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The Esmonde Template

Sunday brought us a treat – the quintessential Donn Esmonde congratubatory piece. The foundational document. The template. The “we the columnist” from the tea party champion.

It has everything – Tim Tielman, “lighter, quicker, cheaper”, Mark Goldman, and a generalized thesis whereby the general public is populated by cretins who are just now awakening to the genius of the positions of Esmonde and friends. 

All in all, it reinforces the accuracy of some of my theories. For instance, the one where preservationist hero Tim Tielman is the capo of a local preservation racket. Just hire the right people, and suddenly preservationist opposition to whatever demolition or renovation project you’re proposing simply evaporates. The Neighborhood Workshop Thuggery.

I know Esmonde has recently written two concern-trolls regarding the Buffalo Schools – one whereby our self-hating, upper-middle class, elitist white guy hero feigns outrage at racism in the board of education, and another where he knows better than the school district’s superintendent, who quite literally has what amounts to an impossible job. I’m sure Buffalo School Superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown enjoys having a failing school district to run on the one hand, and racist assholes gunning for her removal every. few. weeks, on the other. Esmonde whitesplains all of this for our benefit, ignoring the fact that he voluntarily abandoned his education bona fides when he touted his business partner’s charter school chops, and decided that it would be perfectly swell if Clarence schools’ quality was degraded. 

Want to develop Canal Side? You’ll have a lot of problems from Mark Goldman & his crew unless you spend six figures of public money to hire Fred Kent & Partnership for Public Spaces to educate you on “placemaking” and benches. (Placemaking is the wholly unscientific theory that people will go where other people are. The thing it omits is what it was that attracted the “other people” in the first place.)

Want to develop the Larkin District? Hire a planner well-regarded in preservationist circles to promote the project, and retain Tielman’s company, too, while you’re at it. Suddenly, all your problems will disappear.

Someone explain to me how this is any different from paying protection money to the mob to prevent that same mob from blocking your project and seeking injunctive relief. Don’t want Tim Tielman organizing a picket of your project? Put him on the payroll.  You tell me what that’s called

Lighter, quicker, cheaper brought one restaurant and some Adirondack chairs to Canal Side. Everything else – everything – is temporary, slow, or transient. Go down there on a rainy Sunday and – if you’re not interested in getting wet, and you’ve already seen the Naval museum,  I challenge you to find something to do other than have a beer at Liberty Hound.  It should have shops, cafes, restaurants (plural), maybe a museum or gallery – things more compelling than a temporary stage and “flexible lawns”. Solar-powered carousels don’t count (this was a real suggestion – as if a kid gives a crap about the sustainability of a carousel’s propulsion fuel). 

The Cobblestone now has a restaurant, the Helium comedy club, a casino, and a bar or two. It’s walking distance from Canalside, but the Harbor Center construction makes it difficult to reach.

I wonder if Goldman or Tielman are partners with Esmonde in some business endeavor? Tielman has degrees from SUNY Binghamton in art history, political science, and geography. I don’t know what Tielman’s profession once was, but it looks like he took a hobby and parlayed it into a well-paid position as the community’s gatekeeper for preservation issues. Must be nice. 


  • Hank Kaczmarek

    SMH—-the preservationists have good intentions, which of course are the paving stones to Hades. And they are a loud,vocal minority. I wonder how much they defeat their own cause by their actions.

    • Sean Danvers

      It sure is a fine line between wanting to save something for potential reuse and being an obstructionist against progress.

  • “Nice old building we got here. Be a shame if you tried doing anything to it.”

  • Chris Ostrander

    The timeline of the Freight House that you have linked is one of the best snapshots of the joke that has become this racket you can find. It seems as if Esmonde has a Tielman/Goldman suck up piece pre-written on his computer that allows him to find/replace names and locations to fit whatever agenda he chooses to push when he has no other topics to write a column about. This week happens to be that Tielman is the genius behind everything in Buffalo. Before you know it he’ll be staking claim to building City Hall

    Great post, Alan.

  • robrobrobislike

    I think your Esmonde-Tielman criticisms would have a lot more force if Canalside and Larkin weren’t so widely viewed as successes. I mean, office parks aren’t really my cup of tea, but the consensus among everyone else seems to be that Larkin is a smash hit. Maybe hiring a planner well-regarded by preservationists benefitted the project in ways beyond the “protection racket” you’re accusing preservationists of running. Canalside also appears to be doing quite well, despite the lack of a Bass Pro. You wonder why people aren’t down there on rainy Sunday? Well, it’s outside. That’s what makes it nice to be there on a sunny Sunday. I imagine Delaware Park has a lot less people in it on rainy days, too. Further, you say Canalside should have another musuem, but you make fun of the proposed children’s museum at every opportunity.

    Your Esmonde beef is well-established, and that’s fine because he says a lot that merits criticism and gives off a generally douchy vibe. Your legitimate criticisms become less compelling, though, when you just hate on anything Esmonde agrees with simply because it’s Donn Esmonde saying it.

    • You wonder why people aren’t down there on rainy Sunday? Well, it’s outside. That’s what makes it nice to be there on a sunny Sunday. I imagine Delaware Park has a lot less people in it on rainy days, too.

      Delaware Park is a park. Canalside was never, ever supposed to be one.

      Further, you say Canalside should have another musuem, but you make fun of the proposed children’s museum at every opportunity.

      False. When did I ever make fun of Explore & More? It should have been at the waterfront ALREADY.

      • robrobrobislike

        1. They’re both outdoor venues for public recreation, so it’s close enough in my book.

        2. Apologies, I must have been thinking of a different blogger.

      • Canalside shouldn’t be an outdoor venue for recreation. It should be a waterfront destination with things to do, buy, eat, and drink. Even Tielman (once, maybe not now) agrees/d. This was the document he used to combat Bass Pro.

      • robrobrobislike

        While year-round use does seem to be a priority in that document, the goals and objectives and renderings all seem to focus on recreation outdoors. It talks about unrestricted water access for “maritime activities” and a “public space for community interaction.”

        I don’t necessarily think that “things to do, buy, eat, and drink” are a bad thing, I would prefer to balance those sorts of things with activities and attractions that aren’t based on consumption. It sounds like you think Canalside should be a mall with museums in it. I would much prefer something more akin to a park, where I can spend time and enjoy the atmosphere without spending money. I think they’ve done a great job with Canalside so far (Harbor Center, the Phillips Lytle building, and the Carlo notwithstanding) and I would certainly welcome extending some sort of esplanade/pedestrian trail/whatever to the Outer Harbor, Riverfest Park, or even Silo City.

        Edit: I’m aware of the irony of invoking an esplanade project in an argument AGAINST a comparison to the Sopranos

      • Chris Ostrander

        Not to speak for Alan here, but those who pull their hair out over the Tielman/Goldman etc roadblocks want Canalside to be the multi-purpose entertainment district it was originally meant to be. A couple acres of grass, lawn chairs and a hot dog stand isn’t even a distant cousin of what this district was supposed to become.

        And that doesn’t mean Bass Pro had to be part of the project. But having multiple shops, restaurants, bars and other attractions will make Canalside an all-weather destination instead of a nice place to hang out for a bit in the summertime. I just think it’s a shame that building out the Canalside parcels with “Ye Olde Canal Era” styled buildings, to help attract tenants to the area, has yet to occur. It could be so incredibly awesome, but the agonizing pace in which it’s moving forward has it’s roots in lighter, quicker, cheaper

      • robrobrobislike

        What does “originally meant to be” even mean? What Canalside was “meant to be” is different for different people depending on what they want there. As is, between Canalside and the “Cobblestone District” there are a great deal of new businesses of exactly the class you’re talking about (your Liberty Hounds, your Heliums, your Lagerhaus 95s), and, for better or worse, new things are being built there pretty rapidly (your Harbor Centers, your Phillips Lytle buildings, your The Carlos).

        Regardless of what is down there, you’re going to have a hard time turning it into a place people want to be year-round. It’s pretty much horrible to be anywhere downtown in the winter. Filling it up with Cheesecake Factories and L’Occitane shops will make it a bad place to be during the nice months.

      • Chris Ostrander

        Let’s work off the basis that it was not meant to be an open expanse of grass. If we can at least agree that “functional lawns” weren’t part of the original vision of Canalside as a bustling district we’ll be on the same page. I don’t think it was ever planned on being a mall and I don’t know many people, outside of those who really loved the Bass Pro idea, who wanted it to be that way.

        Roping Cobblestone and Canalside together makes sense to me. Because when it’s all said and done that’s going to be the Arena District with two or three distinct neighborhoods within the larger district. Look at the Distillery District, Granville Island or Quincey Market (the main building, not the national chains outside of it). Those are year-round destinations that have things to do within a neighborhood setting. When I look back on Canalside master plans I see multi-use buildings set with a Canal-era design aesthetic creating a dense neighborhood to draw people in all seasons.

  • Jesse Smith

    I am honestly surprised that Artvoice doesn’t seem concerned about libel charges. There are serious inferences of venality on the part of named or clearly identifiable individuals being made here.

    • Sean Danvers

      Meh, the BN clearly don’t care about gross conflicts of interest among its writers, so I’d say it all comes out in the wash.

    • This is opinion, and these are public figures. If you know enough to call it “libel”, you should know about that, too.

  • Andrew Kulyk

    The Paget video unveiled last week was chock full of images of breathtaking streetscapes, and uplifting comments and takes from people in this community who truly care and who truly “get it”. Then you throw in Tim Tielman into the mix, and it’s like tossing a stink bomb into a crowded room. And the stench really never goes away. By the way, how are those Sunset Fridays going?

  • TRF

    Buffalo needs jobs and based on what I am reading here, a few folks are figuring out ways to create them for themselves.

  • townline

    Bedenko can often be very interesting and insightful. These types of columns – esmonde, collins, paladino, etc (though I don’t care for any of them) are just the worst form of miserable journalism. For christ’s sake, write something productive I can’t believe the amount of time you spend on this nonsense.

    • What would you like me to write about?

      • townline

        Something other just complaining about people who voice their strong opinions pretty much just like yourself. Aren’t you the one who whines about bikeshedding? How is this different?

        Your issues about the school budgets from recent months were some of the more compelling articles on the subject. You sometimes have interesting commentary on the political spectrum – when you’re not just focused on ripping apart your selected candidates.

        But its this drivel that makes me regret that I typed in your url to take a look at what you wrote today. Seriously.

      • Well, If Esmonde wrote something, I’m going to rip it apart. It’s literally the least I can do, given what he helped to do to my family and town.

      • rhmaccallum

        Sometimes the best thing you can do in a case like yours is simply and totally ignore the guy. Press is press and he’s getting as much from you as he’s getting from “The News”…almost. Well, not quite. Artvoice is a lot smaller but still…your giving him some, eh?

      • townline

        “Lighter, quicker, cheaper brought one restaurant and some Adirondack chairs to Canal Side. Everything else –everything – is temporary, slow, or transient. Go down there on a rainy Sunday and – if you’re not interested in getting wet, and you’ve already seen the Naval museum, I challenge you to find something to do other than have a beer at Liberty Hound. It should have shops, cafes, restaurants (plural), maybe a museum or gallery – things more compelling than a temporary stage and “flexible lawns”. Solar-powered carousels don’t count (this was a real suggestion – as if a kid gives a crap about the sustainability of a carousel’s propulsion fuel).”

        This is a good example of what to actually write about! Rather than blasting someone who hardly matters like Esmonde, why don’t you actually write about Canalside? The entire above statement totally resonates with me. Unfortunately its under the guise of bashing someone who, from the sounds of it, must have forced a stick up your ass when you were kids. If I were you, and I’m not, I’d focus on issues that matter – where writing can actually make a difference. I’d at least feel like the 5 minutes I spent reading was for some purpose other than watching some ridiculous one-sided fight where one guy keeps taking swings while the other completely ignores him and walks away.

      • Well, part of the problem we have in Buffalo is that it’s very difficult to not repeat oneself.

      • townline

        like you constantly choose to do. For god sakes. Sorry I replied, I actually meant it seriously. What a waste of a public forum.

      • ckg1

        And YET you took the time to respond to what Alan wrote.

        I don’t know who it speaks worse of…Alan, or you. I’ll leave you to judge.

      • I wasn’t being sarcastic. And you troll every time I bring up the preservationists, so let’s don’t pretend what you’re doing.

        And you were right there in the conversation when I wrote a thing about Paladino parking like an asshole at EHM. I don’t even.

      • townline

        I did chime in – probably childish. But it was because I just had a run-in with him and his SUV literally a couple days prior. Normally I would not have posted. But OK, ya got me.

      • If you want to disagree, do it. I’m a big boy and can take it – I might even argue with you a little. If you agree, even better. But when you take the time to leave a comment about how badly I suck because I don’t follow your phantom editorial advice, give me a break.

      • townline

        It wasn’t how badly you suck. It was how bad the articles are, constantly repeating some stupid grudge you have against Esmonde, etc. But yes, I’ve wasted too much time on this already. I should stop having Disqus email me every time someone responds because I probably wouldn’t bother to check. But you don’t tell me how to do my job, so I’ll stop telling you how to do yours. Fair enough.

  • Jason Haremza

    I feel like people are missing the point of “lighter, quicker, cheaper.” My understanding of the concept is that the open lawns, flexible stage, Adirondack chairs, etc. are the current use because those really are lighter, quicker, and cheaper. But I don’t think anyone is saying that Canalside has to remain open lawns and flexible stages in 10 or 15 or 25 years when there is (hopefully) a more robust market for retail and restaurant offerings. The open lawns are not meant to be permanent parks. They don’t preclude future development. They are just something nice that people can use right now.

    For those of you pining for more places to shop and eat right now, how do you propose paying for that? Pretty much anything that gets built or renovated downtown has to have piles of public money shoved at it in the form of grants, loans, tax abatements, public infrastructure, etc. This ain’t Manhattan or Toronto. Retailers are not clamoring for more leaseable space downtown. If some combination of Federal/State/City largess was used to construct retail space, you’d be bitching that it was sitting there empty. Or that tenants were paying less than market rate leases and the public sector was undercutting private property ownership in the downtown market.

    No thanks. Green lawns, adirondack chairs, and the occasional concert are just great for right now. If future development comes along, great. If not, we will have had someplace nice to be instead of staring at a gravel lot surrounded by chain link fence “waiting” for development.

  • rhmaccallum

    The thing is Alan, Canalside is not Rhode Island. It’s, in reality a pretty small chunk of land, It has the Naval Park, The Liberty Hound is a great addition and I, for one, like the open lawn, the Adirondack chairs and a little space to walk the riverfront or sit in those chairs and watch the sunset…without spending money. They even have group stretching stuff in the morning.
    I love the idea of more good restaurants and entertainment venues but all that development is happening within sight of those Adirondack chairs. The complex being done by the Sabre’s owner for instance. Just a three minute walk away. The stuff going on at the Lafayette and the block on the other side of the street. How far is it to walk to the Pearl Street Brewery? What could be done with the derelict building behind the hockey arena currently being used to store a few “subway cars”?
    What do you want on that little space of open lawn besides chairs? No open space and a bill ringing up for every square inch?

    • Aaron K

      Not to mention that Canalside (a prime public space increasingly framed by ‘stuff to do and buy’) is right up against the world’s largest repository of freshwater. A veritable ocean from the perspective of a single human standing on the water’s edge. Who needs another mall, museum, or restaurant row when you have one of the world’s most significant and unique natural features right there, staring you in the face?

  • mike raleigh

    The funniest part of that column (other than Esmonde’s comment that we have gotten over our addiction to mega projects…BNMC anyone?) is that the photo for the article is of Tielman standing before a building that was just knocked down.