5/30/2007

St. Matthew's Watch...Week #3


Visited St. Matthew's on Sunday afternoon. A neighbor told me that the grass had been cut earlier in the week for the first time in years. I've been playing phone tag with the building inspector all week.
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click image to enlarge
Heard from one fixBuffalo reader that the ministry that seemed to vanish from St. Matthew's - after stripping out the architectural detail, pews, alter and stained glass - has set up shop just north of Atlanta - Vision of Faith International

Spoke with a neighbor on Moselle Sunday afternoon. She recounted attending mass twnety five years ago when St. Matthew's was still open and from her second floor porch has watched the Church descend to its current state. She smiled when she'd heard that the church was no longer being flipped on Ebay.

Here's the expanding post regarding - St. Matthew's History
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From the 12th Floor...

I've been spending considerable time downtown in the past few months. Was recently introduced to the cafeteria on the second floor of the M&T Bank at Main and Chippewa. I returned the other day to M&T's 12th floor and grabbed these shots of the City's near East side.
Looking East...from?
And a close up of West Genesee Street...that is actually more secure than it has been in a long time.
IMG_7833
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5/29/2007

Down By the River...

Memorial Day river trip...
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We put in down on Ohio Street and paddled to the recently re-watered Commercial Slip. Perhaps the first canoe in the slip since 1917.

Here's the slide show - Memorial Day 2007
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Labor Day 2006 was the last time - right here and a few days later here. Some similar views in 2005, right here. Great views of the Canadiana's wheel house.
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Say What?

Remember 2 Girard? Visited the place several times over the past two years. Showed up in Housing Court, too and asked Judge Nowak to spare this City owned house a demolition order. He didn't.
IMG_7724
Rather confusing situation now. It's City owned and despite the demolition order somehow someone somewhere has stepped to the plate. We learned last month - City Property On-Line - that a sale is pending for 2 Girard.

Still no sign of anyone taking possession. High grass and totally open. It's still on my watch list. You can see it just before the Science Museum on left hand side of the 33 on your way downtown in the morning...
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5/27/2007

50 High Street...Gone!

Last weekend Aaron Ingrao and I toured the 50 High Street demolition site on the City's near East side [google map].
_DSC2703 _DSC2704
click image to enlarge
Chris Byrd was there on Saturday morning...

Remember this from last October's demolition nearby by at the Hamlin House. Loved this pic!

See - Kaleida Archive for additional information.
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How Others See Us...

Remember Woe is Moi? from January 2006? Love knowing how others see us here in Buffalo.
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This morning woke up to this article - Buffalo Bets on its Waterfront - from Sean who observes Buffalo from his perch 100 miles away in Toronto. Frequent fixBuffalo readers also know him as the founding member of DK Photo Group.

Some of the lines in Buffalo Bets on its Waterfront just sort of jump out grab hold.
As Toronto continues to creep steadily forward on its waterfront redevelopment plan – the master scheme for the foot of the Don River and Portlands, released just a month ago, is still several years away from starting – Buffalo has already begun building what it hopes will be the anchor of a reinvigorated waterfront.

Robert Shibley is the director of the University of Buffalo's Urban Design Project. The city's wounds may have been cauterized, he says, but it's not done bleeding. "We're still losing population. We have a huge infrastructure of vacant land and weak neighbourhoods. And the demographics aren't great."

Shibley was courted from Oregon in 1982, when Buffalo was bottoming out. "The pitch to me was to come here because it has every problem in the world you'd ever want to study. It's small enough to get your arms around and you're only an hour and a half from Toronto," he laughs.

"Every day you'd pick up the paper and there'd be another insurance fire on the east side. We were losing housing stock, and population, very, very quickly. It was grim. It was very grim. But at the same time, it was challenging."

Here's the link to Canalside and some recent links - Role Reversal and (B)ass Pro


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BAVPA Reconstruction - End Week 47

The image “http://static.flickr.com/69/181241745_f4849c6f55.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
May 26, 2007 - Day 339
The dumpsters have been removed, windows are in and the finishing touches are being completed on the third of the three major new additions to this renovated City high school - the Art Wing - shown in the banner photo above, over on the right.
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Chatted with the building's custodian who was working on Saturday afternoon, first pic below. He thought the schedule was going to be really tight getting everything situated for opening day in September.
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click image to enlarge
See BAVPA Reconstruction Archive for additional details and updates.
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5/25/2007

Elena's "Death and Destruction Tour"

Elena Buscarino just posted this over at Buffalo Rising - LISC Tour of Abandoned Houses.

Make sure to check out - Undeliverable - the preliminary analysis of LISC's investigation into abandonment and vacany issues here in Buffalo, NY using recently released Postal Service and HUD data.

Very unsettling...
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Smart City...this weekend

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Smart City is a weekly, hour-long public radio talk show that takes an in-depth look at urban life, the people, places, ideas and trends shaping cities. Host Carol Coletta talks with national and international public policy experts, elected officials, economists, business leaders, artists, developers, planners and others for a penetrating discussion of urban issues.

This weekend...
  • It's a question Steve Babitch and Clint Barth have been wrestling with and they'll tell us what they've learned. Both gentlemen just earned Master of Design degrees from the Institute of Design in Chicago. Steve's area of focus is innovation strategy and planning, and his work includes a stint at Doblin, Inc. Clint is a designer who has worked with small start-ups, nonprofits and Fortune 100 companies and is currently a consultant for Gensler.
  • Also with us is Dr. Heather Weiss who founded the Harvard Family Research Project to support the successful development of children from birth to adulthood. Heather is also Senior Research Associate and Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Listen to host Carol Colletta - list of additional stations/times - 7pm Sunday on WNED - 970 in Buffalo, NY. Past Shows are archived and the newsletter is published regularly.
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5/24/2007

Role Reversal...

In today's Buffalo News, Cynthia Van Ness has a piece about the Erie Canal site, Bass Pro and Florida residents Bob and Mindy Rich.

It was 2000, and in a breath of fresh air befitting the new century in a city long suffering from a stale, crony- based political culture, the Preservation Coalition of Erie County led a passionate grass-roots campaign to develop a historically sensitive Erie Canal district that honored the archaeological remains of a site known the world over.

Our vision seized the imaginations of 15,000 Buffalonians who signed petitions calling for restoring the Commercial Slip and unearthing the original street network of Buffalo’s birthplace.

Out of this participatory process, a consensus plan emerged with design - read the rest...
MJ recently flew over the site and submitted this picture.
Erie Canal Harbor - April 2007
And the good folks at Flynn Battaglia have provided a sketch of their work.
Final Site Plan Nov 2006
Seems like the waterfront is a rather large place. Plenty of room for Bass Pro, just not here! Gotta agree with Cynthia on this...
But in this case we bow our heads to Larry Quinn, Bob and Mindy Rich and everyone who gave away our place in history to Benderson and Bass Pro. In the “obstructionism” game, they make us look like rank amateurs.
Remember this? Too funny!
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5/23/2007

Queen City Farm...

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Monday evening, the folks at the Greater Buffalo Savings Bank helped out with Queen City Farm's first fund raiser. Here's the cool graphic.
Queen City Farm - 5.21.07
We were introduced to a short film by John Paget - John Paget Films - and heard speak passionately about the connection between sustainable neighborhoods, the farm - which will be one of North America's largest community gardens - and people's lives. Very compelling narrative provided by Cynthia Van Ness and Samina Raja. The 12-minute film is available on the Queen City Farm site.
Queen City Farm - 5.21.07 Queen City Farm - 5.21.07
Here's a few pix and link to a slide show from Monday's fundraiser. Make sure to check out Harold McNeil's piece that appeared in Tuesday's Buffalo News - here.

Here's a few additional links to 194 slide shows - interior pix and exterior pix. An earlier post - 194 East Utica...On Life Support - from last January, with plenty of links to additional posts.
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Suburban Streetscape...

Once you start seeing this splendid suburban stuff in the 'hood, suddenly it's everywhere. This one's somewhere on Sycamore Street.
IMG_7218
I know, awesome use of of a corner lot.

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. Mcguire: Plastics.
See My Vinyl Collection for additional inspiration.
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Air Buffalo...the return

I rarely repost, yet this set from MJ is really amazing. Very cool views of downtown, the urban prairie and Steel Winds.
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Here's the link to the slide show in case you missed it last month - Air Buffalo
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5/20/2007

Trailer in the 'hood...

Spotted another trailer on the ever expanding urban prairie the other day.
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This one is located along Genesee Street. Here the other ones I've seen recently. If you've spotted any additonal trailers just sort of parked in out of the way places, like to know...
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St. Mattew's Watch...Week #2


Weekly St. Matthew's Watch photographs...on Saturday we investigated, again!
St. Matthew's 5.19.07 St. Matthew's 5.19.07
click image to enlarge
As you can see the church is still not properly secured. I've asked Scott Weinstein on numerous occasions to use something other than scraps of used plywood and church pews to secure "his" church.

Mowing the lawn and cutting the shrubbery would be go a long way towards building some good-will in the neighborhood.
Here's the expanding post regarding - St. Matthew's History
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5/19/2007

A Few Pews...

On our way over to St. Matthew's this afternoon, we spotted these pews at the corner of Fillmore and Winslow.
IMG_7357
Wonder where they came from...
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Bang, Bang...

Just in from a loyal fixBuffalo reader...
buffalo
This study examined the location and neighborhood characteristics of parolees and probationers to support the evaluation and effectiveness of the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Project in Buffalo, NY. This project brings together the law enforcement community to reduce gun violence though Notification Sessions for these offenders. In this case, offenders from Federal, County, and State agencies identified as being at high risk for committing gun violence over a 2.5 year period were examined. Of these, the locations of offenders residing in Buffalo were examined to determine the neighborhood characteristics for each. A Social Stress Index (SSI) was created using - read the rest...
Ouch!
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WWJD?

Woke up this morning to the brilliantly simple story on the front page of today's Buffalo News. Reporter Jay Tokasz asks, "Should the Bishop's Home be sold?" Like, duh...
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I've archived the full text of the article - Selling 79 Oakland. I've been asking this question for years. Most recently here - Flipping (off) Jesus... - in the context of the St. Matthew's Deaccession.
Yesterday - back in the 90's, Transfiguration and St. Matthew's, were lost. Tomorrow - well, Bishop Kmiec is just getting ready to make the announcement about the latest church closings. Meanwhile he still lives at 79 Oakland Place, the Diocese still owns a vibrant - lovely terra cotta building at 785 Main Street and manages the mostly vacant - and desired devlopment spot just outside of East Aurora - here, Christ The King Seminary.

Seems to me that if the Bishop desired to return to the City and model the behavior necessary to turn the tide and fill the pews once again, he could. With three of the most desirable properties under his thumb (79 Oakland is one of the most expensive residences in the City, Main Street could fill a shortage of downtown class A office space and the seminary, well...) there are plenty of resources to shore up - and moth-ball - some of the most vibrant pieces of our cultural heritage here in the City.

Then again, what do I know? Flipping (off) Jesus is the latest chapter in Diocesan Deaccession. It's what happens on the urban prairie, the abandoned, forgotten and vacant steppes of Buffalo.
Just like Land Banking, selling 79 Oakland Place is becoming part of the emerging conversation here in Buffalo as we look to right-sizing and rescuing our City and bringing it back from the brink.
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Wide Open...Why?

In December 2004 an entity called Temple Empowerment purchased 202 Walden Avenue for $1000. As I mentioned two months ago in - What If? - a devestating fire ripped through the premises on November 6, 2006.

On Saturday afternoon the building remained wide open...
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Check out MJ's slide show - Retreader
My earlier slide show - Fire in the 'hood...

Housing Court Index #1676/2005 details the continous inspection history of this building from September 2005 to the present. I'll be confirming this week with City Hall if a demolition order has been signed. Imagine that the City - you and me, folks - will be saddled with the demolition cost of this place.
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Any one want to venture a guess as to the price tag?

Meanwhile the building has been wide open for the past 196 days...a few blocks away from a recently renovated City school and an Olmsted Park. If it were closer to Elmwood Avenue, think it would be properly sealed by now?

So it goes...
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5/18/2007

Queen City Farm...

Plan on attending...
QCF Groundbreaking Poster
Queen City Farm is an exciting urban agriculture and preservation initiative that is a collaboration of numerous individuals and organizations in and around Buffalo but we need you to make it happen. Join us on Monday, May 21st at 5:30 for an evening of film and art sponsored by Greater Buffalo Savings Bank at their Pierce-Arrow Showroom on the corner of Main and Jewett in Buffalo. QCF will present for the first time a short film from local documentarian and Rotary member John Paget. The evening will also feature a silent auction of original Buffalo themed artwork and a Chinese auction of Buffalo area gifts and merchandise. Check out our website (www.queencityfarm.org) for more information and feel free to pass this notice along to anyone who loves Buffalo, preservation, gardening or food.
fixBuffalo readers have been getting the news about Queen City Farm as it happens. Here's a recent post with all sorts of background links with flickr slide shows of the buildings interior and exterior...
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5/17/2007

Smart City...this weekend...

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Smart City is a weekly, hour-long public radio talk show that takes an in-depth look at urban life, the people, places, ideas and trends shaping cities. Host Carol Coletta talks with national and international public policy experts, elected officials, economists, business leaders, artists, developers, planners and others for a penetrating discussion of urban issues.

This weekend...
  • Mayors from around the world convened this week in New York to get serious about climate change. They have a growing number of examples to learn from and one of the best is Starbucks. Tony Gale, the company's Director of Design, is with us to share the ground-breaking work Starbucks is doing to make its stores green and how its work can influence others.
  • Dr. Joe Schwieterman is Director of DePaul University's Chaddick Institute, which promotes effective urban planning. Today, effective urban planning means sustainable urban planning, and the biggest chits in play are transportation and buildings.
Listen to host Carol Colletta - list of additional stations/times - 7pm Sunday on WNED - 970 in Buffalo, NY. Past Shows are archived and the newsletter is published regularly.
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Undeliverable..."No One Home..."

The folks at LISC - Buffalo have been doing the heavy lifting analyzing and synthesizing the growing amount of data and literature regarding abandonment and vacancy issues here in Buffalo, NY. A recent post - Shrinking Buffalo...Our Inconvenient Truth - has numerous links worth following to get you up to speed on the accelerating rate of decline.
Just got this from LISC - Buffalo...

In cooperation with HUD, the US Postal Service is now releasing quarterly data on vacant and undeliverable addresses by Census Tract. Where Buffalo and Erie County have been lacking a city-wide regularly updated primary data source on vacancy and abandonment rates, this data represents a powerful on-the-ground tool for tracking these trends at the neighborhood level.


This data does not represent structures, but separate mailing addresses. If there are two units in a house it would count as two addresses; if there are ten commercial offices in a single building, it would count as ten addresses. HUD has not yet been able to determine from its conversations with USPS how, if, or when PO Boxes are factored into this information.


The data that the USPS does collect represents chronic vacancy...read the rest...

A few attachments arrived with the email. Two data sets and two maps.


I've merged both data sets into two shared spreadsheets. The first data set - Buffalo USPS raw data 2006. The second set contains the equally disturbing trend data - Buffalo USPS trend data 2006. Here's the interpretive dictionary [.pdf] from HUD describing the various numbers.


The maps are available via my esnips and available for viewing and downloading. The first map shows the 2006 Trend Data and the second map, the first quarter 2007 vacancy by census tract.

A cursory analysis of this data reveals by the end of the first quarter of 2007 (Q1 2007) Buffalo had lost 1,692 deliverable addresses since Q1 2006, representing a decrease of 1.4% of the city’s total addresses. During that time, the total number of all addresses fell 527, from 137,292 to 136,765 for a decrease of .4%. After accounting for demolition activity, then, this translates to 1,162 more undeliverable addresses than last year at this time.

Do the math...100 addresses/month are disappearing from Buffalo. Even if all these addresses represent two-family houses, that's 10 houses/week that are vacated every week!


Last month, I posted - Ouch! - regarding population loss here in Buffalo, NY. One of criticisms involved in using census data is that some people claim that it's not reliable and we should wait for the 2010 data to filter down. But, folks...the Post Office! These people know how to count...and the numbers are real...


Question of course remains why we are not adopting the best practices that are emerging in places like Youngstown, OH...


Byron?

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(re)Boarding Control - The Sequel, Part II

While out mowing lawns on Sunday afternoon, I had the opportunity to check out Rev. Stenhouse's place at 121 Woodlawn Avenue. First noticed problems at 121 back in February 2006 and took these pix.
February 2006
DSCN2675 DSCN2676
if the first broken window in a building is not repaired, then people who like breaking windows will assume that no one cares about the building and more windows will be broken. Soon the building will have no windows...
- James Q. Wilson "Broken Windows"
fixBuffalo readers will remember this series - Boarding Control, Part II and Part III - and this recent post about the persistent problems with Rev. Stenhouse's failure to properly secure four houses along Michigan Avenue - right here - directly across the street from his church, Bethel A.M.E.

Well on Sunday 121 Woodlawn Avenue was wide open...
May 2007
121 Woodlawn - Buffalo, NY 121 Woodlawn - Buffalo, NY
121 Woodlawn - Buffalo, NY 121 Woodlawn - Buffalo, NY
click image to enlarge
If you are so inclined you may leave a message for Rev. Stenhouse at the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority's office, 716.853.0907 - he's the Secretary/Treasurer of Buffalo's Control Board.

What's so amazing about these continuing developments is that Bethel CDC remains the largest single owner of blighted and neglected residential property in the area immediately surrounding the future home of Performing Arts HS, right across the street.

No Housing Court for Rev. Stenhouse, not even an open inspection file for any of these properties.

So it goes...
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5/14/2007

Webb Inquest...Inspection Review Panel - the report

Lots happening in City Hall. There was an investigation into various issues involving the Webb Building and alleged wrong doing. The panel included - Joe Golombek, Lavone Ansari, Richard Griffin and Denise Roche.

Here's the full report - Webb Inquest - May 11, 2007

It's 54 pages long and the link takes you to my esnips on-line storage site and then to a .pdf file. Read it, let me know what you think...
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5/13/2007

Crossing the 33 - Part II

Last week's post about the Scar contained a number of links and photographs about the highway that divides the City. Walked around here recently and found the place to be so really alienating and numbing. This bridge connects the back side of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School to...the urban prarie.
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click image to enlarge
This is the neighborhood on the other side, the urban prairie...here and here. In January I posted - Crossing the 33 Part I - which is on this summer's Tour d'Neglect.
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