Saving our Streets: Say NO to General Mills

The City of Buffalo is preparing to give General Mills lower Michigan Avenue. At 2pm this afternoon there's a perfunctory public hearing prior to the General Mills take over of a very important public asset and a street that provides direct access to Buffalo's historic waterfront.

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Here's the current proposal the City of Buffalo is considering. This is wrong on a number of levels. 

Last December Lee A. Anderson, Director of State and Local Government Relations for General Mills was asked by Council President Darius Pridgen whether General Mills, the global food giant and maker of Cheerios, would leave Buffalo if this take-over proposal did NOT happen. Here's that two minute exchange and a formal statement by General Mills that they will NOT move if they don't get their way.

During last year's public hearing Daniel Sack, Campaign for Greater Buffalo board member and Dana Saylor, artist and founder of City of Night spoke out against this same proposal. Here's an incredibly informed and passionate statement about everything that is wrong with this corporate take over.  

Please inform friends in your networks about this meeting and why it's important to stop General Mills.

Update  1:55 pm - The Campaign for Greater Buffalo has issued the following statement regarding the proposed corporate take over of lower Michigan Avenue. 


Tour de Neglect: two (new) media reviews

Two journalists rode along on a recent Tour de Neglect through Buffalo's East Side and have recently published their work. Buffalo's own Block Club and UK's The Guardian join the list, see below, of media outlets critically reviewing this bicycle tour. 

Jennifer Conner, writing for the latest issue of Block Club, focuses on one of the tour's stops and writes about the people she met in historically one of the city's most challenged neighborhoods - In the shadow of the Sacred Heart. The census tract surrounding this neighborhood, once the most densely populated in the city, has lost more than 89% of its population over the years. Jennifer's work is richly photographed by Harper Bishop.

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Ethan Powers, writing for The Guardian has a broader view. His article contains a few of my own photographs of the city's East Side as well as Molly Jarboe's photographs from the tour.

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The city of Buffalo has an identity problem. One half has been reborn like a phoenix from a graveyard of industrial ash – experiencing an economic and cultural resurgence that has transformed many previously barren areas into bustling centres of commerce and entertainment. Yet the other half sits in a state of utter disrepair – its streets manifest a palpable level of poverty, blind to the recovery and optimism growing across town...read the rest.
Additional media reviews of previous Tour de Neglect bicycle tours are available here - #CNU22 Tour de Neglect Postscript. Buffalo News art critic Colin Dabkowski reviews an earlier tour here

Please join us for the the next Tour de Neglect - Saturday October 18, 2014. We'll be leaving from the Hotel Lafayette at 10am and returning a few hours later. Details on FaceBook


Today on Jefferson Avenue

This demolition of Buffalo's oldest synagogue was an avoidable tragedy. The Jefferson Street Shul was structurally sound, with cosmetic repairs only needed on bricks that had become loose on the facade. It is unfortunate that officials in the Department of Permits and Inspections were not willing to consider reasonable alternatives to the destruction of this landmark of the city's Jewish history.

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Saving landmarks like the Jefferson Street Shul always requires creativity, but by pursuing its destruction rather than its repair, the City took the easy way out.

For additional information see this post/links.



Jefferson Street Shul - Demo scheduled tomorrow

A representative from Regional Environmental Demolition confirmed late this afternoon that the Jefferson Street Shul will be demolished tomorrow morning. The City of Buffalo has awarded an $82,000 emergency demolition contract to this Niagara Falls NY based demolition contractor to destroy the city's oldest synagogue. The demolition is scheduled to begin at 8am tomorrow morning.

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I spoke with Terry Robinson - City of Buffalo Preservation Board member and Vice-President of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. He told me that the Preservation Board did NOT have an opportunity to review this demolition contract. "This is a huge loss for the city's East Side and for the entire City of Buffalo," Terry told me.

The Jefferson Street Shul was designated a "local-landmark" by the City's Preservation Board in 1997.

Please join the vigil tomorrow morning as we witness the destruction of the city's oldest synagogue from 8-10am at 407 Jefferson Avenue.

For additional information see this post/links.



Jefferson Street Shul - Demo update

The red-mark of death was sprayed on the city's oldest synagogue today.

Jefferson Street Shul - Red Mark of Death

In addition, the shul's utility connections have been identified with spray paint on the sidewalk. Multiple calls to the owner, Elliot Dalfin, have not been returned.

Additional information is available in these two posts 9/19/14 and 2/23/12.

fixBuffalo interior/exterior image archive


City's Oldest Synagogue - DEMOLITION ALERT

The former Jefferson Street Shul (407 Jefferson Avenue - google map) is wide open and a new demolition notice (dated today) was found this morning affixed to the building.

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In February 2012 I convened a series of meetings with local preservationists, architects and local historians. I met with Housing Court Judge Carney and local preservation attorney Richard Berger to help save this local landmark and special access was provided to help determine the Shul's interior and overall structural condition. Buffalo architect Ted Lownie from HHL and local preservation contractor Vince Kuntz accompanied me on at least one interior inspection. It was found to be stable. The Shul's owner - Reverend Ferrell in Phoenix AZ - wanted nothing more to do with the building and was prepared to deed his former church to a court approved qualified buyer for $1. No buyers were found.

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Elliot Dalfin purchased the Shul at the city's tax foreclosure auction in October 2012 for $600 (six hundred dollars). He was the only bidder. Elliot splits his time between Buffalo and Brooklyn and controls a large number of rental properties in the city's Broadway Fillmore neighborhood using various LLC's. Currently one of his LLC's owns the Shul.

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I met with Elliot several times over the past year. His plans included creating a vibrant cultural center that would honor and respect the traditions and history long associated with the Shul. Calls this afternoon were not returned.

The future of the former Jefferson Street Shul is very uncertain. Tomorrow, Buffalo's Young Preservationists have committed to assisting in re-boarding and securing the Shul - Saturday 9/20 at 11am. All are welcome.

More information as it becomes available.

For additional background information about this historic landmark please read - City's Oldest Synagogue from February 2012.

fixBuffalo interior/exterior image archive


City-owned 1363 Sycamore Street - Gone

City-owned 1363 Sycamore Street (google map) was demolished yesterday afternoon. It was stable and didn't present any health or safety issues.

September 15, 2014

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I wrote about 1363 Sycamore Street a few months ago, here (must see). It was located next door to the Happy Swallow, the last remaining tavern in this neighborhood. Steps away there are dozens of city-owned and privately owned residential properties near the recently renovated Harvey Austin School at 1405 Sycamore. Many of these houses are wide open (for years), heavily water damaged and need to be demolished.

May 12, 2014

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This demolition was NOT reviewed by the city's Preservation Board. 1363 Sycamore was NOT listed for sale by the Division of Real Estate. Currently there is no plan for this block of Sycamore. This is an(other) egregious example of the City's lack of coordinated and strategic planning when it comes to city-owned property. Shame.

Really, is a for sale sign that expensive?


Building Buffalo Back: a night at Wythe Hotel

I received this announcement earlier today:

Building Buffalo Back: Developing Buffalo's Urban Core & Creating Sustainable Solutions an evening at Brooklyn's new (must see) - Wyeth Hotel.

Buffalo - Wythe Hotel 1 Buffalo - Wythe Hotel 2
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I'm not going. If you are and can make an audio recording of the event, please let me know. I'd like to make this gentrifying conversation available to a larger audience.

PS: I just checked, there still a few rooms available at Wythe Hotel for Wednesday evening with Manhattan views for $525/night.


Homesteading the city with Fox News: final cut

Fox News contacted me after Alana Semuels LA Times story - As an alternative to demoltion, Buffalo offers homes for a dollar - ran last month about the city's homestead program. I spoke with Ron Ralston, Fox News producer and invited his crew to Buffalo last week. We spent the day talking with homesteaders and neighborhood residents about alternatives to demolition and neighborhood stabilization.

This segment features  Deyron TabbMike Puma and Matt Newton who've successfully purchased former city-owned houses in the city's Hamlin Park Historic District for $1.

This is the final cut that airs on Fox News over the weekend.

Fox News also interviewed Brendan Mehaffy, Executive Director of the City's Office of Strategic Planning. Brendan continues to be a strong supporter of the city's homestead program.
Knocking a house downs costs about $20,000 on the average in the City of Buffalo.
If we can sell a house for $1 we can save $20,000 and we can invest it in something else. We can get a property on the tax rolls and improve it with private money, not public money. 
Kudos to all involved in helping to spread the word about the urban homesteading program in the beautiful and resilient city of Buffalo NY.


Photo of the Day: 144

Memorial Drive and William Street (google map).

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The wrong location for chicken wings.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 143

Grider Street and Delevan Avenue (google map).

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The McDonald's parking lot across the street is always full.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 136

Exchange Street and Washington Street (google map).

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New York State's second largest city has one passenger railroad track.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Larkin Power House - Demolition or Preservation, Part III

The Common Council unanimously approved the application for the Larkin Historic District this afternoon. Read the approved application here: Larkin Historic District

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Howard Zemsky, the developer whose brainchild is the revitalization of the Larkin District, likely shared the most eloquent remarks at last Tuesday's public hearing before the Common Council. Here's an excerpt:
The extraordinarily rich architectural, economic, and cultural history of the proposed Larkin Historic District has been thoroughly outlined in the application and I won’t attempt to recount it here. What I can add with a strong sense of pride is that my partners and I reclaimed many key elements of this district twelve years ago, complete with all of the blight, abandonment, and deterioration of the buildings, which was only matched by the neglect of the public infrastructure particularly along Seneca Street. Without any customers or prospects at the time, without any public subsidy, and frankly without anyone else thinking that what we were doing made any sense, we set out to rehabilitate a building, then buildings and then a district. Today, there are more people working in the former Larkin Company buildings than were working at the peak of employment of the Larkin Company itself. 
We have watched one tenant after another be drawn to the unique character of these historic buildings and to the unique history that they represent. Every one of these buildings without exception contribute to the rich history and to the compelling and inspiring aesthetic that you feel when you are standing among them. Don’t ever underestimate the pride that people feel in actively participating in the renaissance of the Larkin District and by extension the city of Buffalo, by virtue of working there. The rapidly increasing popularity of the district as a place to work, as a place to live, and as a place for entertainment speaks volumes for the benefit of these historic buildings and for the environment that they help create. 
We all stand on the shoulders of others who came before us and dared to pursue their dreams. These buildings and the people therein represent an extraordinarily significant time in our city and region and the country. The Larkin District is at the epicenter of Wright’s works in Buffalo, of the genius of Larkin, Martin, and Hubbard, and the innovations they brought to American Industry, including lasting changes for the better in the relationship between employer and employee. Let’s not turn a blind eye to the countless untold stories of the people who built the Larkin Company, and who played such a significant role in building Buffalo. 
Sadly, not everyone sees these buildings in a historic context and not everyone sees themselves as stewards of the history that they represent, and not everyone feels a responsibility to the people that they represent. We lost one of Wright’s most significant works when the Larkin Administration Building was demolished in 1950. Even with the constant reminder of that tragedy literally staring us in the face on a daily basis, there are those who bring a cavalier attitude toward the buildings and their history, those who propose demolishing them. Please designate landmark status to the Larkin District which will help assure the future of this district and the future of these buildings. Please help preserve the inspirational legacy of the Larkin Company and of the many thousands of people who helped to build it.
Congrats to all involved! The Power House is saved!

Related posts: 

Photo of the day: 135

Main Street and Dodge Street (google map).

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This is the changing face of Main Street.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 134

Curtiss Street and  Dover Street (google map).

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This is a view from the Belt Line towards Broadway.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 133

Jefferson Avenue and Peckham Street (google map).

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This is where the other half worships.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Saving St. Gerard's - Part I

Are plans to dismantle and relocate St. Gerard's Church now dead? I spoke with Patricia Chivers, Communications Director for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, GA, this morning. I asked her about the rumors circulating that THE BIG MOVE is now off, and asked about the status of fundraising and long-term plans for St. Gerard's.

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She seemed unaware that the Diocese of Buffalo is currently marketing St. Gerard's to other prospective buyers. She told me that the local parish has not provided an update for at least one year regarding the status of plans for the property, and promised a statement on the issue within two days.

Chrissy Lincoln, Director of Operations at Preservation Buffalo Niagara—the only preservation group that supported the deconstruction and Atlanta move four years ago—said she recently toured St. Gerard's and has been approached by the Diocese of Buffalo to help market the property to qualified buyers.

If you haven't seen St. Gerard's magnificent interior, take a moment and scroll trough local architectural photographer Jim Cavanaugh's stunning series. He's captured the splendor of this East Side treasure.

Stay tuned.

Related posts:



Photo of the Day: 127

Bailey Avenue and Warwick Avenue (google map).

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A former used car lot on Bailey Avenue remains empty.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 126

Broadway Avenue and Dreshler Avenue (google map).


This is where the other half worships.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 125

Navel Avenue and Bailey Avenue (google map).

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There are no bike lanes on Bailey Avenue.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 124

Cloverdale Avenue and Bailey Avenue (google map).

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One of Bailey Avenue's original automobile showrooms remains boarded after Unique Boutique's closing.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Larkin Power House - Demolition or Preservation Part II

Developers Peter Krog and Jim Cornell have made it no secret that they want to demolish the Larkin Power House, first reported here.

Saved ! - 7/22/14


When workers at the site were salvaging bricks from an exterior wall last April, Krog and Cornell were "blown in" by the Campaign for Greater Buffalo for beginning a demolition without a permit. A stop-work order was issued, and the Campaign prepared an application to designate the Power House and its neighbors as the Larkin Historic District. This would formally help preserve the sole visible remnants of Frank Lloyd Wright's work at the complex, as well as all of the remaining iconic factory buildings. Here's a map of the planned Larkin Historic District and a historic site map to further orient you to this development. 

The hearing will be on Tuesday, July 15, 2:00 pm, in the Common Council Chambers. You are urged to attend and, if possible, speak in favor of landmark designation. This building, or the landmark-designation process itself, must not come tumbling down.

Here is the Larkin Historic District application and supporting photo archive. It is fascinating reading. It includes a picture of renowned architectural historian Reyner Banham clambering up the Power House chimney. 

It is short notice, and the hearing is to occur during the workday, so it is difficult for many to attend. You can still make your voice heard by writing a brief note to the City Clerk declaring your support. These will go into the packets the Common Council will receive and be part of the public record.

The contact info is:

Gerald Chwalinski
City Clerk
1308 City Hall
65 Niagara Square
Buffalo, NY 14202

Please alert friends and colleagues who may want to support preservation of the Larkin Power House and the Larkin Historic District. Your support will be critical.

Related: Larkin Power House (4/23/14)



942 Humboldt Parkway: bank owned

Last week Zillow claimed that Buffalo, NY had the most stable real estate market in the country, with a zero risk of loss. The Buffalo News picked up and ran (uncritically) with the story, here.

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942 Humboldt (google map) was last sold for $63,000 in 1994. It's a 3000sf single-family home with four bedrooms and two baths and the city currently assesses this property at $37,000. The foreclosure is complete, it's bank-owned (M&T Bank) with an asking price of $12,900.

The real estate record and sales story of 942 Humboldt Parkway is not anecdotal. It's part of a larger trend of disappearing values and mortgage foreclosures that are locked in limbo with other zombie properties that define entire neighborhoods on the city's East Side.

So, what's up with the missing $50,000 in value? The house is located just two blocks away from one of the city's most important museums, schools and an Olmsted Park that has a fabulous and recently renovated splash pad. In addition, Humboldt Parkway has just been striped for bike lanes and one block away on Fillmore Avenue substantial street and sidewalk improvements - including bulb-outs, bike lanes, new granite curbs and tree plantings - are now complete.

So color me confused about the missing $50,000. The Buffalo News repeated Zillow's press release about real estate values in Buffalo, NY and yet the reality seems to be very different and slightly unforgiving.

Perhaps the asking price has something to do with the empty lot one block away where the city spent $18,000 to demolish 2 Girard Place five years ago. Or, maybe the lost $50,000 of value is linked to the Kensington Effect that makes sitting on the front porch nearly impossible.

Here's the Hunt Listing if you're interested in a possible purchase.

Related posts: Fixing the Kensington


My weekly fix - week #5

Another dose of urbanity...

Metropolis Magazine covered this week's opening of the Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station, here. The exhibit is Jim Sandoro's latest addition to an expanding collection at the Pierce Arrow Museum. Follow the museum's link for additional information about the project that remained unbuilt during Frank Lloyd Wright's lifetime.

At the other end of Lake Erie in Detroit this week, Anna Clark author of A Detroit Anthology (May 2014) has an Op-Ed in the New York Times - Going without Water in Detroit. Residents of Detroit have recently appealed to the United Nations for relief as up to 300,000 residents are facing water shut-offs. Detroit's water wars have prompted the formation of the Detroit Water Brigade and coverage of this human and urban disaster is now getting global coverage. The Guardian is reporting, here.

Copenhagenize has been following the construction and design development of the world's first elevated cycle track, here. This truly innovative project will elevate cycle commuting to a new high and set a new bench mark for bicycle infrastructure.

Moved By Grace, the attempt to plunder St. Gerard's one of the city's most exquisite architectural and cultural treasures by a suburban Atlanta GA congregation, has hit an inconvenient snag. It's been reported on a number of FaceBook posts that Preservation Buffalo Niagara was contacted by the Buffalo Diocese for assistance in re-marketing St. Gerard's. Chrissy Lincoln from PBN confirmed that contact and PBN has un-officially conducted tours of the church. Stay tuned.

Kosuke Okahara is working on a long-term project documenting the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. LensCulture recently profiled his series - From Emergency to Normalcy - which is part of his larger work Fragments/Fukushima. His work depicts life and death inside the exclusion zone. Okahara's riveting work evokes strong emotions and presents a challenge and a critical evalution of our dependency and reliance on the velocity of technological progress.

Related:  Week #1Week #2Week 3 & Week 4


Photo of the Day: 107

Genesee Street and Rohr Street (google map).

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The former Zoar Reformed Church, one the city's oldest wood-frame churches, was built (1906) when Genesee Street had few residents and a mostly rural character. 

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day


Photo of the Day: 106

Suffolk Street and Roosevelt Avenue (google map).

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The city mowed this lawn because the owner didn't.

Photos from this series are cross-posted on fixBuffalo's facebook page and archived here - Photo of the Day