5/30/2005

Beth Jacob Cemetery
  • update...July 17, 2005 - right here.
  • update...June 3, 2005
I met with two officials from the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo this morning, Charlotte Gendler and Daniel Kantor. They assured me that they have contracted with a local landscaper to properly maintain the site. Like many property owners in heavily blighted areas of the Fillmore District both Charlotte and Daniel are very frustrated with the issues of vandalism. Charlotte gave me a book, From Ararat to Suburbia: The History of the Jewish Community of Buffalo by Selig Adler as a gift. I also learned that the archives of the various Schuls that prospered here in Buffalo are now housed in the Butler Library at Buffalo State College.
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While checking on the city of Buffalo owned house located at 319 Koons Avenue this past week, which is still wide open, I walked north on Koons Avenue and explored an abandoned cemetery at the end of Landsdale Place. I'd never seen this cemetery before. It's adjacent to Concordia Cemetery. Check out the satellite image on this map to orient your self to the location.
Beth Jacob Cemetery
click to enlarge
Most of the grave stones have been vandalized and toppled. If the sun hadn't been brilliant that afternoon I'm sure I'd have come home later and pulled Sarte or a collection of essays by Camus and a bottle of vodka off the shelf before sinking into a depressive state.
Beth Jacob Cemetery Beth Jacob Cemetery
click to enlarge
The Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo claims responsibility for this cemetery yet it appears as though no maintenance or care has been done in years.
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5/29/2005

How Buffalo Get a Warhol

I read How Buffalo Get a Warhol the other day. It was written by Craig Reynolds over at Soundlab and appeared in the first issue of Basta! (Spring 1997).

Buffalo Nickel
Unlike other cities, where it’s easy to sink into the flow of everything’s fine, in Buffalo, you must be a prophet or drown in utter mediocrity. Buffalo demands existential authenticity, and the rock we push up the hill (only to have it roll back down over us time and time again) is our only salvation. Like Rimbaud in the gutters and back–alleys of Paris, in Buffalo, you have no choice but to remake life; there’s no bullshit left to buy, no palace gates to hide behind...
If you're down on Buffalo read How Buffalo Get a Warhol.   __________________________________________________________________________________

5/28/2005

St. Vincent's - Archive

Here you'll find a number of posts about St. Vincent's Female Orphan Asylum, on Ellicott Street. Designed by Buffalo's leading architects Edward Green and William Wicks the orphan home was constructed in 1898 and was last used by Erie Community College as a City Campus 25 years ago. The building and grounds are currently owned by a local businessman. If you're interested in additional orphanages in Buffalo you may want to visit Buffalo Orphan Studies.
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ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
the creativity exchangeshrinking cities
About the Psych Center...
I originally posted "Urban Exploration & Modern Ruins" in January after visiting the J.N. Adam site in Perrysburg. The Preservation Coalition hosted a tour of the Richardson Complex this morning so I thought it might be helpful to re-post.
*** Buffalo Rising writes about the tour!***
The Preservation Coalition has a picture of the Woodlawn Row Houses on their site with a link to the petition to save the Woodlawn Row, too. It's sandwiched in between the the picture of the Atwater House and AMA's.

So if you are intereseted Buffalo's architectural heritage and preserving outstanding examples of our built environment, consider reading and signing the petition to save the Woodlawn Row Houses.

Here' that earlier post...
Urban Exploration & Modern Ruins

While thinking about "Modern Ruins" this past weekend I stumbled on this site by Shaun O’Boyle. A totally cool sight displaying his work photographing old things. He calls this stuff “Modern Ruins.” If you are interested in almost any aspect of photography as a way to document the past, this guy is really good. This is an example of Shaun O'Boyle's work and depicts part of our Asylum's interior.

Our Asylum on Elmwood Buffalo Psych Center Our Asylum on Elmwood
click to enlarge
Awesome links and brilliant slide show “Insane Asylum” takes you through our own Asylum on Elmwood Avenue, the Buffalo Psychiatric Center aka H.H. Richardson Complex which local librarian Cynthia Van Ness describes. The slide show has a haunting sound track from Phillip Glass and closes with the disturbingly sweet poem by A.C. Swinburne (1837-1909) “From Too Much Love of Living.”

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5/27/2005

Buffalo BloggerCon 2005

Alan, well done and Craig, well said! We met, talked, mediated, and loved the wings at Buffalo's Anchor Bar.
Buffalo Bloggers
click to enlarge & see a few more
This photo taken by my "urbex" partner
David J. Goehrig

Craig, Ali, David, Jennifer, Kevin, Cynthia, Jennifer, Erin, Jennifer, Cynthia, Amy, Newell, & Alan who got us together in one room!
Don't miss what Jennifer@ AllthingsJennifer had to say about last night. And Erin from Erin-Go-Blog had this to say. Kevin over at The Talk Arena came up with this, too. Ali from AllThingsAli wrote this piece about last nite.
Jennifer from Random Daily Thoughts hasn't recovered from her recent Ebay shopping spree to post about last nite. Newell and Amy are still recovering, too. I'll add their posts and thoughts about last nite I imagine real soon.
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5/26/2005

Google & Joel Kotkin...
Just keeping tabs on local Buffalo bags blogs that stimulate the debate about urban planning is frustrating when links aren't provided. Perhaps we'll be discussing this at the BBC this evening at the Anchor Bar.

Yet it's remarkably easy to keep tabs on the ground breaking and "corrective work" of Joel Kotkin one of the most remarkable and often mis-understood urbanist thinkers and students of the history of cities. Pretty wild considering he begins his critique way back in Babylon!

Google News about Joel Kotkin continous updates about this guy's work. I've just archived The New Republic article by Kotkin over here. It's called:
Off to take pictures of the Immaculate Conception. Really, the one at Elmwood and Edward.
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Shrinking City...Shirking Church?
I've been interested in old things about as long as I can remember. From the building trades and learning how to erect old style post and beam passive solar buildings in Vermont, driving 25 year old German cars that never seem to break down, fixing up and living in historic property or even my academic pursuits in history...the appreciation and fascination for our built environment, praised by so many, is quickly developing into a burning nausea.

We learned on Wednesday in the Buffalo News that the Catholic Church here locally is shrinking at faster pace than we had ever thought possible. And this means...
  • "It is never easy to make a decision like this," said Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, who toured Immaculate Conception on April 21 and conferred with the diocesan Priests' Council before making the decision. "But over the years the parish population has dwindled significantly, and the church, rectory and adjacent school need approximately $830,000 in repairs. The church itself is quickly becoming an unsafe building."
The plan to abandon the Immaculate Conception Church at Elmwood and Edward is in full swing. Here's some history and pictures of the Immaculate Conception which we can expect will look like the familiar sites only now visible on the city's east-side. A boarded up church on Elmwood? It's coming in July!

What lessons are we learning from the adaptive re-use of these old church buildings?

There are two outstanding examples that come to mind. St. Mary of Sorrows on Genesee has been successfully transformed into the King Urban Life Center. Remember, it was Bishop Edward Head who wanted to demolish St. Mary of Sorrows. I had the opportunity to tour the building recently and it's really an oasis. We also learn that the Zion Dominion has sold their building to a local business and is moving to The Chapel in Amherst.

And when the lessons go wrong? What happens?
Transfiguration Church - Interior Transfiguration Church - Interior Transfiguration Chruch - 1940
click to enlarge
At 929 Sycamore on the city's east side we have a stunning text book example of demolition by neglect in its advanced stages. I photographed the Transfiguration Church in January. I found huge holes in the roof where the slate used to be and plenty of broken windows which gives the church that bombed out Sarajevo-like look and feel.

The city's official property description lists 929 Sycamore as belonging to Paul Francis Associates, Inc. One of the adjacent buildings at 34 Stanislaus, according to the city's official property description is owned by the Islamic Society of America. (Anybody, I need that link.)
Transfiguration Church

Transfiguration Church Transfiguration Church Transfiguration Church
click to enlarge
So what's next for the Immaculate Conception church? Some one on Buffalo Issues Alert thought it might make a cool brewery! I really doubt if there are any takers and any reasonable developer will most probably pass on the project and perhaps site what's happening at Delaware & Tupper as the reason. Meanwhile, who is going to hold Bishop Kmiec accountable for this property? $830,000 of repairs - sounds like there might be a few building code violations here. In the past property like this has often been "flipped" to un-suspecting congregations that think they are getting the deal of the century.

Two other examples to ponder when considering what to do with Bishop Kmiec's decsion to close the doors at Elmwood & Edward - 768 Broadway which is collapsing by neglect and 198 Emslie, a once beautiful campus of buildings, that may not make another winter. Both places can no longer be maintained by their congregations.
Broadway & Fox 198 Emslie Street
click to enlarge
Nauseous yet? Here are some more pics and stunningly depressing interior shots of the Transfiguration Church taken by David Kohrman in 2003. The same guy who is documenting Forgotten Detroit.
Imagine the headlines. "Church-Flipping" scam hits Buffalo - again!

Related Post: "Demolition by Neglect" Meets Urbex
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5/23/2005

Planetizen...Dead On!
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The latest issue of Planetizen arrived today. Get it here, it's free! Three pieces caught my eye.
  • Why We Neglect Historic Preservation in Low-Income Neigborhoods
    • Philadelphia's most attractive and expensive neighborhoods are often at least partially contained within historic districts that protect the old urban form of the built environment. Not so for low-income sections. "While most of Philadelphia's historic districts are in well-off areas, it is our poorest areas that need protection the most." Read it here.
  • A Letter from Jane Jacobs
    • "My name is Jane Jacobs. I am a student of cities, interested in learning why some cities persist in prospering while others persistently decline; why some provide social environments that fulfill the dreams and hopes of ambitious and hardworking immigrants, but others cruelly disappoint the hopes of immigrant parents that they have found an improved life for their children." Read it here.
Jane's letter is addressed to Mayor Bloomberg is response to a project going down in Brooklyn. It first appeared earlier this month in The Brooklyn Rail, which I always check out when I am in Williamsburg.

I've archived A Letter from Jane Jacobs as many of these lessons pertain to the eventual long-term revitalization of Buffalo. Recent posts about the life and work of Jane Jacobs can be found here in May and over here in January.
  • Being Cool Isn't Enough, A City Needs A Soul
    • Cities need a sense of moral purpose to survive and flourish. It's not enough, [Joel Kotkin] argues, for them to serve merely as a center of commerce. It's that idea that helps me the most as I continue my critique of the modern planning movements. In a recent interview, Kotkin complained to me that New Urbanists and others who want to recreate urban living as a rebuke to suburbanization tend to miss this almost-spiritual side to city planning." Planetizen Link requires registration, so I've archived it here.
Here, columnist Steven Greenhut makes many of the more "mundane" and quiet ordinary points that Joel Kotkin made in his major corrective piece on "new urbanism" recently in The Rise of the Ephemeral City.
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Letters

I receive emails everyday from fixBuffalo readers. I enjoy reading the individual narratives explaining various aspects of neighborhood life on the City's East side from back in the day when every corner was alive, sidewalks were filled with people going to school and work. Many emails reflect the sense of loss and what I'm writing about in terms of the pervasive hollowing out of entire neighborhoods. Urban planners, design students, teachers and investors are reading what has started out as neighborhood blog - highlighting the City ownership of a local-landmark, the Woodlawn Row Houses - and offering suggestions and critique.

http://static.flickr.com/106/251079685_eb521ba588.jpg

Many readers have sent amazing pictures of what Buffalo used to look like. I really enjoy and have started to share them in this set.  So - scan, send and share if you'd like.

You should know this blog is not a democracy. If I decide that a comment is offensive or in bad taste - not mild, but severe - I'll remove it. I don't like doing this but I have and I will. The rule is - pretend there are other people in the room who are listening to what you have to say.

Thanks for looking around, reading what's here and contributing to the conversation in Buffalo, NY.

Best,

David Torke

davidtorke@gmail.com
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5/22/2005

Google Crack!
Google Crack
I'm hooked. Just can't get enough. While getting my daily fix over here at Google Maps Mania, I stumbled on this cool Google hack called Google Maps Wallpaper. Here, all you do is "cut 'n paste" a url from Google Maps and you are off and running.

I selected three Google satellite images of Buffalo. These two images compare life along Utica. The first one centered on Utica & Elmwood and the other one is centered a few blocks away on Utica & Jefferson intersection. It's an older image cause the new suburban style Tops Market doesn't show up. What you can see is the ever increasingly larger "urban prairie," where houses are being replaced by vacant lots.
Life Along Utica
West Utica & Elmwood Utica Jefferson
click to enlarge
Google Sightseeing is totally amazing.
Downtown Buffalo
click to enlarge
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Blog Spring!
Alan, from Buffalo Pundit, has taken a great idea and turned it into the BBC. That's right the first ever Buffalo Blogger Convention.
Thursday - May 26th
7:00pm
Anchor Bar

I'm not sure if Alan has a string of awards to pass out and aside from all the innovative tech stuff to discuss I think at least some of the discussion will include how we can best advocate for a Wi-Max cloud over Buffalo. It's happening in Portland and it should happen here in Buffalo. I'd like to see us reach out to tech, civic and biz groups that desire to do the same.

Imagine a totally wired city, Vonage or Skype everywhere...a local entrepreneur and "urbex" partner of mine told me that the main trunk of the entire internet connecting New York City and Chicago runs right through Buffalo, down Elmwood Avenue.

Just caught this about Buffalo Wi-Fi. Site says the old Apollo Theatre, now Apollo Media Center over here in the 'hood is a wi-fi hot spot. Didn't know that.
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I'm sure we'll be mapping "wi-fi hot spots" in Buffalo - both public and not-so public - by this time next week. Know of some...let me know.

Come and check it out and let Alan know if you are planning to attend!
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Revitalize This?
I pass these "urban-monsters" a couple times a week on the Kennsington and finally explored them the other day. I've placed a few pictures on a Google Map to help orient and locate this city owned complex. Make sure to click the "satellite" link and play with the slide bar to see the proximity of these poverty palaces to ECMC. The brown area just to the south of the BMHA property is a baseball and football field. It was in great shape last week, well kept and as I left the place I was wondering if the broken fences are going to be repaired anytime soon.
BMHA Property...
click to enlarge
As you can see the place is wide open. The buildings all face "in" towards each other and there are a few benches that still line the walk. The place reminds me in some respects of Peter Cooper Village & Stuyvesant Town in the city.
Wide Open at BMHA BMHA's Park Bench
click to enlarge
I first started writing about BMHA over a few months ago when we learned that Sharon West, the former Executive Director finally left town, A Legacy of Vacany & Waste. Dick Kern and Jim Ostrowski have been some of the harshest critics of BMHA, there are all sorts of links there to their critique.
BMHA BMHA BMHA BMHA
click to enlarge
BMHA is still building. Last I heard they had contracted with Rocco Termini to build on 217 West, the site of a community garden. Let's hope it doesn't look like one of Rocco's first projects over on Emslie Street.

I've been in touch with one of Buffalo's best research librarians and I'm looking for some history and pics of the construction and when it was in use. Any leads? Let me know.
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5/21/2005

Things Google are...Great!
I've been a huge fan of Google products from the start. They seem to do things better and the way you imagine things should be. The list includes G-Mail, (let me know if you want an invite) Picasa, Blogger, Google News and of course the coolest maps are available at Google Maps. Most of the territory is also covered by satellite images, too. The code here is open and when you start mixing innovation, GPS technology, open-code and the Google Map interface good things are bound to emerge, fast.

Paul Rademacher just put together a Craigslist & Google Map Combo. Apartments in major North American cities are shown. I first learned about that at The Map Room and when they hooked-up with a Google Map Group, I was hooked. So earlier this week I joined and asked the question, "How can I do something like Paul did?" I wanted to map stuff about the 'hood and display it in the coolest format possible, using Google Maps.
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Arj, at GMapTrack, picked up on my interest and directed me to his beta-site. The interface is too easy to use. I just linked several points of interest and came up with my own:
Imagine all sorts of applications. Locating the best cheese-burger or all available public (and not so public) wi-fi sites in Buffalo. Google Maps Mania just linked to ChicagoCrimes.org that uses Google Maps to plot crime in Chicago...this is getting good!

Btw...More good news from Google. The stock closed on Friday at $241.61 up $2.43 and here's that full story...GOOG: news, chart, profile. Now if they had a personal homepage product.

Oh...just released, yesterday! Check it out.
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5/19/2005

Death and Life...of Great American Cities...
I was first introduced to the work of Jane Jacobs while reading Craig Howard's blog A Voice from America's North Coast, in January. When I ordered Death & Life of America's Great Cities, it couldn't have arrived at a better time. I just began networking with the PTO at Performing Arts High School and acted as a neighborhood activist to help smooth a decision to help make a new home for the Performing Arts High School here in this little corner of Masten. Iwrote about a number of neighborhood assets and attended the meeting where the decision was finally made to re-locate Performing Arts High School, directly across from the Woodlawn Row Houses.
Jane Jacobs
Here's what I wrote about Jane Jacob's work back in January in reference to what's going on with this little corner of the city's east-side. Hank Bromely, a Performing Arts High School parent, made the full transcript of his interview with Jane Jacobs (July 2000) available, too. James Howard Kunstler interviewed her a few months later. His work, The Cluster Fuck Nation Chronicles is still, pretty wacky and often dead on!

The decision to re-locate Performing Arts High School one block from Main Street on Ferry at Masten, (see google map/satellite image) that shows proximity to Elmwood, is a hugely important decision that has transformative qualities for our city. I've written about that that decision, over here. Florence Johnson, Buffalo School Board President, picked up on this and included it as the second story in her totally awesome blog, Fix Education.

Now we are building a working committe, PTO, neighbors, Cannon architects, a Buffalo City planner and members of other community organizations. We will be reviewing the plan document and determine where we need to extend and add a few design pieces to firmly integrate the "new" school within the streetscape along Ferry Street between Main and Jefferson. We are identifying private funding sources that may be interested in lighting, landscape and other issues that will insure the success of this venture.

Oh yeah...make sure to check out Figmo's new post about Jane Jacobs at Buffalo Rising and Alan has something to say about it already at Buffalo Pundit.
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And I finally had the opportunity to meet Craig Howard over here in the 'hood about a month ago. You can read about it here, great pics from Craig, too!

5/18/2005

More about Flickr...
If you didn't know, Flickr does a whole lot more than just host photos. It's totally interactive and there's a whole lot going on behind the scenes.

Once you belong, it's free, you can join groups like this one about Buffalo. Easy, members submit photos to the group and wammo-o there's a group slide show. It's ever evolving...There are currently 95 images.


click each photo to see tons more!
And the Suburban Hell slide show is worth a look, too! Couple hundred images from the wasteland.

Still waiting for the app that will integrate Flickr and Google Maps. Check out the Flickr Blog, too.
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5/17/2005

The Buffalo Blogosphere...On Urban Decline

Looks like something more than just a hipster shoot-out developing, finally!

Craig at North Coast first posted, Bill Gates Doesn't Live in Buffalo. He presented an academic article by Edward Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko and linked to a post by a former Buffalonian, (must see) and now in exile. He helps us answer that question, "Should I stay (in Buffalo) or should I go now..."

Then, Figmo at that way too cool Buffalo Rising Blog responded.

Craig shot back right back.
  • I'm a believer in "classical" economic principles. I think the Wharton paper relied too heavily on the Creative Class writings of Richard Florida. Florida, an economics professor, developed his now-stylish theories during the tech-bubble of the late 90s. His theory attempted to explain the "new economy." Remember that? High-tech businesses were exploding and they did'nt follow the old rules.
While I agree with Figmo regarding the reasons why many people live on the east-side, myself included, I think there are other reasons why people stay. They can't move.

The dynamic is difficult to understand if you haven't lived here and heard the first-hand accounts of people not being able to sell their houses for what they originally paid for them. (See.. "black" housing values vs. "white" housing values.) On my block, there are 14 houses. I know two people who have completly abandonded their property because they couldn't sell it or even give it away. Many seniors feel trapped in other parts of the 'hood and lead very quiet, desperate lives just trying to feel even a semblance of security. Not a good thing.

Of course this dynamic is made more difficult by layers of neglect. I mean the city hasn't even boarded up and properly secured the Woodlawn Row Houses, an historic property and "local-landmark." A neighbor is so concerned about vandalism and security. There were two small fires last year and evidence of forced entry again. Her house is just 4 feet away! I've been documenting this mess for 17 months. Remember these row houses are less than 100 feet away from the "new" home of Performing Arts High School.

The fact is that 15/day are leaving Buffalo. (Simple math...take the 2000 and 2003 census numbers for Buffalo...divide by 3 and then again by 365...) If 1000 people move downtown and 10,000 people leave Buffalo...Where's the trend?

Figmo referred to Joel Kotkin's piece that I mentioned last month. A close reading of Kotkin reveals a warning against relying on just the creative class for the revitalization of places like Buffalo.
  • Perhaps most important, an economy oriented to entertainment, tourism, and "creative" functions is ill-suited to provide opportunities for more than a small slice of its population. Following such a course, it is likely to evolve ever more into a city composed of cosmopolitan elites, a large group of low-income service workers, and a permanent underclass--or into what San Francisco is already becoming, what historian Kevin Starr describes as "a cross between Carmel and Calcutta."
Craig has Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics available on his blog thru an Amazon link. It should be required reading along with Joel Kotkin's The Rise of the Ephemeral City for anyone interested in revitalizing Buffalo.

And to answer the question "Why would we want him, Bill Gates, here anyway?" We should be welcoming anyone who wants to start and develop a business...
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Latest Issue of Planetizen
If you're not subscribing to this on-line zine of all things urban, culture, economy and planning consider it. Planetizen is free.

In the latest issue there's a piece featuring the writing of Washinton Post writer, William Raspberry. History, Racism or Neither? has all sorts of references to Thomas Sowell's work. Sowell's latest, Black Rednecks & White Liberals, is sure to stimulate discussion of race on both sides of Main Street. Raspberry writes...
  • The danger is that in our zeal to score points off one another, we'll forget what the game is about in the first place...One thing seems beyond dispute: Maybe we haven't laid racism to rest, but we have reached the point where what we do matters more than what is done to us.
Planetizen is interactive and there are all sorts of links to related issues and stories that William Raspberry is writing about in his recent column.
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5/16/2005

Property of the Weak... #3
This house is located at 905 Humboldt Parkway (check that google satellite image!) According to City Hall, Annie Harden is the owner of record. (Seems like the bank forgot to transfer the deed...go figure.) It's a 2/2/2 three family house and it's currently assessed at $39,900.00. According to neighbors its been looking like this for years.

Any takers? The house appears to be in good structural condition.
905 Humboldt Parkway
click to enlarge
***Update***
May 16, 2005
Had a conversation with one of Buffalo's most innovative realtors this afternoon,
JM Reed from Polis Realty.
He has keys to the place and would be very interested in helping
a serious buyer with the purchase of this totally cool property.
JM Reed can be reached at 716-881-1200
or jmreed@polisrealty.com
Just to the right of this property you'll see this Carriage House. Pretty cool for the 'hood. You'll also see this sign posted on the door of 905. National Home Marketing Solutions is a property and asset management company that specializes in HUD properties. They are located in Georgia.
Contact Information 905 Humboldt Parkway Garage - next door
I've archived the Other Property of the Weak for your review!

Follow up...Weak #1

The house at 2 Girard is still available for the adventurous urban pioneer. Here are some current pics. It's located on the other side of Humboldt Parkway from 905. The basement is now wide open, so it will probably need all new plumbing, fixtures and I imagine the heating system has been stripped by this time, too. Something tells me that this property will be demolished by this time next year. Wanna bet?
DSCN1342 DSCN1347 DSCN1339 DSCN1343
click to enlarge
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