Archived entries for Buffalo
The older I get, the less into Christmas I get. Although I enjoy the hunt for the perfect gift for special people in my life, I am admittedly uncomfortable receiving gifts anytime of the year. I’m too modest — really! I think there are far too many good causes that are worthy of our money. A few for your consideration:
At a recent benefit in the West Village (hosted by Tom Fontana at his spectacular former New York Public Library-turned-apartment), I discovered that I’m not the only young New Yorker who is obsessive about Buffalo’s park system (though I may be the only one who didn’t grow up in Buffalo). The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is a great, little-known cause that is working to restore the grandeur of Frederick Law Olmsted’s parks, a comprehensive system first proposed for Manhattan that was never carried out here — Olmsted reportedly said New York didn’t have the vision for it, so he went to Buffalo to work his magic. The Conservancy is not only returning parks to their original state — how they looked and flowed before urban renewal destroyed many of them — but they’re doing it all while running the day-to-day operations of the city’s parks after Buffalo transferred stewardship to them. Turns out a private group can do it better — and more cheaply than the city government. Imagine that.
I can’t think of a better cause in New York than the Ali Forney Center, the shelter for homeless gay teens. (Even Golden Girls diva Bea Arthur thought so: she left Ali Forney $300,000 in her will earlier this year.) The issue of homeless gay teens is huge — and largely flies under the radar in Chelsea, the center’s home base. I’ve been stirred by the issue ever since reading an incredible New York Times article on Ali Forney a half decade ago. As Carl Siciliano, director of the center told the paper, “I think it’s shameful that these kids are out there alone and in danger, in a city where gay men have so much money.”
Helping them make it through the night [NYT]
For Young Gays on the Streets, Survival Comes Before Pride; Few Beds for Growing Class of Homeless [NYT]
Thousands of New York’s homeless teens live with violence and despair. Ali Forney was one of them [LAT]
I’d like to present today’s Thank you for pointing out the obvious award to The Buffalo News for this headline:
TRANSGENDER CITY WORKER DISMAYED BY INTOLERANCE
No, really? The most interesting thing about the article about Camille Hopkins’ experience at Buffalo City Hall — she was the first person in city government to openly transition from male to female, and it wasn’t received well — is her sharp claim that Buffalo is a city stuck in a “Midwest mentality.” Again, really?
Looks like five-term Buffalo congressman Tom Reynolds will retire at the end of the year. (Remember Tom? He’s the one who was accused of knowing about, but doing nothing about Mark Foley’s transgressions.)
The New York Times says Reynolds’ decision was driven by the “difficult electoral climate that his party is facing this fall.” The Times quotes Reynolds today as saying, simply, it was “time to face reality.”
It’s that time of year again when people (procrastinators) like me spend endless hours ramming through stores trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on ours lists. Maybe you’re like me and continue to come up short. Nothing ever seems like the perfect gift. Especially not for people like my family and friends who already seem to have it all. I’m not yet convinced that the gift-giving thing is all it’s cracked up to be. I’d rather just donate to a fine cause, so, as I’ve done for years, I’m sharing my favs:
BOSTON — Horizons for Homeless Children in Boston works with homeless preschool children. Ten-thousand kids in Massachusetts will be homeless at some point during the year in a state that is America’s third-richest. Spare Change News, part of the Homeless Empowerment Project, provides journalism jobs and income for the homeless and those at-risk of being homeless.
BUFFALO — I may be the only 20-something in New York who supports the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. The Olmsted legacy has shaped Buffalo, and this group has done such an amazing job of preserving the landscape designer’s work that the city actually handed over stewardship of its municipal park system to the group. You can donate $50 and get 50 flower bulbs planted in someone’s name!
MONTREAL — Montreal is truly a city of contrasts: it is Canada’s poorest big city, but also home to the country’s richest enclaves including Westmount, Hampstead, and Beaconsfield. The Old Brewery Mission, which provides homeless adults with meals and shelter, is a good bet.
NEW YORK — The Ali Forney Center serves homeless gay youth in New York City. Carl Siciliano, the director of the center once told The New York Times, “I think it’s shameful that these kids are out there alone and in danger, in a city where gay men have so much money.”
VANCOUVER — Last year I had the opportunity to take part in a fundraiser in Vancouver for the Downtown Eastside Residents Association, an important resource for the poor and homeless of Canada’s most impoverished urban district, and now I’m hooked. One of the cooler services they provide is voicemail for people without phones. It sounds simple, but if you’re without work and/or without a home, you need a number so you can get a job.
Recently two fascinating articles were published profiling the rise and decline and future of Buffalo. Both “Can Buffalo Ever Come Back?” from the New York Sun and “Buffalo bets on” in the Toronto Star provide excellent perspectives on Buffalo’s depressing decline from a 580,000-strong city in the 1950s to today’s city of fewer than 300,000 souls.
Buffalo is undeniably a city of good bones. But as the author of the Sun essay points out, that is part of the reason why Buffalo might never reclaim its glory days. The city is physically far too large for its population, and any growth one might dream of. It simply can’t fill out its vastness. He writes, “The best scenario would be for Buffalo to become a much smaller but more vibrant community—shrinking to greatness, in effect. Far better that outcome than wasting yet more effort and resources on the foolish project of restoring the City of Light’s past glory.”
Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this in Buffalo. For the record, Buffalo has never seen anything like this in Buffalo. I present you with the proposed Parklane condo building which developers hope to erect on the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Gates Circle. I like it a lot. If this 23-storey tower gets approved, which I think it won’t, based on Buffalo’s skewed preservationist-to-realist proportions, I’m not sure there will be much of an appetite for homes ranging from $400,000-$2,000,000 in the Queen City.
Buffalo has never seen anything like this before, and for good reason. Palatial homes (gorgeous ones) can be had for half the price of the Parklane’s smallest units. The new tower will be steps from the famous gilded age mansions along Millionaires’ Row, but the Millionaires long ago decamped for other parts. Who will fill these new apartments? The yuppies of Buffalo? They all up and moved to Charlotte and Atlanta.
Truth be told, I love Buffalo and I know a few yuppies who could easily afford one of these new places. But they never would. The real charm of Buffalo are those affordable, huge homes that big city folk salivate over. Friends who now pay 600 bucks for that big two-bedroom with a backyard won’t be trading up for 1000 sq ft apartment with a (presumably) crazy condo fee. If bringing big city condos to Buffalo is seen as the answer to the city’s economic and brain drain woes, we might have a bigger problem!
The opposition to this tower is immense, and the comment boards on the Buffalo Rising blog are out of control. Here are two thoughts:
“I’m sick and tired of nothing coming to Buffalo because every time some one comes up with a project there are people who don’t like it and protest it. Well keep protesting everything and no one will come and everyone will leave and sooner or later the entire city will turn poor and Buffalo won’t have anything.”
“I’d rather see Buffalo thrive as a living, breathing city than an interpretive history museum. This sexy new highrise will help breathe some new life into an otherwise yawnirific area.”
While Buffalo no longer boasts its own edition of the Social Register, many holdovers of the city’s high society heyday remain. One of those is one my favorite hotels on earth, the Mansion on Delaware, which was just recognized by a Zagat Survey as one of the world’s best hotels! Yay!
Like Rochester, Buffalo has been in the vanguard of historic preservation, and the Mansion on Delaware is a prime example of that — it stood empty for 30 years until being converted to a hotel in 2001.
The hotel is just one of the dozens of palatial homes that line the streets of downtown Buffalo.
Oy vey. It’s December 24 and I haven’t yet begun to deal with holiday shopping. I sent a few cards out yesterday, but the gift thing is beyond me. So as always, I’m going to go the lazy route and give donations in friends’ names instead of gifts. As I’ve done for the past few years in this space, I’m sharing my favs:
BOSTON — The Homeless Empowerment Project in Cambridge is one of my favorite causes. The organization produces Spare Change News, providing jobs, income, and experience for the poor and homeless.
BUFFALO — I love the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy! The Olmsted legacy has shaped Buffalo, and this group has done such an amazing job of preserving the landscape designer’s work that the city actually handed over stewardship of its municipal park system to the group. You can donate $50 and get 50 flower bulbs planted in someone’s name!
MONTREAL — Montreal is truly a city of contrasts: it is Canada’s poorest big city, but also home to a few of the country’s richest enclaves including Westmount, Hampstead, and Beaconsfield. The Old Brewery Mission, which provides homeless adults with meals and shelter, is a good bet.
TORONTO — Raising the Roof is an umbrella organization for Canadian homelessness organizations, especially those targeting young people. There are about 65,000 homeless youth in Canada, which is 1/3 of the country’s homeless population.
VANCOUVER — Earlier this year I had the opportunity to take part in a fundraiser in Vancouver for the Downtown Eastside Residents Association, an important resource for the poor and homeless of Canada’s most impoverished urban district. One of the cooler services they provide is voicemail for people without phones. It sounds simple, but if you’re without work and/or without a home, you need a number so you can get a job.
My friend Javi and I yesterday had the pleasure (and I mean pleasure) of sitting in the cold and whipping rain in Buffalo to watch the hometown Bills whomp the Miami Dolphins 21-0. Of course, the pleasure of this game, like the last one I attended recently, was having a few anti-gay slurs yelled our way upon entering the stadium. Ahh, Buffalo!
Below, right, please notice the look on my face as I got increasingly more soaked in the western New York chill. That look basically sums up the game.
Yesterday I joined my friends David and Javi in visiting Niagara Falls, Ontario. The weather was atrocious, so we didn’t see much of the Falls as they were enveloped in a constant fog – on top of the usual misty mess that usually renders them hidden. We stuck to the super-developed Canadian side of the Falls — “the Las Vegas of Canada” — which stands in start contrast to the depressed and depressing American side.
The contrasts between Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Niagara Falls, Ont. continue to grow. As a real estate investor told the Buffalo News last fall, he’s “looking to dump everything I own in Niagara Falls and concentrating on other markets. I don’t see it getting any better.”
That’s the headline the Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau has front and center on its web site. And it’s certainly fitting. Everyone knows I’m an unabashed booster for Buffalo, and every visit I make back to the city I continue to be impressed by it; the architecture, the Olmsted parks and parkways, the history, and the surprising vitality of the place are all so alluring. But the best part about my love affair with Buffalo is that all my friends (those who’ve never been there) are in complete disbelief, so it remains a well-kept secret even though I can’t shut up about the place. That said, I’m not moving to the Queen City anytime soon, but I certainly enjoy my time there.
I remember when I moved back to Boston from western New York in 2003, I was shocked at how sedate the social scene in Boston had become; my frame of reference was Buffalo, where every street is chock-a-block with bars, clubs and fabulous restaurants. This weekend I was able to check out a relatively new one, the Buffalo Chophouse, where my friend Jay and I grazed on one of the best cuts of beef I’ve ever had as Sabre Andrew Peters drank nearby! Afterward we hit no less than three bars before calling it a night — I never could no that in Boston. (Well, two bars, maybe.)
One of my fav quotes about Buffalo, from the New York Times: “Buffalo has an even longer history of architectural distinction than Chicago; you could do worse than to take it as a textbook for a course in modern American buildings.”
Celebrities including Mary Tyler Moore, Blythe Danner, and Dana Delaney have jumped on the bandwagon of supporters trying to have an unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright boathouse constructed on the Buffalo waterfront. The building was designed in 1905 and was heralded by the architect as one of his eight most important structures, but it was never actually built.
• Related: Frank Lloyd Wright Stays Busy in Buffalo. 45 years after his death, three buildings by Wright are in the works.
There was a time when a evening of fun in Toronto the Good meant driving 90 minutes for a night on the town in Big Bad Buffalo. Mary Kunz Goldman, a Buffalo Newscolumnist who I don’t always enjoy, offers up her explanations for “Why Toronto isn’t Buffalo, and vice versa.”
• Our slums are slummier. “We’re not used to boarded-up buildings or rusting, derelict industrial sites,” a Toronto business consultant told the News. “Buffalo isn’t as bad as it was, but there is still a greater acceptance of – I don’t know how to say it – urban wreckage.”
• Buffalonians “always seem 15 percent friendlier and more outgoing – OK, louder – than the dour urban Canadians we see.”
One of my most beloved buildings in the Queen City, the former Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, is at risk of crumbling not because of a lack of money to restore it to its former glory, but because no one can quite decide how to spend the $100 million the state has set aside for the National Historic Landmark, which has essentially been abandoned for years. The twin-towered building with its distinctive patina was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson — best known as the man who designed Trinity Church in Boston.
• More Buffalo architecture from my site buildings i like
I can’t even imagine the jokes flowing in Buffalo, known as the City of Good Neighbors, now that it has been revealed that accused murderer O.J. Simpson is scouting locations for a home in the area with his Buffalo-bred girlfriend. He has set his sights on a three-story $239,000 in Lockport, but “the agent showing the house said Friday she was told to deny Simpson has any interest in Niagara County real estate”, according to the Buffalo News. Instead, the agent regurgitated to the press what she was instructed to say by O.J.’s handlers: “He is not buying a house here. He is not buying in the area. He wants me to go on record that it was not O.J.” Likely story.
In the battle for tourist dollars, Niagara Falls, N.Y., has always played second fiddle to Niagara Falls, Ont. The Washington Post compares the two in a recent piece, and in reviewing the travel piece in a column today, the best the Buffalo News can say about their side of the border is, “We don’t sound too bad.”
I am not a huge fan of either side of the Falls — too many tacky tourist shops and drunk 19-year olds — but as one Canadian tourist correctly points out, “Who has the better view? Unless you cross over, you Americans can’t see your own falls, can you?”