity.  

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In addition to the photos that appear on fixBuffalo, I've been out shooting in other places in Buffalo, NY like City of Night 2013.  I've travelled between Buffalo and New York City on Amtrak frequently and pointed my lens out the window.  Those pics are here.  There's a growing collection of Buffalo heritage photos that I'm archiving here.

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Urbex photography remains fascinating and continues to hold my attention.  Documenting and exploring the country's industrial remains...a work in progress.  Here's a shot from a Summer sojurn. Additional urbex photography ends up in this set.

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So after 8 years and 2 million visitors to my Flickr site, I've moved on.  The vibrant Flickr community, a community the embodied the spirit of social-networking, is split on the changes and many of my contacts have now switched sides.  The pics will stay yet you'll have to check my Ipernity site for what I'm focusing on going forward.  If you're shooting - or considering picking up a camera - and sharing your images with others, check out Ipernity.  


St. Ann's: Poster child of the effects of sprawl

Nothing illustrates better the effects of Buffalo's suburban sprawl than these two aerial images of the now threatened St. Ann's Church & Shrine at Broadway and Emslie streets.  In one image, dating to the early 1950's, a dense, compact neighborhood surrounds the church. Stores, homes, and factories exist cheek-by-jowl. Everything is within walking distance from where folks live: retail, school, work, worship. It's an image of an economically vibrant, sustainable neighborhood.

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The next image, taken recently by photographer James Cavanaugh, is the same perspective. A Broadway/Emslie neighborhood is robbed of people, commerce, and hope. The I-190 and Kensington expressways were built a half century ago to solve the "congestion" problem on Broadway and other radials leading from downtown. As the present-day image illustrates, this strategy succeeded. Along with the traffic congestion, the congestion of money, congestion of commerce, and congestion of people were also "solved."

photo credit: Copyright 2013 James Cavanaugh / www.cavphoto.com

The Diocese of Buffalo is now facing the familiar challenges of sprawl without growth, its worship halls, schools, and other facilities serving a dwindling and dispersed regional population. The realities of  sprawl should not require the destruction of one the city's great works of architecture—the church and shrine devoted to St. Ann, built by the hands of our immigrant grandfathers from 1878 to 1886—but sprawl makes the insane, sane.

Will Buffalo let sprawl win? Or will the Broadway/Emslie neighborhood be allowed to keep at least one symbol of hope that is left?

Paul McDonnell, Chair of the City's Preservation Board and President of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo has completed the landmark nomination application.  There's a public hearing this Thursday: September 19th at 3pm in room 901 City Hall where the public will have the opportunity to show their support for landmarking St. Ann's.

To help keep StAnn's Church and Shrine standing, please consider joining the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture, & Culture.

See:  additional images of St. Ann's here and from this fixBuffalo tour of the tower in 2007.  


I'm Steel Standing in Court: Part I

The National Register eligible Bethlehem Steel Administration building in Lackawanna, NY has been under direct threat of demolition since May 2012. Over the course of the summer there were numerous attempts made to broker a deal with the building's owner, however, those efforts ended unsuccessfully. The City of Lackawanna stayed its course and continued to argue for the building's demolition. In late January, crews from Zoladz Construction began demolition, starting with the chemistry lab located in the back of the building.

Since then, the area's preservation groups remained silent as if the building's fate had been sealed.  Preservation Buffalo Niagara issued a statement shortly after demolition began last month. "It didn't have to end this way," according to PBN's Executive Director Tom Yots.


As the demolition began, a small group of activists which included Meagan Baco, Lesley Horowitz, Dana Saylor and myself focused on the next steps in saving this historically significant industrial icon.

Our research uncovered a previously withheld structural engineering report conducted last August by Klepper Hahn & Hyatt. This report was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and confirmed what we'd already suspected through our own photographic documentation: that the building is structurally sound.
The KHH report's findings directly contradict Lackawanna Code Enforcement Officer Steven Bremer's own observations and conclusions about the building's condition. 
It is unsafe to come in...the whole building is going to implode. - Steven Bremer Lackawanna Code Enforcement Officer, May 2012
We believe the overall building structure to be sound and not at risk of imminent collapse.  - Klepper Hahn & Hyatt, August 2012
Within hours of reading the KHH report our group reviewed the case with attorney Richard Berger who advised us that there were grounds for a lawsuit.  We proceeded to contact two additional attorneys Michael Raleigh and Paul Fusco-Gessick who were also brought in to work on the case. On Thursday, February 7th we held a press conference announcing our findings and our readiness to file the lawsuit against the building's owner.  Below Lackawanna resident Romaine Lillis speaks at Thursday's press conference announcing the lawsuit.


On Friday, February 8th a lawsuit was filed in Lackawanna City Court by attorney Richard Berger. The plaintiff is the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group, which was formed last year to raise awareness about the industrial history of Lackawanna NY and the building's history. The group had previously protested the demolition action and in June held a public hearing on the future of the building with professional preservationists and Lackawanna Common Council President Henry Pirowski as panelists.

Hon. Fredderic Marrano has granted a hearing on the matter which is scheduled for February 13 at 1pm in Lackawanna City Court.
Meanwhile, the Court is allowing the demolition to proceed.  This image from February 7, 2013 shows the extent of the current demolition activity.  The chemistry lab building is mostly demolished.  Here's the May 2012 record image.


In a related matter Lackawanna resident and activist John Nowak has been protesting the building's threatened demolition with a hunger strike.  He's been camped out in front of the building since mid December.  Members of this group remain tremendously supportive of his efforts and would like to encourage you to come down and speak to him and lend your support in any way you can.  

For the latest developments and background information about the lawsuit, the building and the building's significance please join the FaceBook Group Save the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building and visit I'm Steel Standing the official website for this group's work.
Additional information:
Since breaking the demolition story in May 2012, this blog has covered the story continuously.