Friday, December 26, 2014

December 23, 2014

The ice rinks at Canalside.
The ice rinks at Canalside.

We've Got the Toys

by   / Dec. 23, 2014 10pm EST
‘Tis the season for naughty and nice alike to wish for gifts from that jolliest of idealized parent-figures, old red-suit himself. But it’s also the season to sympathize with Santa, whose problem is perennial: how to give the good kids the right thing when the bad kids are so adept at raiding the toy-sack.
Usually, this column asks Santa-Albany to give Buffalo broccoli, spinach, sensible shoes, a proper bedtime, and a schedule of finger exercises and calisthenics. Usually, this column asks that Santa stop giving us what we usually get: real-estate tax breaks, handouts to political contributors, and those special, expensive Albany Reiki treatments, whereby the heavy hand of state government comes this close to forcing governments and school districts to merge, but never actually touches the status quo, leaving dozens of extra town supervisors, school-district administrators, and little-box boundaries undisturbed, and with them our aching social sclerosis, all inflamed, all over. 
Nope, this isn’t a call for more cod liver oil or black socks. This year, we need to ask for  the real treat—the gift that will keep on giving, the cheapest, easiest, most plentiful deliverable New York State has to give.
Santa, for Christmas, for Hanukkah, for Kwanza, for the New Year, please give Western New York more downstate college-age kids—especially the honors students who will stick around and work with the solar engineers, the bioscientists, and the rest of the thought-leaders that New York State’s money started bringing to town on Santa Andrew’s last trips down Buffalo’s chimney. 
Think of it: A UB or Buffalo State kid on full scholarship with room and board costs about $15,000 a year. Bringing 2,000 honors students from the Five Boroughs to Buffalo for 10 years would cost less than one-third of the Buffalo Billion, and create 20,000 Buffalo-trained brains to drive the new economy here. Thirty million a year!

Making the happening place happen

The PR machine is working for Buffalo just now. Media all over are forwarding our new stories. We have the photogenic new toys—the downtown ice rinks, Buffalo River paddle-boarding—adding heft to the vibrant self-defining music scene, the many real-estate websites telling stories about our vigorous self-started movement of rehabbers, some business press about Buffalo’s aborning entrepreneurial culture after the 43 North awards, and now some national press on the Alexander Levy exhibition at the Burchfield. Buffalo’s buffalo are no longer just buffaloing Buffalo’s buffalo: Outsiders are getting the word. It’s all well and good that Canadians are still bargain-hunting here thanks to recent stories in the Toronto media, but their dollar is falling apart again, the malls here have some competition in St. Catharines (right next to the brand-pnew, non-subsidized Bass Pro store), and besides, the Canadians are not going to be moving here. New York City kids, however, could—and there are great reasons to get serious about leveraging the PR bonanza to get them here. Quick.
The first reason: Our Buffalo-area colleges are a major economic force here, but demographic trends in Upstate are never going to sustain the flow our institutions need. At Buffalo State College, SUNY Buffalo, Geneseo, Fredonia, Empire State College, and even the community colleges, we will have room for growing number of 212ers as the flow of 716ers, 585ers, and 315ers shrinks. 
The second reason: Immigrant kids in the New York City metro, especially in Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Nassau, fit Buffalo’s bill beautifully. To wit, they’re urban strivers who aren’t going to be paying private-school tuition anytime soon. State schools offer the best deal. There are at least 35,000 slots at UB and Buffalo State for undergrads, and another 20,000 for graduate students. Could we accommodate 2,000 more?
We certainly know where to find them: where the numbers are. The New York numbers stagger the Buffalo imagination. In Brooklyn alone, there are almost 200,000 people between the ages of 18 and 24 enrolled in college—but that’s only around 40 percent of the folks that age. There are potentially 50,000 more 18-24-year-olds in Brooklyn alone who might want to go to college, if Erie County’s numbers are any guide. It happens that just over 52 percent of Erie County 18-24-year-olds are in college. Ditto Queens, the immigration capitol of the Empire State. From Astoria to Hollis, from the Triborough Bridge to the Nassau County line, over 1.2 million of the 2.5 million people in Queens speak a language other than English at home—and only around 42 percent of all those striving, multicultural 18-24-year-old Queens kids are in college. Bilingual, worldly, entrepreneurial (the largest number of start-ups in New York State is happening where the immigrants are), there are tens of thousands fewer young Queens adults in college than there might be if they were to seek higher education at the same rate as our shrinking supply of Erie County youth. 
Might there be room for Queens, Brooklyn, and other Gotham kids here in Buffalo?

The ice-bike, ice-skates, and saloon strategy 

One wonders whether the market-research folks found, in their due diligence, that Buffalo’s brand opportunity was going to come from the combination of beer and skateable surfaces. If nobody thought that through, no matter: It’s what we’ve got, so it’s time to create brand-awareness in the place where the kids are in big numbers.
Young folks eligible for in-state SUNY tuition need to be shown pictures of the ice rinks, the curling ice, the iced beer, and the West Side apartments where a junior, a grad student, or a postgrad can split rent and utilities for less than $500 a month. New Yorkers simply do not know about any of this. Also under-reported in Gotham: the presence of Buffalo professors with terminal degrees who actually have contact with students. At Buffalo State, the class sizes are more like those at private schools that charge five to seven times the SUNY rate in tuition alone. 
But how will that demographic of college-age, uplift-hungry kids get this story? One gets the impression that college administrations are kept apart from the economic development conversations, except to the extent that the SUNY campuses were apprised of the addresses of the tax-holiday zones that Albany created adjacent to them. This is the newest version of the old Jack Kemp theory, a profoundly bad theory, that capital will magically accumulate if only local and state governments will exempt local businesses from having to help pay for roads, public safety, schools, or anything at all that everybody else has to pay for. The program has been in place a couple of years. Nobody should expect much capital formation to occur, any more than it occurred in Enterprise Zones, Empire Zones, or any of the other tax-holiday tracts.
Nope, Santa, it’s people who create value. Crowds of people—especially young people, people who, unlike codger investors, love to play. 
Of course, other places have figured this out, too. Buffalo is like Cleveland, Detroit, Youngstown, and other places that get cold in the winter. Bad race relations, bad regional planning, deindustrialization, brownfields, and all that bad stuff are in our collective past all over the Great Lakes. Unlike Pittsburgh, with its downtown universities (plural), its downtown stadiums (plural), its downtown multi-billion-dollar foundations (plural), and its independently funded historic-preservation/adaptive re-use operation, Buffalo-Detroit-Cleveland-Youngstown are all trying to do precisely the same thing at the same time, but without Pittsburgh’s multiple assets all agglomerated side by each.
But we can steal a march on Detroit, because we have SUNY, and a results-hungry state capitol, whereas Michigan has only dog-whistle race politics, union-bashing, and a stingy state exchequer. Cleveland, which wisely copied our Garden Walk and wisely stuck with a large-scale urban agricultural movement, is massively richer than Buffalo, and has wonderful islands—the Cleveland Clinic island, the Case Western Reserve island—but it hollows and hollows, sprawls and sprawls, and its water will soon taste like poor poisoned Toledo’s.
We, no matter that old Randy Newman song, are the true City of Light. Buffalo’s the buzz. Buffalo’s the inexpensive, photogenic place with the new toys. It’s time, Old Elf, to bring some kids here to play with them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 17, 2014

18-Mile Creek, above Hobuck Flats. Photo by Joe Janiak.
18-Mile Creek, above Hobuck Flats. Photo by Joe Janiak.

Outdoors: The Steelhead Have Arrived

by   / Nov. 16, 2014 8am EST
Thanks to the rain of late October, the creeks of Western New York are their old selves again—big, river-sized, rushing waterways with little Niagaras of rapids and pretty waterfalls. The biggest is Scoby Dam on Cattaraugus Creek, a 40-minute drive from Buffalo at the Springville exit off Route 219.
From now until Christmas and beyond, until the ice gets too treacherous, Scoby Dam and a few other creekside sites will host a seasonal migration of big, colorful lake-run trout and the people who seek them.
But the scene is not for anglers alone. There is still color in these protected gorges. For creek-walkers, the real treat is closer to Buffalo. Take Route 5 to Eighteenmile Creek, and you’ll have two options. To the west barely a quarter-mile is Old Lake Shore Road, where just a few yards back toward the creek, there’s a place to park and paths that will take you downstream toward Lake Erie, or upstream past riffles, the Route 5 bridge, and a beautiful serpentine course of paths that are best navigated with Wellies. To the east a mile or two is Hobuck Flats, now a pedestrian bridge, at the end of Versailles Plank Road. Sneakers will do for the miles of muddy paths along the twisting, various, protected scenes of shale cliffs, oxbows, wide flats of igneous rocks and surprising limestone formations that tell more than most of us want to know about the geology of moraines and ice ages and the astounding ancientness all around you. Be ready to feel humble at the presence of 400 million years of life-forms all around you.
If you’re either skilfull or fortunate, you’ll get a look at a steelhead. There are plenty of them in the four- to six-pound range here, big, two- to two-and-a-half feet long. The water can be turbid the day after a storm, or clean and clear and sparkling the next day. For hikers and anglers alike, the best advice is to play hookey on a weekday morning, just for a couple of hours, and avoid the weekend morning crush of trout-seekers. On clear days, you can see the fish hovering in the pools below the ancient shale cliffs. If you’re lucky, you can follow the flashing silver as they charge up riffles so shallow that their backs show in the sun. 

November 12, 2014


Outer Harbor Condominiums: A Public Shaming

by   / Nov. 11, 2014 12am EST
Rowers are a hardy lot. The annual Hogan-Fries Regatta at West Side Rowing Club, the season’s last, is exclusively for novices, which means eighth-graders and high school freshmen, and it’s usually held within a day or two of Halloween. Just like in the early May rowing meets, one expects a bit of a breeze, maybe some rain. Sometimes even slush.
This year, the weather forecast for Saturday, November 1 was so daunting that the West Side coaches rushed out an email a few days before, postponing the event until Sunday. But came Sunday, with the wind whipping whitecaps into foam and smashing water up against the breakwall, it was still too dangerous to put 14-year-olds into 64-foot-long fiberglass boats, even with coaches hovering nearby in motor launches.
The winter winds hit us hard here, especially at that place where all the wind and all the water of the Upper Great Lakes funnels into the Niagara River. Wind drives rain, then snow, then ice, and drives it hard. Maintaining the wooden window-frames of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Fontana Boathouse is an expensive proposition. The sailors, like the power-boaters, pull their toys inland a bit and wrap them in plastic or canvas from November to May.
Our regional climate shaped our geography and our land-use. Anybody who drives over the Skyway to what we now know as the Outer Harbor, to the 100 or so acres of what used to be Buffalo’s port complex, knows that five-minute jaunt from downtown lands you in a breezy, quiet, green space in summer, and in Siberia between November and May. For the 150 years that Buffalo had a port there, it was a seasonal port, given Lake Erie’s tendency to freeze over during most winters. For the decade or so since we turned the Times Beach toxic sludge dump into the Times Beach Nature Preserve, it’s been a seasonal-use venue for human strollers, for seasonally migratory birds, and for the more intelligent of the deer that feed there. Even the deer yard up on the other side of the Skyway during winter. It’s the wind. The only year-round occupants of the entire stretch from the Buffalo River to the logistics warehouses on the Bethlehem Steel property work for the US Coast Guard.
But this year, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation’s consultants delivered documents that explain how, with just a little bit of infrastructure investment (one or more bridges, some sewer lines, some water lines), Buffalo’s former port area could have tax-paying homeowners in a new neighborhood just across the Buffalo River from the Commercial Slip, Pegulaville, Canalside, and the incomparable cuisine of the Hatch. Even more recently, a New Urbanist designer offered a plan to use almost all the land between the Nature Preserve and the Small Boat Harbor to create a “new neighborhood.”

Disconnected thinking

I confess to using the Skyway to get my free lithium. Thanks to that structure that some of our officials demand down, it’s a five-minute trip from downtown to the other landfill-turned-nature-preserve at Tifft Farm, which is also on old port land. Bright days grow rare in our Dostoyevsky Novembers. Getting to the top of the Skyway, getting a look at the pacific Canadian shore, and at that great, placid expanse of lake, brings light into the brain even on dim days. The sun tentatively returns by Christmas, when the Lake Erie whitecaps fill up with snow and then, usually by late January, stop moving all together. Then the west wind polishes the hard surface of Lake Erie so effectively that the sun’s glinting reflections banish the seasonal affective disorder from our rheumy eyes. 
Housing out there? Where there’s now some nice picnicking for half the year, and wildlife paths, and cycling, and Pierre Wallinder’s sailing school, and the massive deer and curious chickadees of the Times Beach wildlife preserve? Out where there should be soccer fields? Why? 
Statistic #1: According to the National Association of Home Builders, in 2014 there were 590 building permits issued for new housing in Erie and Niagara Counties, a drop of 1% from 2013. There was a decline of 21% in building permits issued for multi-family housing. 
The ECHDC planners–oblivious to the economic issues here, even more oblivious to the demographic flattening that has been a persistent feature in the Buffalo area (our regional population peaked in 1970), hired planners who offer a generica sort of waterfront plan. Meanwhile, the New Urbanist plan is, to quote Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame, curiouser–at best, a clever undergraduate architecture student’s notion of how to create the proverbial “human scale,” “walkable space,” and “mixed use” on about 100 flat waterfront acres, as if those acres are in a rapidly growing metro, one without onshore Arctic winds..
Statistic #2: Today, including the Statler Tower with its newly refurbished 32,000-square-foot footplates and the former HSBC tower, there is somewhere between 3.5 and 4 million square feet of empty commercial office space (about 25% of today’s inventory) in Buffalo’s central business district, which is within 100 yards of where both the consultants and the New Urbanists would create a new neighborhood.

What’s going on here

In Buffalo, as in every Rust Belt town that is incrementally reviving despite decades of sprawl without regional population growth, and despite the unchanged international momentum that globalizes production, rewards capital, and thwarts even modest income redistribution, we must work hard to preserve a fragile momentum. 
Big plans are the enemy of small wins.That’s because the large-scale economic and demographic trends in our region are decidedly unchanged. It is not necessarily a problem–it’s certainly not an existential threat–that the Buffalo metro area is experiencing population stability rather than population growth. But it is a reality. Just as it’s a reality that employment here has stabilized at just below what it was in 2008.
And so too is it a reality that some areas of the Buffalo Metro area will see population shrinkage, with potential abandonment of housing even in solidly white suburban areas, should the demographers at Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, the US Census, and Buffalo State College prove correct. They all say that Erie County will shrink from its current 906,000 to around 800,000 by 2030.
Smaller, faster, better, right?
More focused, better preserved, with better transit, cleaner water, nicer views, better entertainment, and smarter public decision-making. We should take that over overpopulation anyway, right?

The 1,500-acre issue nobody talks about

But because too many of our leaders imagine that all real-estate development is good, we are overlooking the experience of those brave souls who have brought dozens—not thousands, but certainly dozens—of condos, lofts, and apartments onto the downtown market. What they’ve discovered is what the demographers and the home-sellers already know: There’s a limited and fragile demand here. And until there are more high-paying jobs in the region, the appetite for housing in the $200,000 to $500,000 range will be constrained.
And then there’s the inconvenient reality that made for good reading in the British newspaper The Guardian earlier this year when it profiled David Torke’s “Tour de Neglect” bicycle romps through the wasted landscapes east of Main Street, not even half a mile from the nearly $250,000,000 in public money that went into creating Canalside. 
Outsiders can see it, but some insiders can’t: We have an abandonment crisis.
Is there a demand for a few thousand new units of housing in a city where there are 20,000 or more vacant housing units already? Just by the numbers, it’s not likely.
But we took a look, just to make sure. With the help of Buffalo State geography professor Dr. Wende Mix in 2010, we counted more than 1,500 acres of parcels in Buffalo that were on the assessment rolls for less than $10,000 a piece. For a mere $43 million, an enterprising person could have 15 times the volume of Outer Harbor land now dreamed-over by designers. The benefit of the 1,500 acres that is in the existing city is that the sewer lines, water lines, streets, streetlights, fire hydrants, and public transportation, plus the personnel for fire-suppression, public safety, and other services are already in place. Forty-three million bucks, plus another $10 million in demolition, and, in the aggregate, there would be room for 6,000 brand-new single-family houses on a suburban-standard quarter-acre lot.
But of course, there won’t be, because there is no demand for 6,000 brand-new single family dwellings, whether they be houses, townhouses, condos, apartments, or sheds. Were there 6,000 units of new housing brought into the market, what would owners of existing houses do—especially the Baby Boomer and Greatest Generation homeowners who are now hoping to find purchasers for the homes they’ve placed on the market? 
Statistic #3: Home sales have recovered nicely since the Great Recession, rising from a low of 4,951 in Erie County in 2011 back up to 10,800 in 2013, which is just about where they were in 2008, before the bottom fell out of the economy.
Here’s the punchline: Despite the curious problem we have, which is that the current supply of housing at every price-point far exceeds the demand at every price-point (mainly because we have no net new in-migration to the region that replaces everybody who is shedding this mortal coil), we still have a nice, healthy up-tick in housing values here. Mostly. For now…
Our friends in Erie County government, who track home values because that’s what the property tax levy relies on, pretty much agree with Zillow and Trulia, which are on-line real-estate sales sites that track values, sale prices, taxes, foreclosures, and other data for tens of millions of individual parcels nationwide. Erie County government expects a slower rise in the overall value of housing next year than this year. This is sensible. Why? Because we have many more sellers than buyers.
And the buyers of houses here face a wonderful dilemma, especially inside the 40.5 square miles of the City of Buffalo: Should they buy a $50-a-square-foot fixer-upper a block or two from Richmond Avenue, or a $40-a-square-foot bungalow right around the corner from either Larkinville or the new beer joint over on Niagara—in either case less than two miles from Canalside, Elmwood, the Burchfield Penney, and everything else that is clustered in the city. Or should they splurge and buy a $100-a-square-foot house, all tarted up with granite countertops and new furnaces and energy-efficient windows, in either the Elmwood Village or in a downtown loft building? For that relative handful of folks blowing in from any big metro, where the median home price starts at more than $200-a square-foot and then hockey-sticks upward, Buffalo is a paradise already. 
But were the planners and the New Urbanists to get their way on the Outer Harbor, and create from 1,000 to 6,000 new units of housing for a market that currently transacts 10,800 houses a year, then we should expect the following to occur:
  • the values of existing housing would drop;
  • the cost of all the new infrastructure required by people moving into a brand-new subdivision would be added to the cost of maintaining, and incrementally replacing, all the existing infrastructure in the City of Buffalo, which has an infrastructure created for 550,000 people but that today hosts only 265,000 people; and meanwhile,
  • the tax revenue from all the new units of housing would probably look just like the tax revenue from the couple of dozen new units of housing recently brought to the Waterfront Village market by Carl Paladino—namely, zero tax revenue, as there is little chance that any developer in Buffalo will develop Outer Harbor housing without the same tax holiday Carl Paladino obtained for having developed his Waterfront Village condominium.
And then there’s the other part of the abandonment problem. In a recent colloquy among well-meaning friends on a social media site, one of the New Urbanists quite bluntly advocated suburban abandonment. Another chimed in, “If we’re going to shrink, then let’s shrink toward the center.”
Perhaps this ethos is what drives discussion of building new housing, despite the dead-certain guarantee that it will come at considerably greater public expense than either creating a 100-acre Outer Harbor park or just banking the land for a later decision. 
The 1,500 vacant acres in existing neighborhoods in Buffalo mean nothing, or less than nothing, to the would-be neighborhood creators. Not surprisingly, advocates of Outer Harbor housing are comfortable with the notion of the vacancy/abandonment paradigm just shifting Zip Codes eastward—because the theory is that merely by moving from one tract inside this metro area into another tract, so much wealth will be created, so much light shed, so much goodness harvested, that the good will chase away all evil.
Curiously, that thinking inadvertently makes our point: Without overall population growth in the region, we are still talking about moving a few folks this way and that.
One hopes that the folks who are hard at work in repopulating existing Buffalo, refurbishing old Buffalo, rejuvenating tired Buffalo, will exert their collective economic and political clout, and say yes to Congressman Brian Higgins, yes to Assemblyman Sean Ryan, yes to Joan Bozer, yes to Riverkeeper, and to others who have said no to housing on the Outer Harbor.
Bruce Fisher is a visiting professor of economics and finance at Buffalo State College, where he directs the Center for Economic and Policy Studies.
Posting as Bruce Fisher (Not you?)
  • Kathleen Mecca · Medaille College
    smart, insightful and painfully factual. So good to hear your voice again Bruce. But why does it have to be so hard to live in this city?
    • Michael Herbold · Artist at Self-Employed
      Thank you Bruce & The Public.
      We have unique historic opportunity to create a waterfront park for a waterfront city-period. Anything else is a land grab for the Palladinos and a gift to the affluent at taxpayer expense. Over building does not equal progress. Over building reduces demand for multiple family rentals and undermines the middle class which keep this city livable. I have been asking where are all these ten of thousands of new arrivals? Fix our historic building stock and give us a park.

      Further I have seen no evidence or environmental impact study to support the safety of living on a brownfield such as this. We must not repeat the costly mistakes of Hickory Woods on a grander and more expensive scale.
      • Chuck Banas · Web developer / Graphic designer at ACEN, Inc.
        Bruce: The Moule & Polyzoides 'New Urbanist’ plan you refer to represents a long-term, fully built-out vision for the Outer Harbor. This fundamental point seems lost in your argument. Planning is a long-term proposition, as you well know, and no one is saying that it could or should be done overnight.

        Speaking of the long-term, it should also be noted that the cannibalistic development practices you so fear have been going on for at least fifty years. This you also know quite well. Despite consistent regional population loss, we’ve been building more and more stuff in this region for decades. The salient point is not that there’s been lots of development, but that most of it over the last half-century has been built in the wrong place (increasingly far-flung greenfields) and in the wrong way (unwalkable, automobile-oriented). ... See More
        • Hap Klein ·  ·  Top Commenter · Dog Walker at Happy Pets
          Great article,

          Given the obstinacy of the retention of housing as an unexplained fly in the ointment somebody in particular must have a stake in housing.

          Nearly all corruption and corrupting interferences of the public good have greed as their source. An interest group must have a plan.

          When I was working with Charlie Fisher and a group of volunteers during the 1990’s fashioning some sort of completion of the LWRP I was surprised and struck by the presence and active interest of a few real estate people. I presumed they would have minimal interest in such a action that would reflect public policy rather than opportunity for investment. But I wonder if out-of-sight planning hasn’t been part of all this all along?
          • John J LaFalce · Villanova Law School,1964
            Cogent,compelling reasoning !
            • Dan Tasman · Ithaca, New York
              Yes, there's tens of thousands of vacant houses in Buffalo. They're vacant for a reason - they're not the kind of houses people generally want, or in the locations where people generally want to live. There's a disconnect between supply and demand among the growing number of people who want to live in the city, and the result so far is urban prairie east of Main, and bidding wars to the west.

              Not all housing is equal, nor are all neighborhoods. People have different preferences for how and where they want to live. That's the basis for half the programming on HGTV. For a young Millennial looking for a nice, updated place to live in a safe, walkable neighborhood, where they'll be close to their peers, options are limited. Same thing with couples and families looking for newer houses having an "open concept" (I hate that ... See More
              • Andy Wulf ·  Top Commenter · Buffalo State College
                THANK YOU. Unless you personally chose to purchase a house in a blighted neighborhood on the East Side, you have no business demanding that others do.
              • Randal Charles Zimmer · Works at Rooduct Intermediate Brake Cooling Ducts
                Andy Wulf I did, and love it. Great location and great neighbors. Get out and see for yourself. Don't be so scared of your own shadow.
              • Andy Wulf ·  Top Commenter · Buffalo State College
                @Randal - Best off not making assumptions about people; they may or may not be valid. I live in a recently rehabbed house on the Lower West Side, and while slow and steady progress is being made on my street regarding abandoned indicating houses, still have a long row to hoe in that regard. I love where I live, but I'm also not under any illusions about such a living situation being appropriate or desirable for everybody. So I repeat, the author needs to get off his high horse. Even if he's not typing his condescending words from the safety of the Elmwood Village, Allentown, Parkside, or any of Buffalo's other lily-white, suburbanite-friendly areas, he still has a lot of nerve lording over others for the unthinkable sin of daring to choose for themselves which neighborhood they want to buy a house in.
            • Stephen Paskey · Buffalo, New York
              This is indeed a good, insightful article in many ways, but a critical point is missing. During the first set of public meetings on the outer harbor, the 600 plus participants made it clear that they do NOT want housing on the site. From a long list of possible uses, they collectively ranked housing 26th -- well below even a waterfront stadium. ... And yet Robert Gioia and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Co. are trying to shove it down our throats anyway. In a Buffalo News op-ed, Gioia even had the chutzpah to falsely suggest that the public wants it.
              • Andrew Sellers ·  Top Commenter
                I am complete agreement that there's very limited demand for high end housing anywhere in the Buffalo Niagara (& upstate NY) region.
                This is partly due to such leftist shibboleths as free trade, global capitalism, and the digital economy, but one cannot say with a straight face that either our state or local governments are in the least bit business-friendly.
                And while our population has possibly stabilized, we are still bleeding young, skilled workers, due to the painfully obvious fact that there are very few well paid jobs in the area, outside of public sector roles. These are of course unsustainable without some private sector growth.
                Add in their guaranteed pensions and health care costs, which are easily in the hundreds of millions, and you have a gathering financial storm of category 5 proportions.
                Only when the public realizes this will our governments get out of the way.
                The solutions are very clear economically, though almost impossible politically.
                Hurling more money at iffy real estate, whether its on the water or downtown, will do nothing but hurt.
                • Gail Nicholson · University at Buffalo
                  Please read this article. This is my favorite part: "Getting to the top of the Skyway, getting a look at the pacific Canadian shore, and at that great, placid expanse of lake, brings light into the brain even on dim days. The sun tentatively returns by Christmas, when the Lake Erie whitecaps fill up with snow and then, usually by late January, stop moving all together. Then the west wind polishes the hard surface of Lake Erie so effectively that the sun’s glinting reflections banish the seasonal affective disorder from our rheumy eyes." How miserable and sad it would be to watch this quiet, peaceful, open, recreational expanse be destroyed and unavailable to us by unnecessary housing.
                  • Catherine Faust · Works at Architect
                    Excellent, excellent article. Thank you, in particular, for pointing out how other areas of the city would suffer if condos or a NU community were built there.
                    • Susan M. Maher · Buffalo, New York
                      I did attend the 1st public forums on the outer harbor and did put my sticky dots on voting for housing in the outer harbor. There were many other sticky dots voting for housing so I often wondered what happened to these dots as the meeting went on... In any event, I am all for public access to the waters edge in the outer harbor. Wilkenson point and the existing greenway nature trail provides this access. I wrote various editorials in the mid-1980s about the need then to open up the outer harbor for public access. Though its been 25+ years to get a master plan going it is still good to see this forward progress.

                      However, I think given the huge amount of land in the outer harbor, both housing and green activities can co-exist. As Bruce pointed out, it is a tundra in the outer harbor Nov-May. Housing along the northern ... See More
                      • Diane Mc Farland ·  · Associate Professor at Buffalo State College
                        Excellent we don't need housing in the green space of the outer harbor
                        • Marcelle Mostert
                          Chicago has no housing between Lake Shore Drive and the lake, and neither should we.
                          • Rick Feist · Holderness School
                            I've commuted via Route 5 and lower Fuhrmann Boulevard, in its many configurations, for over 30 winters - at least when it and/or the Skyway were not closed due to whiteouts and drifts from snow blown in from the lake. This is not a place anyone, particularly the presumed-desireable 'successful people', will want to inhabit year-round. Those roads are closed more often than any others in the county. There are reasons no one, other than the poorest of immigrants, has ever tried to live there.

                            Is there any evidence of unmet demand for upscale housing on the outer harbor? Will single-digit-percenters really start moving to Buffalo to, what, retire? Be an executive at the non-existent corporate headquarters in the city? Are those folk likely to enjoy sharing their pricey digs with the commoners who are promised a walkway by the water? Ask their kindred spirits at Waterfront Village how receptive they are to public access paths between the marina and LaSalle Park passing their patios.

                            This idea lives due to the same magic bullet developers who've been most artful at finding ways to foist their speculative risk on the taxpayers who can't obtain breaks by threatening to leave town.

                            We (should) have learned that if we build it they won't necessarily come.
                            • Joe Doherty ·  Top Commenter · Cardinal O'Hara High School
                              Maybe there's an interesting perception versus reality thing going on in Buffalo right now. Truthfully, I was most shocked to read that Erie County's population is speculated to DECREASE more than it already has. That doesn't add up. Not when you think about the development of the medical campus, the start-up buzz, Solar City, the service industry, etc. My perception was that our population would increase as jobs become available and brain-drain slows.
                              • Carl Mrozek · SUNY ESF Syracuse
                                Bruce Fisher's deft debunkng of ECDHC's latest proposed taxpayer subsidized mega-dollar boondoggle should be the last word on the proposed walkable Outer Harbor Waterfront Village, but I fear that much like the fabled 'Bass Pro Silver Bullet Solution' it won't die until it invades our living rooms in a new episode of TMC's 'Walking Dead'. The question we should all be asking is why do we give such credence to the creatively bankrupt voices of Buffalo's real estate oligarch's advocating their latest multi-multi million dollar mega-project at substantial taxpayer expense while ignoring the chorus of Western New Yorkers clamoring for more waterfront recreation and access, not less.

                                Here's a simple straighforward challenge for the developer-proponents of the 'New Waterfront Village': Build it and hope that they come, but build... See More
                                • Matt Ricchiazzi · Cornell
                                  You are very, very wrong. And if I had the time, I would explain to you why. It starts with your premise: that our decline is inevitable. It's not. Stop slandering our community.