Terry Robinson - Fixing the Kensington - Part IV

Terry Robinson grew up in the Humboldt Parkway neighborhood. He graduated from Calasanctius High School in 1972 and studied political economy at Princeton and Harvard. He lives with his wife on Humboldt Parkway. Terry's many activities in the community include being a trustee of Preservation Buffalo Niagara.


I sat down with Terry in the backyard of his Humboldt Avenue home that's directly across the street from the Kensington. The podcast's first seven minutes of q&a are followed by Terry's favorite childhood reflection about growing up on Humboldt Parkway.
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Chris Hawley said...

This is really compelling. Bravo!

STEEL said...

The description of the parkway is amazing. Any suburbanite looking to save ten minutes off the commute that they Chose to have should be forced to listen to this before they demand that this highway remain. If that does not change their mind they should be told to go F#@# themselves

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy about this! The symbolism and opportunities implicit in this connection could catalyze a new era in race relations within the region. I think they should do it right and fill it in, otherwise they will never achieve mature trees of the majesty described by Mr. Robinson. It's also important to acknowledge that Buffalo's architectural/ landscape architectural heritage is one of it's greatest assets. Buffalo is truly a museum of American style. Opportunities to restore urban legacies like this are rare. Buffalo faces a precedent setting opportunity here. Do it right; fill it in!

Unknown said...

One only has to look at Detroit as the archetype of urban disintegration - via the highway - to see how roadways like the 33 are socially destructive. The midcentury construction of highways - ie: escape chutes - out to the suburbs made escaping - and ignoring - the city convenient and all too easy. In essence, the economy that built Detroit - the automobile - was ultimately responsible for it's destruction. In a rather sad irony, the first ring suburbs out there are beginning to look like the core itself as the mass that once was a city fragments and pushes it's way out into farmland -- and urban farming becomes a salvational response to the urban disintegration. On the flip side, the vacuous scapes of tract housing in the land of failed real estate speculation (Las Vegas, Ft. Meyers..) are looking less attractive as McMansions sit foreclosed and vacancy takes over entire subdivisions. Logic has it - and time has proven - that as a city becomes more livable, more people want to live there (see the reverse migrations back into NYC, Boston, etc.). So as we rethink, re-envision and relocate back to cities are all these escape chutes necessary?

olcott_beach said...

I know the adage of 20-20 hindsight may be the echoing of naysayers reading this blog but I cannot fathom, in all consciousness, that the political officials, who agreed to the wanton destruction of a tree lined dual carriageway, didn’t know that the eventual outcome was not going to bisect the City of Buffalo.

I do know that racism played a factor in this scheme as the Kensington Project was referred too locally as “Negro Removal” as cited by Business First.

I nearly incited a riot from a supervisor one time when I referred to Robert Moses as an asshole based on the fact that his parkway escalated the (eventual) demise of Niagara Falls. Her argument was that he was a genius in helping traffic flow more freely throughout New York City – well, hell, there is a universe of difference between a metropolis like New York City and Niagara Falls – duh! (and I really hope she is reading this – dumbass).

The parallel is that the Robert Moses still exists with the exception of the section that once ran through the park.

It is the highway to nowhere or where we use to blow the carbon out of our carburetors back in the days we had carburetors and the local police could care less if we were exceeding the speed limit on this desolate stretch of tarmac!

My favorite stretch of the Robert Moses extends from 104 in Kuckville (yes, laugh, it is actually called Kuckville) to Rochester where the only novelty is an abandoned medina sandstone building which originally housed what – tourist directions?

The State of New York is plagued with bad decisions from a period of time when there was plenty of tax money to squander.

Those days are over and we are all forced to live with the scars from the past.

The Kensington is not going away anytime soon

FixerUpper said...

In 1919, my father was six; our family's home was at the junction of 133 and 98; I always look as I pass at 55; while merging with traffic. it was a gorgeous home, with ornate trim like hanging wreaths of flowers everywhere.
How nice; at 55mph.
Sometimes, I give it the gas, and fly through at 90, on my Ninjabike.

Sad sad sad.
The magic of trees; grass; lawns; in Buffalo seems the ironic twist of punishment of a society; while we listened to 'They paved paradise and put up a parking lot', it was really happening. They did it.

We moved out to the country where there WAS grass and trees; it's where I played in the woods.

Olmstead knew there must be places for people to go, who live in cities; parks; 're'creation.

It's a no-brainer.


We thought computers would change the world for the better; til spammers, identity thieves and government used them to control us.

We thought Niagara falls would bring prosperity to our area; why not? WE LIVE HERE; like Iran Iraq, Saudis; they prosper from where they live.

The Humboldt park system was intended for a wealthy, naturally endowed people; Buffalo was prime for its location; as reasons for wealth went away, so did our power over what we have and how we live.

Buffalo is impoverished, not only from progress, but from selfish manipulations by the rich and powerful.

Here are two steps to the plan for resurgence and renewal:

1. Form a group to take over the Niagara Power Plant;
2. restructure and raise cost for electricity shipped four hundred miles to NYC, etc. (maybe they'll start putting up windmills instead)
3. give free electricity to every company that will relocate here, and free to every resident;
4. build tunnels in the high speed 33 and 98 ditches;
5. run conveyor belts in the tunnels, from specific bakery and brewery locations to area neighborhoods;
6. send dougnuts and beer on the conveyors to the people.
7. oh, yeah, then fill in with dirt over the tunnels, and plant cashew trees, cause I like cashews. Ok, whatever.(I know they won't grow here.)
PS, don't use astroturf on top, nice as it looks. use grass and hire a couple of guys to ride mowers to keep it nice.
There's the pllan. Simple.

Unknown said...

What do you call 100 Urban Planners at the bottom of Lake Erie?

A good start. har har.

We should feel fortunate that some other Brilliant Plans didn't go through, such as the 1946 expressway up Michigan, across the Harvard/Oxford area, and right through Forest Lawn.... or the 1957 plan to stick Delaware into a tunnel under Delavan, also partly through Forest Lawn (someone didn't like cemeteries, apparently)

FixerUpper said...

Cool as tunnels are, they have huge drawbacks; like homeless in them to keep warm, up north anyway; ventilation MUST be appropriate, even for emergencies, like car crashes, hazardous vehicle issues, etc; many times more air is needed than just air to breathe down there. Huge. That takes fans, power, etc. All of a sudden it's something that costs big money just to operate and 'be' there. I designed airflow for a 70,000 square foot facility; it takes lots of cost for air. Then there are leaks... water, sumps, pumps.
Ok, well this was a discussion on what to do with big ditches here. What about rerouting scajaquada creek down the 33? That'd be nice. Renting kayaks and paddleboats to get to work downtown, or ferries? BTW< The interview here was very good to hear; actual experience of an educated, articulate man describing what 'was'. Good guys have to stick together, to get good things done.
And, yes, it's a good thing some of the wayward ideas haven't been able to happen; just look at the results of plans that took away what was great; and left parking lots instead. Silver Creek had a GREAT Victorian school; gone for a parking lot; then there's the Larkin offices. So, sometimes we're lucky when a plan fails; hmmm, too bad they don't fail BEFORE demolition begins. It's easy to take down; not easy to put up.

Just Let It Go said...

FixxerUpper, lets be friends! I'm moving to Buffalo soon and you seem cool. What I like about your comments is that you are at least presenting solutions. they are funny solutions, but I think that's a great place to start. Sometimes when you get silly and creative, that's where the best ideas come from. I mean, the concept of donuts and beer flowing freely through the city and great gardens being planted is actually a great idea, and it can be done. Perhaps not with conveyor belts, but in other ways. And that certainly would make Buffalo a more liveable place for me.