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Links of the Day:

– Buffalo is creating an “urban prairie” by knocking down so many vacant buildings. There are concerns the city doesn’t have a master plan and has haphazardly vacated entire blocks. The Buffalo News reports:

“It’s a ghost town. They just move the crane right down the street.”

Mayor Byron W. Brown’s administration has been on a demolition spree, with a goal of knocking down 5,000 buildings in five years, including those owned by private individuals and city redevelopment agencies. Coming on the heels of the Masiello administration, which demolished thousands more, a lot of buildings have come tumbling down.

“Other than Detroit, I don’t know any city that does the magnitude of demolitions that Buffalo does,” said David Mazur, president of Empire Dismantlement on Grand Island.

Rochester does have a plan. Project Green would strategically demolish entire streets. It may involve relocating residents. But the plan appears to be sitting on a shelf.

When I did a story about a request for proposals that would green a section of E. Main St., a city spokesman sent me and my boss a scathing email. He claimed I was mischaracterizing Project Green as a “scorched earth” policy. Clearly, City Hall is uncomfortable discussing the plan.

Buffalo is avoiding some demolitions by selling homes to people for $1 through a HUD program. Rochester has done this in the past. But the numbers are very small. I’d be interested in seeing if the program could be expanded, though giving away houses could present other challenges.

– The Buffalo teachers union fight against teacher evaluations that do not exclude absent students has the support of teachers statewide. This fight will likely come to Rochester if the state doesn’t relent.

– This is the Syracuse version of the Inner Loop. The city is debating what to do with the urban section of I-81. It could be a tunnel or a regular boulevard.

– Anyone can now broadcast on the Internet. Google announced an upgraded hangouts. I want to try this on The Rochesterian. What do you think of weekly video chats?

9 Responses to Demolition Debate

  1. I so miss having a beef on wick and a 15 cent Blatt’s beer draft at old man Strinka’s town and gown bar on the corner of Filmore and Delevan.

    Of course, you had to watch out with the studying at the bar after midnight when the Chevy and Ford plants second shifts emptied into the bar for their nightly plum brandy shots and beers. They didn’t take so well to open textbooks taking up bar space on their turf.

    Once you got to know them they would tolerate a paperback at the bar.

  2. Being a Buffalo resident now, I love that story, Ben!

    Rachel, in 2007 I got pulled into a committee with Joni Monroe of the Design Center & Joan Roby-Davidson of 14621 & some residents working on an anti-demo, pro-rehab plan for the Conkey-Clifford neighborhood. Plan never made it through City Hall.

    If you’re planning any further coverage of demo vs. rehab in Rochester, Joni & Joan would be good sources of info.

    Since moving to Buffalo I’ve worked on rehab of 3 houses rescued from the demo list — in some cases, with great difficulty. None of them should have been on the list in the first place — a couple were because the City had seized them for use for drug sales, or an illegal chop shop.

    Properly mothballed & monitored, a vacant house can be kept for some time until it can be rehabbed, without negatively impacting the neighborhood. In fact, after getting offline I’m heading to the vacant house next door to pull up carpets and get some interior debris staged for bulk trash pickup. Another “rescue” house nearby that I worked on is a cute cottage-style house with beautiful gothic woodwork — sold a year ago to a first-time homebuyer for $16,000 (the cost to buy it off the demo list & for materials necessary to bring it back to saleable condition).

    Another interesting question for Rochester City Hall is why they had no interest in applying to the state for a landbank under the excellent landbank legislation passed last July. It was masterminded & co-sponsored by a Buffalo assemblyman & a Syracuse senator. Both Buffalo (Erie County) & Syracuse submitted applications in March in time for the deadline. Rochester? No interest by City Hall, as I’ve heard. Why would this be so important to the cities an hour east & west on the Thruway, but not to Rochester–? That beacon of good government & progressive ideas & what not–? Oh, wait — that was then, this is now.

    • Yo, I’m back from chores and thought I’d use up some of R’s graciously provided WordPress spectrum with the following comments which may help you acculturate to your new Buffalo experience:

      An aside first: you prolly know RaChaCha was first coined by the folks that did the unofficial Rochester Sesquicentennial parody poster.

      We called the fella that owned Strinka’s “Papa Strink.” He came over here to BUF because of WWII disruptions in his homeland, Poland. His lead bartender, Don, was a WWII vet who happened to get stationed in occupied-Japan after V-J Day, was held over and transferred to Korea in 1948. Ended-up pulling 7 years instead of 4 and had war stories about both conflicts I’ve not heard anyone have since.

      Niagara Street had some of the best restaurants and night life in the town when I was there.

      U of B had the most let your hair down beer blasts at the old Washington Hall downtown that one could legally have back then. The coppers had a sense of humor and if they saw you were having a hard time getting back to the dorm they’d give you a ride back to them.

      The Anchor Bar truly had the original BUF wings at the bar. It was right down the road from CanQui and had jazz on weekend nites.

      The Chippawa district, before it got yuppized along with the Elmwood neighborhoods, was a unique mixture of bohemian, beatnik and early hippie along with hardcore urban decandence. Real coffee houses with beatniks spouting Kerowac-like poety to a glazed-over, expresso-sipping crowd wearing peacoats and berets.

      And, then of course, there was the Park Meadow Lounge, The Parkside Candy/soda shop on Main and Anderson’s Ice Creame out in the burbs.

      I saw that you were behind Buffalo Rising on the Mustard Street blog page. Nice.

      I have included it on my Upstate Digital Post blog @ UDP .

      Wish you the best in the Queen City.

  3. RaChaCha: from memory: every gas crisis (for two of which I was still in ROC city gov,) it was touted that the soaring pump prices would re-envigorate economic interest in city living, including the recovery of abandoned inner-city vancan land and structures. It never happened.

    Other economic forces always seem to trump the commute and convenience theories for center-city living that doesn’t involve a goodly amount of gentrification.

    I swear, if there ever is a true crisis in personal auto transpotation costs caused by pump prices, there’ll be serious computer driven, subsidized park-and-ride and car-pooling efforts, personal shuttle bus routes in sub-urban tracts, large employers sponsered cross-town shuttles and other stuff we haven’t thought about yet – all in an effort to not have suburban housing values collapse more than they already have for its middle and upper class property tax payers.

  4. May 8, 2012 at 11:27 am Mike responds:

    “Other economic forces always seem to trump the commute and convenience theories for center-city living that doesn’t involve a goodly amount of gentrification.”

    I agree although I don’t think it’s all economic forces, but mostly social and political forces. We’ve subsidized and encouraged sprawl for decades – if it was purely up to economic forces we would see a return to cities and inner ring suburbs.

  5. Mike, your’s is only one valid way to look at the reality of urban sprawl. Politically sponsored subsidies are only one part of overall housing marketplaces within which sythetic direct and indirect government interventions exist.

    One theory that admits the overall marktet forces at work when choosing urban, sub-urban, ex-urban (rim) and rural free living choices frames the consumer decision (with or without public subsidies) as a trade-off between time and space. Sprawl can be blamed on people trading the higher cost of space, both lot and occupiable living space, vis-avis any savings caused by living in smaller spaces with nearby conveniences and reduced transportation costs.

    So far, consumers in substatial numbers have been unwilling to trade living space for reduced transportation costs and close proximity to needed other spaces.

    And one thing you can take to the bank, they will never do it in great numbers if the trade to smaller spaces does not provide the entire gambit of cost saving conveniences expected from a vibrant urban center, including everything from grocery stores to funeral homes.

  6. May 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm Mittens responds:

    Project Green = ruralization

  7. May 9, 2012 at 11:42 am Mike responds:


    Thank you for your interesting and thoughtful response. I freely admit that there are economic factors at play and think the initial growth of the suburbs was driven largely by the desire for living space and making the trade off you describe. And it’s true that since buying or renting housing is a transaction you can always use economics to describe the decision process.

    My point was that framing the continuing suburban sprawl as being driven by simple economic forces, which your initial post seemed to be doing to a large degree, is to ignore the role of socioeconomic prejudice, political choices, etc.

  8. Thanks, Mike. I must have had a senior moment while writing the reply. The urban economic theory I referred to is (was?) called the “space-time” cost theory, namely, whether folks were more willing to spend more for space of to save valuable time when making housing choices. There’s supposed to be a continuum that can be hypothetically charted of what and where those costs are in a typical metro-region, skewered of course by relative incomes of the household, life-style biases and simple things like school systems.

    The Browncroft neighborhood in the City was a fine example of folks opting for space over time years ago strating in the ’20’s.

    However, the original marketing brochures for the lots all mentioned adaptation of the streets and lot widths to the auto as well as the convenient access to the troyy at East & Winton near the turnaround by The Brighton Inn.

    So, it did go both ways early on in sprawl.

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