Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Glimpse Into the Past: Model Cities in Buffalo

A Glimpse into the Past: “Model Cities” Program in Comparison to Buffalo Development

            Although the city of Buffalo has come a long way in the area of urban development for companies and facilities, the push for strengthening residential areas is becoming more of a priority. In addition to newer large scale developments occurring in Buffalo such as Conventus and the Harborcenter, Buffalo is also improving its neighborhoods through community involvement. There are similarities in the positive aspects of the Model Cities program from the 1960s Great Society plan to Buffalo’s housing development programs throughout the city.
As mentioned in the State of the City address earlier this year, plans to revitalize Buffalo neighborhoods are in full effect. More focus is going into the conditions of underdeveloped neighborhoods such as the east and west sides of Buffalo. Urban renewal plans in the works can also be compared to the Model Cities Program from the 1960’s, an observation not widely addressed in recent times. The Model Cities program was an element of the “Great Society” plan that worked to send aid and help promote social improvement to cities with communities that are underdeveloped, poor, and in need of help. According to an article on Facts on File,
          “The Model Cities program, passed by Congress in November 1966, encouraged participating cities to confront actively social and economic problems as well as physical decay in poor, urban areas throughout the United States.”
Not only was the program designed to build communities up, it also worked to help address underlying issues as to why they were underdeveloped in the first place. A lot of the same issues from the past can be seen in present day Buffalo.
In January of 1967, The Buffalo Model City Conference was held and it was sponsored by the Cooperative Urban Extension Center. This conference was held to bring light to many factors that would help make Buffalo a more desirable and stable city. With help from federal funding, Buffalo would be able to carry out the solutions needed to make this happen. Richard R. Miller, former city commissioner of Urban Renewal of 1968 stated in a copy of the conference that,
 “One of the principal requirements of an effective Model City program is a strong administrative structure centered in city government which has the authority to undertake and finance the variety of program elements that will be involved.” 
However, according to Buffalo Rising, Publius writer and Model Cities critic Judson L. James noted that by decentralizing federal programs and reconfiguring state and national programs, it was moving in the opposite direction than what was originally intended. For example, when the Scajaquada and Kensington Highways were created, they tore straight through Humboldt Parkway.  In comparison with today, there is hope that with better strategic planning and community involvement, more projects will be more beneficial than not.
Today, there are strategic neighborhood investments about to unfold. They are investments that require cooperation from its investors and careful planning from the city’s administration. One example of an investment includes the Northland Avenue Belt Line Corridor on the East Side, which will be funded in partnership with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion.” It will be a site for manufacturing jobs and job training as stated in the State of the City press release. Another example of an investment is the Niagara Street Gateway Project on the West Side that will essentially make Niagara Street an attractive destination for residents, businesses and visitors while simultaneously creating a beautiful gateway to and from Canada.
The Model Cities program was ultimately intended to bridge the relationship between communities and government. Some of the categories included opportunities to re-orient social action programs, urban renewal programs, economic opportunity programs, and cultural programs. Each category included details to how the program would be carried out and how it would benefit the communities and cities involved.
One example of an organization that promotes urban renewal and development as well as social change is True Community Development Corporation, a sister company of True Bethel Baptist Church located on the city’s east side.
“…One thing that we’re really concentrated on this year is education and empowerment through homeownership. Our focus this year is educating people beyond everything,” said TCDC Executive Director Janice White showing that urban development overall takes more than simply building homes and businesses. Social action and cultural awareness are also important aspects.
             In fact, professor and doctor of Urban Planning of University at Buffalo, Henry L. Taylor is one of the many agents of change for Buffalo. He has been involved in a lot of urban planning for the East Side, produced countless publications, technical reports, and several grants and contracts for communities. One of his ideologies includes raising sociopolitical development within communities that “enables residents to understand what actually is going on [underdevelopment in certain areas].”

Buffalo is now recognizing the accomplishments as well as the failures in urban development that begun in the past.

            “Comparing now to then; the Thruway Plaza took away from businesses downtown and neighborhood communities…people in areas of development are not being given jobs or training,” said George K. Arthur, former Buffalo common council president. He noted that learning from mistakes made in the past could help build a better future. Incorporating social and cultural elements in urban renewal plans is a way to help build cities and the communities within them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2015 State of the City Address

            Over the past couple of years Buffalo has achieved countless accomplishments. From opening up Main Street for driving to the brand new Gates Vascular Institute in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Buffalo has not stopped advancing. After attending the State of the City Address back in late February, nothing but success and prosperity are to come for the city. Since the event took place, there have been even more plans for new development in the works. Buffalo truly has and is continuing to “build a city of opportunity.”
            Ideas of change, revitalization, and employment opportunities filled the ears of nearly 1200 guests, ranging from investors to city employees and to students from various institutions. On this brisk winter afternoon, guests ate a lunch together and socialized as Mayor Byron W. Brown prepared to give another speech. “I expect to hear aspirations for his future as mayor, development, and crime,” city of Buffalo employee Phyllis Brown said. Brown’s Deputy Director of Communications, Lorey Schultz, who organized the program said, “I am fortunate to work for Mayor Brown and his leadership time during an exciting time for the city of Buffalo.”
 “The State of the City is strong and continues to grow every day,” said Brown during his speech. “However, we must keep the engine of opportunity going by building a city of opportunity for everyone.”
Economics and the creation of jobs were discussed the most during the speech. Mayor Brown touched upon many plans to increase the job market not only for its residents but to attract more people to the area. In fact, since 2012, population growth in the Buffalo/Niagara area has increased 1% according to U.S. Census data. The Buffalo Niagara Film Commission is set to bring 250 new film jobs, the goal of bringing a large chain grocery store downtown on Ellicott Street, and the city overall expecting to create over 12,000 new jobs.
In addition to discussing issues pertaining to urban development and growth, Mayor Brown spoke about initiatives for residents’ overall well-being and quality of life. As stated at the address, overall crime has dropped 25% since 2005 and violent crime has dropped to a historic low in the past year. There are also plans to make Buffalo even safer and improve communication between law enforcement and residents by adding a partnership with Nextdoor, which is a private social network for neighborhoods. Development and growth overall will continue in the neighborhoods as services expand to do more for the people who live in them.
One particular development that Brown mentioned in regards to neighborhoods included the Northland Avenue Belt Line Corridor. This will be a business park for manufacturing jobs and job training funded on Buffalo’s East Side by the “Buffalo Billion” in partnership with Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Empire State Development Corporation. “All areas of the city will benefit. Just because work happens in one section of the city at a time that doesn't mean other parts of the city don't benefit,” said Naeem Jenkins-Nixon, communications staffer for the Mayor’s office. Other projects the mayor mentioned during his speech included Niagara Street Gateway Project and Neighborhood Housing Projects that will break ground this year.
            Since the State of the City Address, Buffalo development has kept moving. Just recently, two investors have signed on to a project for $750 million each, which is being called Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub at RiverBend, according to The Buffalo News. Also, the Buffalo News reported this week that the city has also revealed a plan to offer free Wi-Fi downtown. With M&T Bank funding the project, residents will be able to access the Internet, in an area that will cover Main Street all the way to North Street and throughout the district. “Since 2006, Mayor Brown has worked hard to put a strategic plan in place and it’s working,” said Schultz.
News of Paramount Pictures coming to Buffalo to shoot scenes for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is in the works as well according to WIVB News.
            Since urban development in the city has been a major focus, positive hopes for the future have become more and more realistic expectations. “With significant investment and job growth underway in Buffalo, we have a unique opportunity to change this city for the better to ensure that every city resident shares in our rising prosperity,” Brown said.

“I was proud that the mayor outlined a plan that focuses on growth and opportunity for all. During his Address, he spoke on the importance of everyone benefiting during this current economic renaissance in the city,” Jenkins-Nixon said. The destiny of the city is on its way to bigger and brighter horizons.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

M0ving on up to the East Side!

Wondering what is going on in Buffalo's east side neighborhoods? Check out this post from Buffalo Rising:

#buffalodevelopment #buffaloeastside #buffalove #urbandevelopment

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Young,Educated and Ambitious

Buffalo’s development boom is creating more opportunities for young people to prosper than at any point in decades. Making a mark in Buffalo may be the way to go for many young people. Living through this year’s harsh winter, many of them are flocking down to warmer weather. But others who are recent college grads do not agree.
“It seems depressing when I come home which is why I don’t care to come back often anymore,” says Darryl Lewis, a Buffalo native, but who now is a resident of Charlotte, North Carolina.
However, after learning of recent urban development plans, many are all for making a living here in Buffalo.  Even with talk of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the new HarborCenter, and even investments for the Eastside, some young people simply want to move away. Jobs and the prospect of a career are crucial to one’s consideration of staying here.  But if one decides to stay, is it necessarily a bad thing?
Photo Credit: Huffington Post
            In a city where urban development has been slow to come (or in some cases not at all), after listening to Mayor Byron W. Brown discuss the plans at the State of the City Address, one may immediately be overcome with excitement. But in the same moment, it is still tough to find work now. How would young people know if the changes the Mayor promised will come to fruition and affect them positively? This question runs through the minds of many college graduates. So what is the solution for so many young people who live here and get their education but are eager to move? The key is to “find your destiny within yourself,” says Henry L. Taylor, doctor and professor for the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Buffalo. He said, “Each and every one of us has a destiny and it is our responsibility to discover it.”
            Sometimes people are led to believe that where they live can determine their future.  This is not necessarily true, especially within the African American Community. With historic establishments such as The Buffalo Colored Musicians Club, Nash House and Michigan Street Baptist Church in the Michigan Avenue Heritage Corridor, cultural heritage tourism is real and promising.  There are also countless black businesses and young entrepreneurships growing and blossoming.  To put it differently, there are many more opportunities for growth and leaving a mark in the city of Buffalo, more than people may think.  Companies like Buffalo’s only black-owned and operated radio station WUFO1080, have a deep connection to the city. Its location in downtown Buffalo is steps away from the African American Heritage Corridor and already has plans for the future. “We want to do some youth programming…a talk show…a youth being the host of their own show, moderating their own show and them bringing in their own guests,” says Sheila Brown, CEO of Vision Multi Media company. With opportunities expanding for Buffalo’s youth population, it all comes down to a matter of being patient as they chart their destinies.
Photo Credit:
            On the other side, at what point is it a better choice to move away and pursue goals in another city? With big plans underway for the city, it is important that young people focus on achieving their goals and to not only look at what is going on in Buffalo, but to look beyond if necessary. According to Claire Miller of New York Times, “The effects of the migration of the young and the restless are most vividly seen in urban cores.” These would include New York City, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Chicago and Boston. Sometimes choosing to leave is not always a negative thing.

Young people’s decisions to leave or stay in Buffalo are reflected solely on their personal goals in life. Taking time out every once in a while to reevaluate goals and plans for the future are crucial to staying in tune with what they truly want out of life. Regardless of the plans for developments or other positive changes occurring in the city, the decision young people will make to leave or stay in the area will also affect the future of the city itself. Being young and having options about where to live and what to do with their lives is a powerful tool.  So stick around and give Buffalo a second look.  People never know what dreams they can fulfill until they start reaching and believing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Putting Buffalo back ON TRACK

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

In recent news, Buffalo Central Terminal Restoration Corporation is seeking companies in the area to sponsor a restoration project for the former train station. This is exciting news! According to WGRZ news, the corporation is accepting proposals and ideas until the end of March. They are hoping to utilize the old station for a variety of uses such as retail space, housing, office use and much more.
Many of us know this station as a place our parents and grandparents utilized or as the place to party on Dyngus Day! Check out the link below for more information!

Photo Credit:WRGZ

Jam to Beat of Our City! George Scott, Colored Musicians Club

Photo credit: Colored Musicians Club

     The Colored Musicians Club has had a profound impact on development in Buffalo, New York. President and saxophonist of the club, George Scott, 58, has been the leader in the movement to maintain and showcase the club as a downtown historical site and entertainment hub. Scott, wearing several hats  as a father, brother and band member, serves as the voice of the club. Speaking passionately an positively, Scott is convinced that the Colored Musicians Club has made its mark historically, culturally, developmentally, and economically.
     "It was a symbol of hope, too, you know. Because if they were able to turn things around in a positive way for African Americans and other walks of life for African Americans now, we can do this too." Scott said in regards to the founders of the club and its contribution to economic growth and development. Scott undoubtedly has a passion for maintaining the club and upholding the rich culture and history if offers. "I think George has done a fantastic job at keeping this place alive. I think it's apart of the cultural dynamics of the city of Buffalo," says Tommy Blunt, a volunteer at the Colored Musicians Club Museum.
     As a graduate of Canisius College, Scott is a lover of history. He mentioned how often he researches different topics at the library, just for self knowledge. This speaks volumes for his elegant style of speech and his fruitful knowledge about the clubs history. Scotts 17-piece band, the George Scott Big Band, plays a mix of music that is enjoyable for people of all ages. In addition to leading his band, he is also an amateur photographer, former semi-professional baseball player and a fan of fishing and golf. Scotts well-rounded background makes him well-suited to be president of such a prestigious historical site.
     Scott notes that his greatest accomplishment over the past several years was the progress that he and others have had in making the club and museum what it has become today.
     "I'm just happy that I was able to be an integral part of getting this club turned around and being able to get this museum. This probably means more to me than anything; the fact that I learned from these guys, they were my mentors, my teachers."
And in return, Scott also helps to provide a venue for the youth to come and learn to play different instruments. Currently, the club offers youth music lessons on Saturday mornings from 11:00am-2:00pm.
     One of Scotts most precious and memorable moments he experienced was the chance to be the conductor while performing at Kleinhans Music Hall alongside Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, which he described as "a jazzmans' dream." When asked how he felt during the performance:
     "I was more busy with the conducting, I never thought about it...[he thought] wow, these guys, they're the best of the best...I had a great time, I loved it."
     Scott considers trumpet player Wynton Marsalis a prime influence who "carried the torch" for jazz.
     The Colored Musicians Club served and still serves as a venue for musicians and music lovers to come, make, and enjoy music together. With help from people like Scott, acknowledging these historical sites will help promote more urban development and growth for African American communities and the city as a whole.
     "With all the development in the city of Buffalo they're not going to be able to ignore the Colored Musicians Club because it's here, it's a permanent fixture and it's going to be a part of whatever develops in this area," said Blunt
     Growth in the city is not always necessarily about new development, but respect for the old. We can surely appreciate Scott for the respect he has held for the Colored Musicians Club the 14 years he has served as president.

jAmMiNg tO tHe BeAT oF oUR cITy! Getting to know Colored Musicians Club President George Scott

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Urban Planning in Buffalo, New York!

Photo credit: Instagram

The Future starts now! For the first time in forever, a blog dedicated to the wonderful developments happening in Buffalo, New York. Come here to get updates and unique perspectives of the "Queen City."
On this blog, I will share information about current and future projects such as the Harbor Center, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Humboldt Basin Rink (Martin Luther King Jr. Park), and much more! My goal is to create an outlet for residents of Buffalo to refer to when looking for an unbiased, straight to the point, and interesting information about the growth of our city.