Tonawanda News

Columns

June 14, 2013

ADAMCZYK: Spurring the project along

Tonawanda News — At a recent local presentation, an historian pondered Western New York’s proclivity toward mouthing off, then doing nothing, as exhibited in announcing plans for a structure or a project, coming up with an “artist’s representation” and having the plans fade into the netherworld of unfulfilled dreams.

Yeah, the historian in question was me, and the lecture came after a few weeks of research into things that were never there, things conceived but never delivered. That’s our self-inflicted reputation, out here.

A convention center was planned for Buffalo as far back as 1922. Broad concourses, á la Paris, were on the drawing board as well. The infamous Love Canal (the actual canal, that is) was meant to draw Niagara Falls water to power a Niagara County community of millions in a place called Model City. An amusement park, in the style of Crystal Beach, Ontario, was to be constructed behind Buffalo’s City Hall. A half-dozen suburbs were in line for the football stadium which was eventually built in Orchard Park. (You should see the stadium plans of that of Amherst; it came with an attached baseball stadium.)

The crackpottery of it all is breathtaking, if looked at as one failure after another. Cincinnati and Chicago and Denver likely have similar tales to tell, but ours are the ones that stick out like thorns penetrating flesh. 

The experience leads me to appreciate the value of “planning committees,” those bureaucratic working groups charged with separating the do-it from the screw-it. Turning a swamp into a marina, for example, is no place for a lone wolf with more dreams than investors.

The writer Garrison Keillor once explained it well. Those declines in the sidewalk at street corners, meant for easy access for those in wheelchairs, are a good idea, fair, egalitarian and easy to install, so the next time a municipality fixes its sidewalks it puts in concrete appropriate to the mission. It comes, though, after innumerable hours of discussion by people in groups, seeking an economical solution to the issue.

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