Category Archives: previously published on Buffalo SoapBox

Village of Kenmore Offers New Direction For Delaware Avenue

previously published on BuffaloSoapBox

To the Village of Kenmore, I have never had as intense a reaction to something you or any other municipality in Western New York has ever done as and I did this morning; utter shock and surprise of what I saw when I turned onto Delaware Avenue, disbelief in your decision to act as you did. This was something I never thought I would see, least of all from you.

I have only one thing to say to you right now:  I love you.

ch4-drivers-from-either-directionWhen did this actually happen?  I don’t know, but I didn’t notice it until just this morning, and that paint looks pretty fresh to me.  Delaware Avenue through the Village of Kenmore is now one lane in either direction with a center turning lane.  There is still parking alone each side just as there was before.  The original center double yellow is still there, so it looks odd running down the middle of the newly painted turning lane.

Look, let’s all just admit it right now, there weren’t two lanes.  There weren’t.  There was one lane and a parking lane.  Granted, that one lane was nice and wide, but it was still one lane.  That second lane that you insist was there because the old lady in front of you is sticking to three miles under the speed limit?  It wasn’t a lane.  Do you know how I know this?  Because you were constantly cutting in front of me when there was a parked car coming up.

For years I’ve been asking why there isn’t a center turning lane instead of the unmarked free for all that Delaware had become.  Unfortunately, I was only asking myself as I was stuck in this traffic.  Clearly a few other people had the same idea, most notably the Department of Transportation.  Since at least October this idea has been gaining momentum, with most of the support coming from Kenmore business owners.  I might still take credit for this one though.

Hopefully, more so then relieving my own awkward traffic-induced stressful driving, this new layout lightens some of the congestion that would build up due to drivers making a left turn.  When a vehicle needed to make that left and there was a parked car preventing traffic from moving around that vehicle, traffic could potentially have backed up for a couple blocks.  With a designated turning lane traffic can continue to flow.

026More importantly, and the reason many businesses were supporting this move, the left turning lane gives easy access to the many parking lots situated behind those businesses that face Delaware Avenue.  Yes, there are parking lots back there, I swear.  And now you can make that left and get to them without backing traffic up to Delta Sonic.

This is a great move for Kenmore, and the evolution of Delaware Avenue, as shown by a similar plan put into effect in Downtown Buffalo.  But this is beneficial not only for drivers passing down Delaware Avenue.  When car traffic is better controlled and able to move efficiently, the roads become safer for pedestrians as well, allowing them time to move safely from one side of the street to the other.  With better access for pedestrians, easier access to parking for drivers, and over all a less stressful ride down Delaware, this simple repainting can lead to a great rise in business for all the great shops and restaurants in Kenmore.

the Mystery of Charles E. Clarke

previously published on BuffaloSoapBox

I rely on Wikipedia for a lot of things, but have learned use it only as a jumping off point.  The articles may give you a decent overview, but who hasn’t found contradicting information within one or hugely uninformative entries altogether?

That was the case when I decided to look into Forest Lawn.  I wasn’t looking for an extensive history and I didn’t need a book’s worth of information on its life story.  I needed just this much information how it came into being and the people involved in that.

The Wiki article mentions that Forest Lawn was “founded in 1849 by Charles E. Clarke” and then mentions some notable graves.  OK, Wiki, let’s click on that and see just who is Charles E. Clarke?  Apparently an individual with no ties to Buffalo whatsoever, at least according to his article.

While Wiki mentions that Clarke practice law in Watertown (smallest city to have a park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted) and Great Bend; and that he served as a Whig Representative from New York in Congress beginning the same year he founded Forest Lawn, there was no mention of Buffalo.  Before Congress he’d served in the State Assembly from Jefferson County.  It says he was born in Connecticut, was educated at Yale and lived at the other end of Lake Ontario for the latter part of his life—what interest did he have with founding a cemetery in Buffalo, and one that he ultimately wasn’t even buried in?

I was about to fire off a quick email to a friend who knows a great deal of useless Buffalo architectural information along the lines of “Who the hell is Charles E. Clarke?” when common sense—and the more logical first step—dawned on me: why not see what Forest Lawn has to say about him?

So, to the History of Forest Lawn, which explained things a bit more.  It goes into the opening of the Erie Canal turning Buffalo into a thriving western outpost, the gateway to the west essentially, and with the introduction of Joseph Dart’s steam-powered grain elevator in 1842, the City becoming the “busiest grain-transfer point in the world, surpassing London, Odessa and Rotterdam.”

But Charles Clarke—focus.  He’s only described as a “Buffalo lawyer” but Buffalo is mentioned, so I suppose that’s a win?  Its something.

In The Dictionary of the United States Congress and the General Government complied back in the day by Charles Lanman, lists him only as a “Representative in Congress, from that state” (New York), but also as having been born in New York.  Not Connecticut?

So he was a Buffalo lawyer during the most successful period in the City’s history.  That’s cool.  Apparently he was also enamored with the Pére-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and decided that Buffalo, with its growing reputation as a national commercial terminus and the literal boatloads of cash making their way into the City, would eventually need a similar resting ground.

Like its Parisian progenitor, Clarke’s cemetery was to be built outside the city— 2½ miles outside actually.  Think about that:  at the time he purchased the land that included rolling hills and bubbling streams, Forest Lawn was originally 2½ miles from the City of Buffalo.  Most of what lies within that area didn’t exist.

And while that doesn’t seem like a big distance, Delaware Park is less then two miles.

When was the last time you walked that?  You stopped halfway around didn’t you?  No, don’t pretend it was to look at the bison, you couldn’t even make it once around, could you?

Map of the city of Buffalo, NY 1849

City of Buffalo, 1849

City of Buffalo, 1849In 1832, North Street was the northern border of the City and it wasn’t until 1868 that the border was moved to Ferry Street and the first generation of mansions on what quickly became ‘Millionaire’s Row’ went up.  Even then, there was about a half mile between the northern edge of the City and Forest Lawn Cemetery.  Like the Pére-Lachaise, the city would soon develop around the cemetery, offering residents a reflective escape from the noisy city streets without having to travel miles to open country.

Clarke also found inspiration in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts, which looked to Pére-Lachaise as well when it was established in 1831 as America’s first rural or garden cemetery.

All three sought to provide a rural cemetery that “encouraged people to walk the grounds, admire the funerary art, and commune with nature.”

His remains were moved to Forest Lawn in 1884, which probably explains why he looks so pissed.

In addition to Clarke’s work thinning out foliage on hilltops, adding more trees to the meadows, creating twisting roadways that at the time were considered absurdly wide, but intended to allow room for parking one’s carriage, he also instituted a policy of “providing interesting and appropriate sculpture to the natural setting of Forest Lawn.”

 The first statue in the cemetery was of Red Jacket, celebrating his influence in establishing a relationship between the Seneca and US after the revolution, as well as fighting in the War of 1812 at the Battles of Fort George and Chippawa.  That statue was commissioned by personally by Clarke.

Today the cemetery features sculptures and monuments celebrating Presidents, industrialists, innovators and businessmen who made Buffalo their home and in doing so created the foundation the City was built on.

From its first inhabitant, Joseph Dart, to President and hospital namesake Millard Fillmore and George Birge of the Pierce-Arrow Motor Company, Louise Blanchard Bethune, the country’s first professional woman architect and designer of the Hotel Lafayette, and Albert James Myer, founder of the National Weather Service, the list of figures prominent both nationally and worldwide throughout history who made their homes and livelihoods in Buffalo is impressive.  And Rick James is there, too.

To paraphrase the Forest Lawn website, the cemetery serves both the living and the dead of the City as an outdoor sculptural chronicle of local history and accomplishment. And, according to Wikipedia, all thanks to a guy who had absolutely nothing to do with Buffalo.

Buffalo Mayor Asks the Transit Authority for Help with His Homework

previously published on BuffaloSoapBox

Douglas Adams once said, “I love deadlines.  I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by,” and this is a sentiment apparently shared by those holding the fate of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor in their hands.

Buffalo Outer Harbor

Buffalo Outer Harbor

I’m a little confused about this article, perhaps I should start there.  If I remember correctly, the deadline for proposals by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and the City of Buffalo was September28th.  But according to YNN, the NFTA is still asking for these proposals as of October 12th.

The stumbling block, it seems, is that neither the city nor the ECHDC feels they should have to pay for the property.  This is over 400 acres of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor we’re talking about, but both Brian Higgins and Mayor Byron Brown expect the NFTA to simply hand over the property to one of the two entities free and clear.  Which entity will ultimately gain control will be decided by a best of five rock-paper-scissor duel between Higgins and Brown.

Brian Higgins

Brian Higgins

Higgins has said this is because the property would need $30 million in repairs, and that alone justifies the freebie.  Is that $30 million on top of whatever development takes place or is that his rough estimate of how much his waterfront project is going to cost?

He’s also criticized the NFTA for having made “three requests for proposals over the last five years with no tangible progress.”

Byron Brown has stated that he wants to “get together” with the NFTA and develop a proposal with them.  He wants to sit down and “talk through it… to look at a range of possibilities.”

Could it be that the NFTA has made no tangible progress because no one has responded in any tangible way to their requests?  Two weeks after the deadline for proposals, the Mayor of Buffalo is suggesting that he sit down with the NFTA to create a proposal?

I don’t think that’s how this works.  Why does the NFTA have to do sit down and do your work for you?  Why is this demand that the land be handed over only coming to light now, rather than the months—if not years—prior to the deadline of this latest request?

Brown wanting to sit down with the NFTA to create a proposal with them suggests that he doesn’t have one at all, and that is terrifying.  If he’s already refusing to pay for the property then what exactly is Brown bringing to the table?

YNN ends their article stating that the NFTA wants proposals submitted within 60 days.  I thought the deadline was two weeks ago?  Wasn’t September 28th the date that the City and ECHDC needed to submit their proposals?  Where has this additional 60 days come from?  When does it begin and end?  Why are we even asking that?  Isn’t the deadline the deadline?

Where is the city’s proposal?  Where is the ECHDC’s?

The NFTA paid nothing for the property, that’s what you’re upset about Brian Higgins?  You don’t want to pay for the property because they didn’t 60 years ago when they took it over from the Port Authority?  Get over it.  Make an offer, get control, rebuild it.  NOW.  This city has been dying without a waterfront, whether as a commercial harbor or a tourist attraction, for the last sixty years.  Do something about it.  Do something other than cry about how unfair it is you have to pay for a piece of land you want to own.

creepy abandoned mansion

As this house is a liability and not an asset, it is now free to whoever wants it.

Let’s put it this way:

There’s a house on Buffalo’s East Side an individual wants to buy.  It’s owned by the City of Buffalo and listed at $7,000.

The problem is, the house is a disaster.  It’s going to need new water pipes, new wiring, drywall, appliances, bathroom fixtures, cabinets.  In short, it needs to be gutted and rebuilt from its broken basement windows on up.  What’s the going to run?  $60,000?  More?

By Brian Higgins’ logic, the City of Buffalo should just give that individual the house.  They shouldn’t have to pay a cent for it.  After all, a house in that state of disrepair is not an asset to the city, but a liability, and we haven’t seen any tangible progress on the City’s part to rehabilitate the property.

That’s not going to fly is it?

Get your proposals in order.  This has gone on long enough.


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