Tonawanda News

Columns

May 28, 2014

DUVALL: The tough recipe for fighting urban decay

Tonawanda News — I was having trouble sleeping one day last week, leaving me to channel surf the vast expanse of my cable package. I happened upon a panel discussion on the future of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor and a panelist used a phrase to describe Buffalo I’d never heard before.

She called Buffalo “the mother of the Rust Belt.” I thought it odd I’d never considered this fact before. Buffalo, thanks to its location as the terminus of the Erie Canal, was the first major manufacturing hub in America not located on the East Coast. 

It’s funny to think but this area was once one of the most important cities in the world. “McKinley’s last stop,” noted a funny T-shirt I once saw.

I was thinking the same thing as I read an article in Tuesday’s New York Times about the urban blight surveyed in Detroit. A comprehensive study on the deteriorating property in Detroit’s beleaguered city limits estimates it would cost $850 million to demolish the 40,000 abandoned or blighted buildings.

And that’s not even the half of it, literally. Factor in vacant lots strewn with rubble and of the city’s 377,000 parcels on record, more than 87,000 are blighted. It is urban decay on a massive, almost unimaginable scale. 

How the mighty have fallen.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way. As Western New Yorkers can attest, smart planning, sound investment in natural resources from both public and private entities and a citizenry engaged in the process can turn the tide.

The reason we’re now talking about developing Buffalo’s Outer Harbor is because we’re already developing the Inner Harbor. And if the Twin Cities are any indication, the result can be a stunning change.

Consider the downtown districts on either side of the Erie Canal here before the state undertook the Gateway Harbor revitalization. Tumbleweeds could blow down Webster or Sweeney largely undisturbed. Now, there’s a thriving commercial and entertainment district that attracts thousands here on weekends to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Niagara River or have a drink and bite to eat at one of the chic new bars or restaurants in the region.

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  • adamczyk, ed.jpg ADAMCZYK: And now for something completely different... Last weekend I attended a local movie theater (a plushy, posh experience; they design these places now to get you out of your living room and away from your home electronics) to watch the sun set on the British Empire.

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  • ADAMCZYK: Personal development, rendered in steel Accepting the premise that everyone needs to fill the same amount of time every day (24 hours, every day), some people use theirs rebuilding things, tangible things, and thus fulfill a few intangible goals.

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  • WALLACE: Festival season is underway Summer is the season of fairs and festivals. From Canal Fest in the Tonawandas to the Allentown Art Festival and Italian Heritage Festival in Buffalo to the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, the Western New York area has no shortage of things to do with the family over the summer.

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  • duvall, eric.jpg DUVALL: King George's abdication leaves many questions I've covered Niagara County politics for 10 years and it's been a fascinating -- and often infuriating -- experience. With the news the man known with equal parts respect and cynicism as "King George" is walking away it's about to get more interesting.

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