Sick Yet? - Part II

As the true costs associated with the latest urban planning debacle continue to mount over at Sycamore Village - site assembly, environmental remediation, cost of law-suits with MJ Peterson and property tax abatements for new (sub)-urban property owners - it's looking closer to a 9 million dollar project with costs/house hovering somewhere around 400-500K.
I swear, I did not photoshop this pic. Just as I found it. Visited Sycamore Village in late August - Sick Yet - with links to all sorts of background information about the place.
The question of course is where are the new home owners going to come from? Hamlin Park? Have heard lots of talk - mostly people towing the Mayor's line - that people are actually going to move here from the suburbs. Comps and recent neighborhood foreclosure activity simply say, invest elsewhere. And last time the City forced the housing market on a contaminated site, that's right the Hickory Woods settlement is still pending, last time I checked.
ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row Housesfaqmy flickr
the creativity exchangetop ten or eleven


Anonymous said...

43% of Buffalo's children living below the poverty level and this is the way the Brown administration deals it?
$200,000 +/- housing? This makes no more sense than $12 million dollars an hour on Iraq!

Are you sick yet? How much more are we going to take? Like the war, this development doesn't make sense from whatever perspective one looks at it. And on top of that.....it doesn't even have one iota of curb appeal. And speaking of curbs, aren't they usually installed after the heavy equiptment has left the area.

Anonymous said...

The way I understand the remediation is that ALL of the soil has been removed and replaced down to bedrock. That means that ALL of the contamination has been removed. This is not hickory woods. I am not sure that it is fare to say that the cost of the remediation is part of the subsidy per house. The city benefits when a brown field is reclaimed. It is much more fare to look at this as a clean up project and a housing project that are separate but share the same site.

Anonymous said...

Dug down four feet, capped with clay, back filled with rubble (see dug up "dirt" in David's photograph), covered with topsoil, sprayed with green grass in a bag, and left to grown. People living around Hickory Woods and the Love Canal were also told the soil was cleaned up. Why take the chance?

fixBuffalo said...


As you can see from pics in this post from April 2006 environmental remediation was actually superficial and didn't go to any bedrock layer.

Later posts clearly show that any 'clay cap' and membrane that was placed on the site has been clearly punctured by all sorts of subsequent digging.

The more interesting question - do a google flyover of the area between genesee and sycamore from michigan to spring - becomes why aren't we finishing neighborhoods closer to the core and building on existing assets.

So many questions...

Anonymous said...


As you know I am not in favor of these scatter-shot projects. I am just saying what I have been told is that the remediation went to bedrock (which is very close to the surface in many parts of Buffalo. I am also saying that remediation should be separated from the development cost. Remediation is a way to return safe land to the city for new use weather it be a park or new houses.

I should also say that I don't think new construction in and of its self on the east side is bad even in light of the massive abandonment and vacancies. The problem is when it is done without any plan or goal in mind. Jane Jacobs said that any vibrant neighborhood needs a mix of old and new construction to be sustainable.

fixBuffalo said...


Big fan of the 'new'...amazing infill models on parts of Hickory Street, for example.

Agree with Jane and your take on her work. So why not complete the neighborhood between Genesee/Scymaore - Michigan/Spring?

Here's what Sycamore Village looked like a year ago - Greening of Buffalo

Anonymous said...


your New Orleans blog-cousin

Anonymous said...

Whoever said that remediation work was done to bedrock at this site was not speaking the truth. I have driven by this site almost daily for the past twenty three years and I never saw bedrock. Bedlam yes, bedrock never.

I don't object to newbuilds at all. In fact, as an East Side resident I would welcome newbuilds! But I'm tired of the same old crap with their rotting porch posts, wafer board subfloors, cracking foundation walls, and leaking roofs.

I propose giving Buffalo ReUse $200,000 + and see what kind of a house they could come up with reusing materials, home grown labor, and a massive dose of creativity. Isn't it time we tried something different?

Planning? What an interesting concept! Do you mean that people actually think about the future and consequences of their decisions? There isn't much of that going on around here but I'm all for it.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure how Bruce and FixBuffalo can claim that they know the level of remediation by a drive by assessment. From what Wanamaker claims, the soil cleaning standards here go way beyond what is required by the State and that the soils at Syc Village are the most likely the cleanest in the City. I do agree that this type of project has minimal impact on an area that needs quite a lot of investment. I am much more in favor of the infill and redevelopment projects that are advocated on this site, but I also think its foolish to claim that the soils are dirty just through what is seen upon visitation of the site.

Anonymous said...

bflobr is absolutely correct, I cannot claim to know the level of soil contamination (or lack thereof) by visual examination of the site! My knowledge of heavy metal soil contamination is limited to lead, zinc, and antimony gained through three years of community organizing activity in neighborhoods surrounding two lead smelting/refining operations in the city of Toronto. I believe that SUNYAB's Dr. Henry Taylor has far greater knowledge of heavy metal contamination and its health effects on East Side residents than I do.

The main thrust of my arguement was, "why take the chance?" Why build housing on what was once contaminated soil? As David points out, there are so many other choices that make better sense.

But hey, I really don't care. I'm not going to buy a house there and I'm not going to be around in fifty years. If some scam artist has figured out a new way to clothe the emperor, who am I to say he's naked?

Anonymous said...

Remediation done at city siteBusiness First of Buffalo
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The environmental clean-up of the Sycamore Village site in Buffalo has been completed, making the area ready for residential redevelopment, according to an announcement by the city and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The $1.3 million clean up consisted of removing lead, mercury and other contaminants from the site at the corner of Sycamore Street and Jefferson Avenue on the East Side.

Soil was removed to the bedrock; garage floors and walkways of three new, unoccupied homes on the site were demolished to remove the soil below; two structures also were razed and the area was refilled and seeded.

The location had been home over the years to a soft drink bottling company, a sheet metal works, dry cleaners, junk and salvage business and an auto repair facility. It is next door to the former location of the recently razed Buffalo Forge manufacturing plant.

The proposed future use of the Sycamore Village site is residential, according to the city and DEC.


Anonymous said...

There is no way to fix Buffalo (and its schools) without attracting a larger middle class. Chances of it happening without a push from subsidized developments are small.

For years we had the government subsidiaing the buidling of homes for the poor in the cities while subsidizing the moving of the middle class out to the suburbs with FHA policies and highway buidling (be it green feild suburban ones or neighborhood decimating urban ones)To say that the city does not deserve subsidies to re-attract a middle class is rather unfair, for the lack of a better word at this time.

Add in an education policy that says you must go to school in the district where you live and you get the mess we have today in the city schools. No matter how well a school is run, if it is filled with povery laden children from broken homes it will underperform. So what do we get? People must move to new neighborhood to put thier kids in a better school thus widening the schools performance gap and now the health of the neighborhoods as a whole. This was made even worse through school desegragation which magically ended at the city line. In trying to desegragate by race they also did it by class since blacks as a whole were poorer than whites. What options did parents have than to move to the burbs where they were immune to the desgregation (since they have hardly any minorities to descriminate against so their was no need to desegregate). Another gov't policly putting a nail in the urban coffin. No longer could a good city neighborhood be chosen to be assured a good school.

These are just a couple ways the gov't puts the city at a disadvantage. Then it complains because it has to put in money to fix it's mistakes? These are the policies that gave the cushey class segragation upper hand to the outlaying suburbs. So these subsidies were ok since it was to their benefit but ones for the city are not ok?

Money should be spent here in subsidies. But it should be spent in a planned way, something we have seen very little of. It is great to finally see an urban design with alley driveways, small lots all clusteded together. Although a little farther way from the core than I would like, it is still rather close and near existing in-fill new builds. These are not cheap in-fill next to vacant older houses which is at high risk for default and loss of value. Look at the large new build clusters like those between Michigan, William and Clinton. I don't ever recall seeing any sitting empty and falling apart like those that are relatively excluded on some vacating side street. This Sycamore Village" setup should create some kind of synergy being built all together. With the other surface lots and the old forge site empty near by, land exists to coninue to add to this new density while hopefully shoring up the value of other new builds that exist near by. I wish there were plans laid out for phase 2, 3, etc to see a longer range vision. There are peope that want new built homes. They ahould be offered.

Topping on the cake would be a neighborhood school. Its a shame that Buffalo can't separate into multiple school districts to ensure neighborhood schools. It would be a huge draw that one can get in the 'burbs, but not in the city do to tilted policies.

As we can see though these suburban policies that fueled thier growth will also fuel thier own demise. The sickness is evendent in the disinvestment of Cheektowaga at the city line. The higher classes will keep moving outward because we subsidize it, and progressively lower classes will replace them until land goes vacant like the east side of Buffalo. Right now this type of deveopment on the back side of this wave is one of the few options to regenerate seeing that the other self-destructive policies are not going to change any time soon.

Anonymous said...

"urban living in a suburban setting" !!!!! Wow. Is there a need to say more?

Shouldn't it be more like "suburban living in an urban setting", complete with urban amenities like drugs, crime, etc., and without retail, green space, etc. Perhaps that is promised at some future date.

They will need round-the-clock guards to keep the copper, the cabinets, furnaces, water heaters and everything else that isn't nailed, screwed and glued down from disappearing. I wonder if the cost of security will be included in the "market rate" price?