I’ve written about Buffalo and Western New York quite a bit over the last few weeks and — if I didn’t notice — I would have done it some more. Didn’t you hear the Olympics are coming to Buffalo? Isn’t the overwhelming need for adult playgrounds within city limits crippling this area’s economy?
No, but it would have been nice to make fun of.
I could have regaled you with stories of the 37-story building about to be built in the Toronto parking lot next to Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant. Or the 40-story building going up across the street from it at the expense of a nice, brick building that looks kind of old. Or the Caribbean Festival blocking off every major road necessary for me to find the Molson Amphitheater and watch The Black Keys on Saturday. It could have been a grandiose example of a city where things are happening and growth is exponential. Or something.
We already know the differences between a big city like Toronto and a place like Buffalo. The theme doesn’t need restating. What matters now is changing the Buffalo we currently have, because it can be better. A lot better. It’s a fun thing to think about, a better Buffalo, but most times the discussion gets messy pretty quickly.
The thing is, discussion kind of blows. Opinions and feelings and tweets fly around and nothing really gets accomplished because no one is actually in a position to do anything. Instead, we watch people bitch about a Panera Bread replacing a Blockbuster on Elmwood like it means something. It does not.
Real effort should be put into getting the people who can do things to do them, and this piece by Andrew Kulak at Artvoice is a good example of just that. Andrew calls out the NFTA for the horrible state of the metro in downtown Buffalo, most notably at the developing Canalside near First Niagara Center. Gratuitous quotegrab below:
The “Aud Station” is a rotting eyesore, with peeling paint, tumbledown platforms, and garish sports art that might have blended well when the Aud was steps away, but looks hideously out of place today. The track bed is crumbling and unsafe to cross over. The red tile pavers are uneven and falling apart. And sadly, the designers and builders of One Canalside are unable to move forward with their arterials and road plan for their new building, while the fate of the Aud Station remains in limbo.
The “Special Events Station” is no panacea either. Patrons have little protection from the elements in the cold weather, yet amazingly, hockey fans pack the rail cars in droves and Metrorail is a key component in delivering people to the First Niagara Center whenever something is going on. With the construction of the new building on the Webster Block, what a great opportunity this would be to build a permanent rail station on the west side of Main Street, and connect that with wide, weather-protected overpasses into the new structure and then across Perry Street into the arena pavilion. Climate controlled access into a sports venue is not a novel or unique concept – Montreal’s Bell Centre has a subway station right underneath the arena; in Washington DC, the Verizon Center is served by a Metro station. New York’s Madison Square Garden sits atop Penn Station and is connected to the city and the world. Why not here in Buffalo?
The NFTA needs to step up; they need to take part in planning and development discussions with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, the City, and the private investors who now have or will soon have a stake in Buffalo’s waterfront. And they need to respond.
This is a pretty big issue that has seen little press. While the opening up of Main Street to vehicle traffic is focused on the 600 block at the moment, there is little concern for the existing lines and what will happen when Canalside actually becomes, well, Canalside. Is there a responsibility for the NFTA to make improvements to its footprint downtown?
I don’t know, and I guess that’s the point. Andrew suggests there should be pressure on the NFTA to do something that will help the other development entities form plans around the reconfigured station footprint. He even suggests a politician — Tim Kennedy — that may be able to actually make something happen.
I’m not sure if that’s true, but I trust Andrew’s political and infrastructural authority, and I hope he’s right. I’m glad he wrote a piece that offers a new discussion point, one that may actually be productive rather than point out the same old things with a bit more volume. I’m tired of the yelling and arguing that plagues everything we do here. Words can only do so much, sure, but far too often we settle for them doing nothing at all.
While we’re here, go read this speech called Delivering the Next Economy in the Buffalo-Niagara Region (via Alan Bedenko). It’s long and interesting and definitely a must-read if you live in Western New York. I am admittedly behind the eight ball when it comes to understanding the economics of this region and what needs to be done to improve things. Reading that is a good start.
I am growing tired of arguing, but most of all I’m tired of arguing blind. This place is worth talking about. For most of us, it is home. We should all have something worth saying when it’s time to speak up.