Year end...

I apologize for like the total lack of posting here. I've been involved with a few academic projects recently and have spent considerable time thinking and planning this little Masten blog's next 12 months. The blog has grown, still the only one I know from the City's East Side. When I started blogging in September 2004 with my 3rd grade blog, I've seen it grow, spawn atleast one other blog, piss-people off and gather a subscription base of 101 readers and between 175 and 200 unique visitors on a daily basis.

On a personal level, this blog has compressed time and space and acted as an introduction to people that I've met in a few weeks and months rather than years. Some of my favorite posts still include:
The series of links I've collected in Writing the City contain so many nuggets of wisdom and make up some of the most searched items on my blog. Joel Kotkin's Rise of the Ephemeral City, though highly critical of some of the new sacred cows, in the end reminds us that when we think about urban design and planning we have to focus on the fundamentals; sidewalks, streets and schools. Simple. Well, sort of.

Lots of new blogs on the scene here in Buffalo in 2005. Craig and Jennifer do a much better job of keeping people up to date on these things than I ever could. A super snarky suburban blogger has now banned my comments, so high-school - I know. Yet, the blogosphere is a better place with dramatic changes and integration taking place. Some of these developments are collected under the expanding rubric called Web 2.0 applications. This next generation of web activity can best be viewed using the Firefox 1.5 browser which is totally compatible with the wysiwyg editor from Performancing, the coolest extension to the world's best browser. Bloggers, check that out!

Flickr remains the photo archiving and sharing site of choice. Some of the coolest pics of Buffalo can be found here while searching the tags for Buffalo. Riot Sauce and Cacemphaton are some of the most prolific posters. We're having a Flickr meet-up in January, let me know if you want to attend. Check this out, to learn more about what you can do with Flickr.
Erie Basin Marina Sailing Sun-almost-set Erie Basin Marina

DSCN0414 DSCN0461 DSCN0053 DSCN0394
Two other Web 2.0 apps that I'm all over right now include del.icio.us and Writely; on-line apps which are collaborative, productive easy to use and free. Del.icio.us is all about sharing bookmarks with tags and Writely is a web based word processor allowing you to publish and share documents.

I made the decision back in September 2004 to start blogging about my neighborhood here in this little corner of Masten on the City's East Side. A totally abandoned City owned local-landmark still sits a block away. Not much has changed with that. Yet, there is now a new youth center across the street and the high school diagonally across from the Woodlawn Row Houses will be home soon to Performing Arts Hight School. So the Woodlawn Row Houses, I guess are officially on the local radar!

100's of posts and thousands of visitors later this blog has grown into a unique slice of documenting Buffalo's historic past, recent decline and pending reemergence as center of vitality. Consider a resolution for 2006! Focus on your neighborhood, something down the block, an aspect of Buffalo's local history that inspires you. Put it in writing or start taking pictures...and start blogging about Buffalo today!

Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faq

Taking On Neglect...

Here's a new buffalo blog making a year end entrance. New Buffalo Enforcers is taking on problem property all over the City. They are starting with Carl Paladino...

Don't know who's behind Buffalo's latest blog, yet it confirms in my mind that there's a renewed optimism here in Buffalo for openly being critical of our sacred cows.
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faqmy flickr


Slumlord Extradition, Joy Drati...

I first started covering the Joy Drati case rather late in the game this past March. He bounced from Buffalo, on a reduced bail that was secured by a property bond no less, and seems like he's been hiding out in San Francisco recently, according to this San Fransisco Examiner story. One local community activist told me this evening that the extradtion of Drati back to Buffalo sets a new high water mark for Judge Nowak in Buffalo City Housing Court. "It's a warning," she said.

Here's a list of current Drati property in the City of Buffalo. 27 at last count. They are all titled under JDMAX Homes, LLC.

I spoke with Michele Johnson this afternoon. You'll remember that she's the Housing Court Liaison for Broadway/Fillmore. She repeated the sentiment of the one housing activist that praised Judge Nowak's efforts in pursuing this extradition. From what I've learned about this for an extradtion to proceed it requires the support of two governors. So kudos to the Terminator and our very own Pataki in helping to get the job done.

There is another Fugitive from Judge Nowak's Housing Court living in Redwood City, CA where Drati was living. Here's the story. Last time I checked, Hamilton and Lydia Woods are still fugitives and haven't paid a penny yet for the demolition of their house at 242 Koons Avenue. Perphaps a friendly reminder here on the Redwood City, CA portion of Craigslist is in order.

Here's the Lexis Nexis search that takes us back through the Buffalo News stories about Joy Drati's drama in Housing Court. Here. It unfolds on September 9, 2004 with the condemnation of four Drati buildings on the City's west side.

Armed with a battering ram, a strong police presence and a court order, Buffalo housing inspection officials took on an accused slumlord Wednesday by forcing tenants from four of his West Side properties.
The presence of West Nile virus in stagnant basement water, an infestation of cockroaches and rats, rotting floors and broken plumbing prompted City Housing Court Judge Henry Nowak to order the immediate removal of residents from apartments in the buildings at West Avenue and Maryland Street.
More than a dozen tenants found themselves out on the street and temporarily homeless on a gray, rainy Wednesday as police went from door to door enforcing Nowak's "order to vacate" the 21/2-story, brick and wood structures that are carved into 32 tiny dwellings owned by J.D. Max Homes of San Pablo, Calif. "To put us out like this is not fair. We didn't get a warning. I've got two children. I think it's crazy," said Desiree Ford, who pays $250 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. "It's not up to par here, but it is livable."
Assistant Corporation Counsel Peter J. Savage III disagreed.

In October, expressing his relentless optimism for getting things done, west side "actionist" Harvey Garrett told a Buffalo News reporter:

"I just want the properties fixed," said Harvey Garrett, the West Side Community Collaborative's co-coordinator on crime and safety.

Worst case scenerio, Drati gets jail time and 27 properties come down. At the rate of 10K/demolition that's a cool quarter million we are going to fork over to a demo contractor to clean up this mess. That's less than half the estimated cost of demolishing the Transfiguration Church.

Let's hope that Judge Nowak places Housing Court fugitive Pauline Nowak (no relation) extradition on his list of problem properties!

Let's not forget the other grab this year in Housing Court. Fugitive and notorius Venere Hutchinson and his wife Dana Upcher were picked up in Tenesee by a former classmate, now state trooper. I covered that here (with property descriptions) and a follow-up here.

Mike Calanan, Marilyn Rogers, Dick Kern and the tireless Michele Johnson provided additional background on this post. Their commitment to making this City a better place to live is wildly inspirational. Thanks.

Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faqmy flickr


A Sign of Things to Come...

Bishop Henry Mansell sold the Transfiguration Church for $7000.00 in 1995. Properties on the City's East Side are often sold or "flipped" to unsuspecting buyers at substantially discounted prices. Why? It's obvious. No one wants to get stuck holding the "hot potato." The church made a business decsion and passed the looming deferred maintenance and crumbling structure to some one else. It's happening again, this time abit closer to the heart-beat of New Buffalo. The Immaculate Conception was shuttered last July on Elmwood and Edward with Bishop Kmiec declaring that it was structurally unsound and in urgent need of $800K of repairs.
Transfiguration Church

Transfiguration Church Transfiguration Church Transfiguration Church
The Transfiguration Church, three miles from Elmwood, was first written for Housing Court on March 13, 1997. In the last 8 years Transfiguration has journeyed through Housing Court 61 times and the file, case # 869/97 has seen four seperate Housing Court judges. Judge Broderick passed the file to Judge Devlin who tossed it to Common Council President David Franczyk's brother and finally Judge Fiorella issued a warrant for Pauline Nowak on September 25, 2002. She's an officer of Paul Francis Associates, Inc., the party that bought the crumbling church from Bishop Mansell in October, 1995.
Transfiguration Church - Interior
Transfiguration Church - Interior
click pic to see additional images
Pauline Nowak's son, William Trezevant the (lack of) brains behind the 1995 purchase is an attorney licensed in New York State. He also owns a house here in Buffalo at 247 Georgia in the heart of the West Village. Here's that property record and a google map to help you locate both properties. According to über-West Village Activist Marilyn Rogers, 247 Georgia is in immaculate condition. Pictures soon.

In almost two years on the bench, Housing Court Judge Henry Nowak has not seen the Transfiguration Church file #869/97 in his court room. Why?

When I stopped down to City Hall last week to investigate I had the opportunity to chat with Tracy Krug, the same Buffalo Building Inspector who wrote the property for Housing Court seven years ago. He's inspected the property continously, 26 times since March of 1997, and told me about a new series of complaints, including mine, that will take him back to Transfiguration Church this week. Remember, Tracy is the same Building Inspector supporting Michele Johnson's work in the same Broadway Fillmore neighborhood, the same one where we think Common Council President David Franczyk still lives. Here's a post about their work from last April. Tracy Krug has the security fence installed around front of the property to protect pedestrians from falling debris. Who paid the bill?

It's very unlikely that Transfiguration Church will be saved. I've had numerous conversations with people in the know, who point to the obvious neglect in the larger neighborhood and more specificaly the lack of any meaningful density that might support a resurected church in the neighborhood. The question quickly becomes, who is going to pay for the demolition?

And the larger question, as that unsettled recognition continues to seep into our thinking about where Buffalo and the City's East Side is headed, just how do we manage the second phase of the Catholic Church's downsizing. How do we prevent Bishop Kmiec (don't kid yourself, the decisions have already been made) from simply walking away from buildings. The familiar question, "What is to be done?" is never asked when it comes to the Church and Church property. Possibilities include:
  • Selling 79 Oakland Place, the largest and most expensive residence in the city.
  • Taxing church property that sits vacant for more than 6 months, like they do in Mass.
"We'll have to be transparent, to make people feel
as if we're not concocting something behind their back."
- Bishop Kmiec

Should we let them engage in the Ebay like game of "flipping" their properties to unsuspecting and unqualified buyers. If, I think of 93 additional pro-active things to do with the soon to be abandaned, boarded, derelict and vacant Church properties - I may just march over to 79 Oakland Place, with my "95 things" and nail it to the Bishop's door.

Jim Ostrowski pointed out the most recent casulty of Diocesan Downsizing with his analysis of why Villa Maria High School is closing. Anybody want 75,000sf of loft space on Doat Street? Didn't think so...


Next Summer, The Transfiguration Church will be the third stop on a Preservation Coalition bicycle tour I'm leading, on what some have already called the Tour de Neglect. We will begin near Coe Place and peddle down Dodge Street to the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home - lunch in Buffalo's own MLK Park with park news from the Olmsted People and after lunch we'll head down Sycamore where a local artisan and one of Buffalo's Historians will present the early parish history of Transfiguration church.
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faq


Buffalo Flickr People...
In the past few days there's been a renewed interest in the H-O Grain Elevator here in Buffalo, NY. I'm a big Flickr fan and just noticed that a few fellow urban sleuths were snapping pics, too.
The image “http://static.flickr.com/20/71569522_09644b719a_m.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. The image “http://static.flickr.com/35/71569553_61fbf3cc44_m.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Make sure to check out other photo's in this series from The Urbanation.

And believeinbflo has some cool urban shots, too.
The image “http://static.flickr.com/20/70977607_ccbc495122_m.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Playing around with Flickr always turns up surprising pics. Check out the latest in the category tagged 'buffalo'.

I almost forgot these images. A few weeks ago, while doing research about Coe Place at the UB's School of Architecture and Planning, I spotted this model in the hallway.
DSCN2144 DSCN2143
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faqmy flickr


Perrysburg Still Hostage...

Placing the former and now totally neglected JN Adam Tuberculosis Hospital site on the tax rolls in Perrysburg was dealt a serious blow a few weeks ago. Cattaragus County Judge Larry Himelein sided with preserver of the status quo and presumed Fillmore Avenue resident David Franczyk and Company to deny Tom Trathen's motion for summary judgement in the matter. Here the hotly contested "reverter clause" was upheld and the City of Good Neighobors continues to hold the people of Perrysburg hostage.

Here's the analysis from The Daily Record over in Rochester.
The city [Buffalo - David Franczyk]argued that no discovery had taken place and the property continues to be used for the care and treatment of mentally handicapped persons.

The judge found the city's contention that the property continued to be used to care for mentally retarded persons was sufficient to defeat the instant motion because five original buildings on the J.N. Adam campus continued to be used, until 2004, and all of the people who used the buildings were involved in the care and treatment of mentally retarded patients.

Thus, the court concluded that the 10-year period, if it began at all, did not begin until 2004.

Read the rest of the story as it appeared in The Daily Record and analysis, here. Readers of this blog, no doubt remember some of the background and pics that I've collected about this case. It's another stunning example of municipal malfaesance and a reminder that our City's leadership is beyond crisis, it's in meltdown mode. I've written and archived the back ground material, over here.

Local Buffalo blogger, Craig Howard picked up on the story a few months ago.
...imagine that the tables were turned. Imagine that through some accident of history the City of New York held title to the Outer Harbor and refused to relinquish it unless and until it was developed in an environmentally-friendly manner -- oh, let's say a big park. The economic desperation of Buffalo would mean nothing, of course, because NYC rules.

Can you imagine what David Franczyk (and the environmentalists in Buffalo) would have to say about that?

Free Perrysburg! from Perrysburg Held Hostage - Day 4496
In a related matter, new blogger on the block Jim Ostrowski describes the developing rift between Buffalo's #2 man and presumed Fillmore Avenue resident David Franczyk and the City's Law Department. Check out Jim's analysis, here.

Make sure to include Jim's blog on your daily read...
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faq
Going, Going...
See more of the H-O Grain Elavator pics here, from Michael Calanan. He took these pics on Wednesday evening, 12/7. The guys over at BuffalRising put a few H-O pieces togethere, here and especially here.
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faqmy flickr


A Collaborative Effort...
In case you missed it this week, Bishop Kmiec announced plans that seemed to please nobody, again. Bishop Kmiec unveiled what he called a diocesan "preemtive adaptive re-use plan" for the city's next Catholic church.
Church of the Golden Arch
Dubbed by some local priests as the second in series of planned "McChurches" these "structures" can easily be fitted for fast food, when parish levels drop below 500 families. The Catholic church has recently been criticized by a handful of local east-side residents for not properly taking care of vacant and architecturally significant buildings. Today, construction crews were busy erecting the first sign of this new collaborative effort lead by Bishop Kmiec's vision for New Buffalo and East side residents.

David Franczyk, Common Council President and presumed Fillmore Avenue resident, was busy this week discussing the merits of "preemptive adaptive re-use" of additional Church property. He was seen at the Broadway Market area Burger King expanding on Bishop Kmiec's plans and discussing the matter with Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz from St. Stanislaus Parish. Grosz liked the idea of adding a kiosk next to his new alter. A call to Franczyk's staff confirmed this. Bob, who wouldn't give the reporter his last name, said they were busy checking with sources in Albany for possible funding.

Buffalo's other elected local "preservationist", NYS Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, didn't want to commit himself about the merits of Bishop Kmiec "preemptive adaptive re-use" plans or possible sources for additional funding. "It's pre-mature to comment at this point," Sam said. "Let's wait and see what they plan to do with the green-space before we do anything."

And so it goes... see also Buffalo's first McChurch.
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faq


Gotta Love Flickr...
I've been using Flickr for hosting pics here since May. I've really just begun exploring some of Flickr's possibilities. I've been creating all sorts of slide shows which help emphasize the various points I'm trying to make in my posts. These photos are taken from my favorite collection of other people's photos.
Just recently I noticed this Flickr group, called Buffalo Photo Pool. Check it out as a slideshow when you have a few minutes. Cool views of Buffalo...and some of them are on this side of Main Street.
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faqmy flickr
Further Down Michigan...
Buffalo's near East Side shows continuing signs of rebirth with a new retail outlet for NAPA auto parts. A corner that has been dormant for decades has turned around in the past 3 weeks. It's now home to a company that has been here in the Buffalo area for 75 years. And while most new east side buisnesses such as Tops on Jefferson Avenue use that wonderfully creative suburban strip mall design, the folks at NAPA stayed with the old.

NAPA...My nomination for the Preservation community's corporate citizen of the year award!!!
Michigan Avenue & Genesse Street

Michigan Avenue & Genesse Street DSCN2153
click to enlarge
You can create a shopping list on-line by visisting NAPA-OnLine and get all your questions ready before stopping in. Give it a shot some evening before heading home and jumping on the 33 on your way home to Amherst and Clarence, and just stop by and pick up a few gallons of wiper fluid, dry-gas or a new set of jumper cables.

And don't worry about parking issues, you'll probably run into parents whose children attend two of Buffalo's charter schools, next door and across the street from the near east side's newest retail venture.
WNY Maritime Charter School Pinnacle Charter School
The bustling 1930's Buffalo street scene was designed by Blair Rusin. Check out the rest of his work here at ArtbyBlair.

Pretty cool place when you consider that most retail stores like this are pretty much "cookie-cutter" by design and use that clever concrete block for construction. In this case the NAPA design department decided to adaptively re-use an existing building that could easily have been knocked down. Here's what the Buffalo News had to say yesterday:

Napa stores are pretty much cookie cutter with everything predetermined, but this was the exact opposite. Everything had to be customized to fit into the space and around the pillars. It gives it a lot of character and a nostalgic feel," he said.

Another non-standard touch is the exterior wall mural that rises above the store on the adjoining building. Napa hired local artist Blair Rusin to come up with a 1930s scene of a bustling downtown Buffalo to give the site additional flair.

Read the rest of the Buffalo News story, here in the archives.
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faq


Fix Buffalo in Buffalo Spree...

I totally forgot to mention that Anna Hausmann over at Buffalo Spree mentioned this little Masten neighborhood blog in a recent issue of Buffalo Spree Magazine. Some of the bigger blogs were mentioned, too. Here's the piece.
Fix Buffalo – This site focuses almost exclusively on structures on the East Side owned by the city, especially the Woodlawn Row Houses in the Masten District, which have fallen into disrepair. The author saves a great deal of his ire for the City of Buffalo, which owns many of the properties he highlights. The city is apparently immune from any sort of action to reverse its demolition by neglect. The site and blog focus on the beautiful vernacular architecture of the East Side and advocates to end the blight that plagues the neighborhood.
Thanks Anna. Looking forward to bringing some suburban Buffalo Spree readers along on the Preservation Coalition's Tour de' Neglect in the late Spring and early Summer months.
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faqmy flickr