After attending a meeting of pro-Parkway partisans on Thursday night, taking a few drives, and finding out that there was a simultaneous pro-Bike Path meeting last Thursday, I decided to film a drive-by of the subject park lands. Councilman Mike Madigan tells me there is no way to build a bike path on the River, but instead wants one between two redundant two lane roadways. Apparently, Supervisor McMurray favors converting the existing Parkway into a bike path, but the Parkway really isn’t on the river either.
I am a biker, a scenic walker, and a cross country skier. If I am going to transport to Grand Island for any such activity, I want to be on the Niagara River, not trapped between two roads, staring at some houses. I can stare at houses in Amherst, North Buffalo or Clarence. I don’t think anyone would build the West River Parkway today. Neither the current pro environmental, anti-automobile attitude, or the traffic load would allow it. But the Parkway is already there and a riverside bike path is not. If the Parkway is a scenic route, slowing it down to 35 MPH from the present 55 would make it even more enjoyable. But that won’t make it a safe pedestrian walkway.
My generation sent a man to the Moon and brought him back safely to Earth, using what now seems like Stone Age technology. Therefore, in an effort to inspire the current local and state leadership, I have set my Parkway drive-by video to music and sound from the movie, The Right Stuff. I begin with the clip of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 which was built just across the river in Wheatfield. Click the movie box to see what the current situation is like from Buckhorn Island Park to the houses north of Beaver Island. I think there is no real reason why a bike path cannot be built between the Parkway and the river, but you decide for yourself. (If you look closely, at about 1:50 of the drive-by, you can see that there already is a bike path along the river for some distance.)
Conversations with West River Parkway Homeowner’s Association President, Frank Greco, reveal that Parkway land owners have state permits for temporary docks and vegetation management.
West Parkway Homeowners President Frank Greco
Mr. Greco also demonstrated that the river bank was not conducive to public access in many places and he produced documentation for the claim that permanent docks can be maintained by those owners “and their linear descendants” for 99 years from July 31, 1991.
All of the above lead me to ask: What is all the brouhaha about? Isn’t the simple solution building a bike path/multipurpose walkway along the river? Where are state bureaucratic and elected officials on this matter? What about Chris Jacobs and Amber Small? Where is Assemblyman John Ceretto? What is short time Senator Mark Panepinto’s position?
Somehow I have the feeling that, if someone would just buy a keg of beer at the local fire hall and call a meeting, all this could be worked out pretty easily. What am I missing?
Last night, about 400 people attended a public forum at Kleinhans Music Hall to get a peek at four proposed plans to redevelop the area where the soon to be former Women & Children’s Hospital currently stands.
If you’d like to get a play-by-play of what went down, you can visit Buffalo Rising and The Buffalo News to get the gist and read the comments and so on.
Me, I’m more of a people-person. So I say let’s get to know some of the individuals who will be populating our streets in just a few short years—starting with these two millenials in the lower left hand corner of a Ciminelli rendering, chatting away on Elmwood…
(Click on the images for a better view.)
“He was all like ‘I’m not ready to make that kind commitment’ and I’m like ‘Splitting the check with me is not much of a commitment.'”
Your heart really goes out to her, because you know that her non-committal boyfriend is in fact the hipster fixie bicycle dude bro captured here, one-hour earlier, checking out a young woman walking her dogs at the very same intersection in a Uniland rendering…
“Awesome. If I could hook up with her, I could…like…walk her dogs and use them to meet more women.”
You want to tell her she deserves so much better, but you can’t because she exists in the future and you are forever separated by time. Luckily, it seems her friend has the patience of a saint, walking all over the Elmwood Village, listening to her vent about this douchebag…
“He says he wants to get a dog, and I’m like ‘Why don’t you get a job, first?'”
Que sera, sera.
I’m also a little suspicious of this pack of hoodlums, always loitering around on Elmwood…
And by the soccer field…
They just seem so unwholesome next to the kids playing soccer and giving themselves high-fives for no apparent reason. I hope they eventually work out their issues and manage to stay out of prison and go on to lead somewhat normal lives. I could be over reacting. Teenagers will be teenagers.
What’s even more disconcerting than a few hoodlums may be the strange dystopia envisioned by Ellicott Development, where people do not interact with one another, and seem to walk alone at regularly spaced intervals under a darkening sky…
(Blaring from loudspeakers) WAR IS PEACE…FREEDOM IS SLAVERY…IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Then there’s the plan that’ll turn Elmwood and Bryant into a hopping destination at dusk, complete with people hanging out on their balconies, bicyclists of all ages, jaywalking dog-walkers, a line of people on the sidewalk waiting to get into a restaurant, street musicians…
This vision of the future seems to be getting positive reviews, but I can tell you right now that it’s a pipe dream. There is absolutely no way that street musicians will be tolerated anywhere near popular restaurants in Buffalo. They’re barely tolerated anywhere now. I’m willing to bet that a banjo player picking “Orange Blossom Special” on the sidewalk near Rue Franklin might quickly find out that bluegrass and foie gras do not mix.
And what’s with this poor musician who’s forced to sit on the curb, strumming a ukulele? That’s just pathetic.
Having read last week’s cover story about Architect/Developer Karl Frizlen’s proposed project for 794 Potomac Avenue, you may be wondering what transpired at the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearing, held on January 20. Because social media spreads word faster than wildfire, you may already know that the variance Frizlen sought to double the currently allowable density, from thirteen units to twenty-six, was denied. But how did it go down? Artvoice was there.
But before we get to the play-by-play, a note about a couple of developments (so to speak) that occurred between our cover story and the ZBA hearing:
In a post on Buffalo Rising, which gave the impression of boosting the project, several commenters noted the historic significance of the farmhouse on the site, one of only a handful remaining farmhouses in the Elmwood Village. As some are coming to learn, the farmhouse is also the only remaining structure from the large “suburban” estate of the Lord family, one of the most prominent families of 19th-Century Buffalo.
And at last Saturday’s Elmwood Village Green Code forum, City Hall’s top Green Code expert, Chris Hawley, deflated Frizlen’s assertion (made to the neighbors) that his project would qualify under Green Code (apparently, a lot of developers have been saying that lately). “My impressions are that the building would be too large for Green Code,” Hawley said when the issue was raised. At the same forum, Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who articulated a number of concerns about how Green Code might affect the Elmwood Village, and who lives a block away from this proposed project, joked that he couldn’t walk his dog anymore because neighbors keep stopping him to express their opposition.
Given all that stage-setting, it came as no surprise to find an estimated fifty community members at the ZBA hearing, spilling out into the corridor and hallway beyond the ninth-floor hearing room.
We arrived with the presentation by Karl Frizlen already under way. The Zoning Board of Appeals Chair, Rev. James Lewis, apparently eager to get to the community’s input, was trying to cut Frizlen off before he could finish. Karl protested that he had just two more points, and Lewis let him go on.
“We’ll hear a lot of contradictory voices here…,” Frizlen tried to continue, drawing laughter from the crowd, before Lewis interrupted him. “I don’t want you to editorialize. I need you to help me here, from the heart.” Frizlen resumed, “typically the people who support a project don’t show up for meetings like this…” “You’re editorializing again,” Lewis interrupted. “This stack of letters (pointing) says you don’t own the property, so there’s no hardship, correct?” “Not right now, no.”
That was enough for Lewis, who then moved into community input. He referenced the petition of 151 signatures the board had received. “And each one wrote a letter.” The audience laughed as he again pointed to the stack of letters. Looking at the crowd spilling out into the hallway, Lewis suggested that representatives of organizations speak, rather than entertaining dozens of comments.
First up was Attorney Norman Viti, speaking for his Potomac Avenue block club. “This quasi-governmental entity has wide discretion, but it’s based on burden of proof. Frizlen hasn’t yet met that burden.” Explaining their opposition, Viti claimed misstatements and inaccuracies on the part of the developer. “Frizlen says the neighborhood is all multi-family residential, but we’ve identified at least thirteen single-family residences. Windsor is mostly single-family, and Saybrook is all single-family.”
After more cogent comments, Viti made the kind of summation one could imagine might win him a case in court, “The good news is that people want to develop in the City of Buffalo now. But we don’t have to accept second-rate options anymore.” “The reason people want to be in that neighborhood now is because of the investments of the residents—over decades.” “There’s no argument here: you have the do-nothing option. This property has not been on the open market. Someone will buy this property, and develop it in a manner consistent with the neighborhood.”
His remarks drew widespread applause, and Lewis joked that perhaps Viti should be running for District Attorney.
Another attorney, Lauren Turner, spoke on behalf of the Inwood Place block club. She said that they are not opposed to the development of the site, but opposed to the variances. She talked about the character of Inwood Place and Potomac Avenue—both part of the Elmwood East Historic District—with houses built close to the street, and with full-width porches. Frizlen’s project would be the first new build on the block in a century.
Parking was less of a problem when there was only one car and a horse-drawn wagon on the street.
What a difference a century makes.
Resident Joe Kennedy, who owns Spars Sausage in Black Rock, and who owns one of the properties on the block with no driveway access, talked about the challenges with parking there. It’s not just an inconvenience to him, he pointed out, but can also create problems with renting second units.
But it was neighborhood leader Mike Tritto who had the most memorable line of the hearing. “We see this outsized design as the equivalent of docking an ocean freighter among a collection of fishing boats,” Tritto metaphorized. “We have thirty-foot wide streets in the neighborhood. Frizlen’s other projects are on Elmwood, Hertel, Utica—commercial streets with bus routes.” Further, Tritto said he “feels the developer mislead them.” “We believe this project is an attempt to maximize return on investment at the expense of neighborhood character.”
His remarks also drew widespread applause.
Rev. Lewis said he wanted to hear from the district councilman, and Councilman Joel Feroleto said that people aren’t against development, but they’re against the proposed density. He said that correspondence has been overwhelmingly against the project. He asked that the variance be denied.
Someone asked if the Elmwood Village Association was present, and Executive Director Carly Battin spoke, saying that her organization decided—“narrowly,” she said—to oppose the variance, and submitted a letter to that effect. She said that Frizlen “has not demonstrated hardship,” and “it’s our understanding that variances are granted based on consistency with community character.” She said EVA “would like to hold ongoing dialog with the developer and neighbors.”
(As an aside: Isn’t it interesting that despite the overwhelming community opposition—more vocal and unified than on any issue in recent memory—the Elmwood Village Association only “narrowly” decided to oppose the variance? And also interesting that Battin felt the need to clearly qualify their decision as made “narrowly”? She gave the impression that they were almost uncomfortable about being in opposition to even a clearly inappropriate development. It raises the question of whether EVA has gotten seriously out of sync with the community. Along those lines, at Saturday’s Elmwood Village Green Code forum, Deborah Lynn Williams, former Western New York chief of staff for Senator Chuck Shumer, spoke fondly of the days when EVA was engaged in grassroots initiatives like the Elmwood Village Design Standards, under leaders like Jessie Fisher and Justin Azzarella. But it’s clear, she said, that “the Elmwood Village Association no longer represents the community.” At that, the room erupted into applause and outright cheering.)
After hearing from these speakers, Lewis asked for Frizlen to respond. You can see and hear his response in this video clip…
He offered to soldier on. “Of course, we can continue meeting with the neighbors, and shape the building so it’s acceptable—most likely, not to all of them, but hopefully to some of them,” he said. He also mentioned the brownfield tax credits, even though they weren’t a subject of the hearing, saying that while they weren’t necessary for the project, if they were granted, they would be a “bonus.” That prompted a heckle from the back of room that Rev. Lewis quickly squelched.
Frizlen also made a belated pitch (perhaps one of the points he had wanted to make at the beginning, before Lewis cut him off) for accessible housing, claiming to have surveyed the neighborhood and found not a single unit that is “barrier-free or handicapped accessible.” Referring to older residents, he said, “what we are trying to do is accommodate a demographic that is not considered” by most developers.
But it wasn’t remotely enough. When it came time for the board to vote, they denied the variance with dispatch. Board member Anthony Diina moved to deny, and the vote was unanimous.
After the hearing, Artvoice caught up with Lauren Turner and Mike Tritto to get their reactions to the proceedings. Turner said she was struck by the “overwhelming opposition,” and said she was “taken aback by Mr. Frizlen’s inability to articulate a hardship. He keeps pointing out the benefits of his proposed project without explaining why the project needs to be as big as it is in order to provide those benefits.” She said that having accessible units is great, but “why not thirteen instead of twenty-six?”
Tritto told us, “I’m really proud of our neighborhood. We had people from all walks of life who came out today. People have been here for years, have raised families, and want to be here for the rest of their lives.” About Frizlen, he said, “Karl is skilled, and a businessman. But we had to oppose this. We’d be interested in smart density, such as two-family houses. He wants to double the density.” “We’re the ones who sustain a neighborhood, not the developers. We think the Zoning Board of Appeals heard that.”
Speaking of his experience doing community revitalization work in impoverished areas of Buffalo’s east, west, and north sides, Tritto added, “Developers are homing in on middle-class neighborhoods. What about spreading it around?”
This past week the Buffalo Common Council passed a non binding resolution recommending that the highly popular concert series at Canalside be relocated from the Central Wharf to another venue. Cited points surrounding the resolution include increased traffic, noise and complaints from the nearby Marine Drive apartment tenants.
The public backlash to posted news stories from major media outlets, and threads on social media posts, has been shrill, and in some cases very nasty. Common Council members have been derided, name calling towards the tenants at Marine Drive, as if their lower social and economic status somehow diminishes their rights. Most commenters think that the location, configuration and substance of the current concert series is just fine and should remain as is.
It is convoluted thinking.
First of all, Canalside is not a park. Let me repeat this… Canalside IS NOT A PARK. Every blade of grass down there is a development parcel. As is that massive crater in the north Aud block immediately adjacent to the fauxhistorically-aligned canals. This is all codified in the Canalside Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) which was hammered together by many diverse stakeholders and the public and took years to achieve. The MGPP envisions a dense, vibrant setting of mixed use structures reminiscent of the old canal era. There are some projects in the pipeline, including the Explore and More Children’s Museum and Hofbrauhaus USA, although, following the typical ECHDC playbook, these structures’ development timelines are being stretched further into the future again and again.
But the sad consequence of this “lighter, quicker, cheaper” way of thinking, the snake oil which was sold to the public for a hefty six figure consulting fee, has been the evolution of Canalside into a space of flexible lawns, colorful chairs, kanjam and ping pong, and sandy play spaces. The actual “development” of permanent structures by the ECH Development C has consisted of a snack shack and nothing more.
The concerts have become so popular that they are now straining the space. Think about it – the stage brought in is a temporary one; the sound system is temporary. The port a potties are temporary. The food trucks roll in, and then they leave. And when summer turns to fall, everything is put away for the cold weather. This past summer the lawns have been wrecked repeatedly, the infrastructure is suffering damage from the strain of too many people converging on too small a space which was not initially configured as a pure concert venue. The Canalside concert series has become a victim of its own success.
So what do do?
Time to think big.
Rather than gnashing our collective teeth about the mere thought of moving those concerts away from its current stop gap venue, we need to be rethinking about Canalside and laying out its overdue development future. As for the concerts, it’s time to build a permanent concert facility and amphitheater elsewhere on the waterfront. It should be a facility with some fixed seating and standing areas, resplendent views of our water, permanent concession facilities, lighting and sound systems, and permanent washroom facilities.
Where to locate it? I am not a planner, so it’s not my call. LaSalle Park seems woefully underutilized and could be reconstituted for just such a concert configuration if laid out right. The Outer Harbor offers a myriad of opportunities, although access is still an issue, and we have yet move as a community to plan, fund and build even one bridge to move people and cars out there. The Broderick Park alternative mentioned in the Common Council resolution seems ill conceived. Simply returning it to Lafayette Square? Hmm.
Nonetheless, with the success of the Canalside concert series, and more and more people discovering the entertainment and recreation opportunities that access to our waterfront offers, this is exactly the right time to start discussions for a top of the line and permanent outdoor stage and concert facility that will house and present summer concert programming for the long term.
Canalside and the Central Wharf is not the answer for summer concerts. Time to get plans laid out, developers lined up, and shovels in the ground for all the Canalside parcels. That is Buffalo’s future, not to settle for “lighter, quicker, cheaper” along with the voodoo of flexible lawns, triangulation and the Power of 10.
Below is a map showing the implosion site, with the hospital shaded red.
(Note the “Hospitality Area” on the roof of the parking ramp, near the Command Center!)
Pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars are to be outside the red boundary when the implosion takes place at 7am. If you live within the red boundary, your best bet is to remain inside your house until the dust settles—at least an hour after the blast, according to this study by Johns Hopkins University, published in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association.
From the study:
Demolition by implosion is conducted by using
nitroglycerine-based dynamite to strategically destroy
load-bearing structures, allowing the building to collapse
onto itself. Depending on the timing and location of
charges, implosion contractors are able to predetermine
the direction of the collapse and subsequent debris pile.3
(The demolition that is the subject of this paper was
conducted by collapsing a high-rise on top of adjacent
smaller buildings, thereby achieving multiple building
demolitions from a single implosion.) For economic purposes
and to minimize the emission of hazardous chemicals
during demolition or debris removal, recyclable (e.g.,
plumbing and ventilation) and hazardous materials (e.g.,
asbestos and lead [Pb]), respectively, are removed before
the implosion.4 Asbestos removal is federally regulated
under the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air
Pollutants (NESHAP, 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart M). Depending
on proximity, adjacent buildings may be draped with a
heavy-gauge plastic or woven vinyl to prevent damage
from flying debris. Such a precaution likely has a secondary
benefit of reducing dust infiltration. Emissions and
exposure also can be affected by meteorology. Specific
criteria are site-and contractor-dependent; however, in
general, light precipitation with winds in the direction of
sparse population is desirable. Post-implosion settled dust
control strategies include suppression with water and vacuum
Despite these precautions, the potential for human
exposure to air contaminants from urban building implosions
is great because of a combination of high population
density, the enormous particulate matter (PM) emission
rate, and the resulting high PM concentrations. The
exposure potential is further exacerbated by the spectacle
of the event and media promotion that brings community
residents outdoors and to the site, swelling the exposed
population. In addition to the short-term exposure
concern associated with the airborne PM at the time of
the implosion, there is the potential for longer-term exposure
to PM that settles across the community and then
is available to be resuspended and inhaled or ingested after hand-to-mouth contact.
Here’s a more current Google map of the area, showing the current pile of rubble from the partial demolition of the hospital buildings that has been taking place all summer. Also, with the white descriptive boxes removed, you can more easily see just how many homes and residences are within the blast zone. It will be a matter of which way the wind blows that morning to see who gets the worst of the fallout.
DON’T Get to Gates!
Here are a few bullet points for would-be spectators and nearby residents, from the study:
Stay away from the implosion. Watch it on TV especially if you are very young, elderly, have immune problems, or a lung disease like asthma.
Stay indoors. If you live near the implosion, keep your doors and windows closed before and for one hour after the implosion.
Implosion dust can get indoors. Use a damp cloth or mop to clean dust from surfaces. Don’t vacuum the dust. Vacuuming stirs the dust back up into the air.
Rinse sidewalks and door stoops with a hose. The dust settles on outdoor surfaces near or downwind from the implosion.
Remove shoes or use a doormat. This will keep the dust from being carried inside.
Ontario Specialty Contracting, the demolition company performing the planned collapse, is hosting an informational session to answer questions on what the implosion entails at the parking lot located at 637 Linwood Avenue at 5pm on Thursday, September 24.