7/28/2009

Midtown Neighborhood Plan - Stalled or Stopped?

FixBuffalo readers may remember a five part series of posts - Neighborhood Plan - from this past Spring where I first started asking a number of questions about a $12m scatter-shot-rent-to-own neighborhood development plan that was scheduled for this Midtown neighborhood. Artvoice picked up on it - here.

The Buffalo News carried a front page article about this development today - right here. At the center of the storm is Rev. Richard Stenhouse in what the Buffalo News has called a 'pay-to-play' mentality about this $12m development.

Rev. Stenhouse is no stranger to controversy surrounding housing issues here in Cold Springs. Two years ago, as the City's Control Board secretary/treasurer and Executive Director of Bethel CDC he was involved in a number of Housing Court cases involving Bethel's ownership of four violation ridden houses on Michigan Avenue, directly across the street from one of the City's recently renovated schools, Performing Arts HS. Here's that story.

Earlier this evening I visited Ada Place and talked to a number of residents, folks who've owned homes on one of Cold Springs most challenged streets, with one of the most amazing compact streetscapes in the City. They quickly pointed to 38 Ada Place - covered here, last March and first, three years ago here - a single family home still owned by Rev. Stenhouse's Bethel CDC.
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38 Ada Place - owned by Bethel CDC since 2000
Residential development here should be concentrated and strategic, not scattered. It should respect good planning and urban design principles. This plan didn't and shouldn't have gotten as far as it did. There's a strong case to be made for re-hab financing and/or a revolving low-interest loan fund, for area residents to access for all sorts of deferred maintenance on homes here in Midtown's struggling, architecturally and historically rich neighborhoods. The $12m that had been earmarked for 50 new-builds and a club house on Michigan Avenue (that's right - here), needs to be urgently redirected.

A number of very astute people, long involved in housing policy in this 'shrinking city' that I spoke with late Monday afternoon, weren't so much shocked by the revelations that appeared in today's B/N article as they were relieved. As one told me today - "today more people will finally see that the 'strong-arm' practices, so reminiscent of third-world political hacks and thugs have finally come to the surface in Buffalo - a city that now really resembles a 'failed-state'.

Strong language. This should be interesting, watching this one un-wind.
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8 comments:

Inspectors-R-us said...

Do not let amateur developers hold property, nor let an amateur bureaucratic Buffalo inspection system oversee delinquent owners.

NYC and other pro-active cities treat derelict property owners as streams of revenue -- cite repeatedly and consistantly, and then either repairs or fines ensue to benefit the City in either a tax stream or rehab/compliance funding.

Anonymous said...

Why is Mayor Doolitle not involved and otraged at how Rev Stinkhole keeps up his slum properties? Why would anything he wants to do be approved when this is how he keeps up his properties? The Mayor sayin nothing shows he needs to get out of office, Useless!!!! What a mess the mayor is making of the city. I feel sorry for those that own and maintain their homes and have to look at The Revs dumps. Its an outrage. Why is nothing said about his dumps? More would be made of it if it was a white slum property owner. Thats the problem with Buffalo.

Anonymous said...

Its a race thing going on. The Mayor wont allow anything unless rev stenhouse is involved.

Anonymous said...

Wow - great blog post. I was recently interviewed by a Federal Agent on 'what I knew' about political corruption in the city. So I know there is some interest in this and other issues. Unfortunately, I am not close enough to the situation to provide any major assistance, if anyone out there can provide information to the feds, do so, they are in the yellow pages, professional and confidential.

Mary/Bruce said...

From Mary: It's interesting that people only dare to comment anonymously. It shows how far reaching the fear factor goes. Keep up the good work, David.

Alan Bedenko said...

I haven't followed this as closely as you, and I understand why you oppose it from a planning standpoint. But isn't the larger picture the fact that there is no planning in this town, ever, for anything, and that's the underlying problem.

Buffalo and WNY spend so much time on idiotic ad hoc battles and can't be bothered to put together a plan for what we want the city & region to look like and plot a way to get there.

Also, for me the story isn't the haphazard placement of the houses and whether the project was a good one or not. For me the story is that someone apparently didn't get paid off, and that killed a development deal.

Anonymous said...

Scattered site development is a good urban planning concept and when done properly can fill in the gaps in neighborhoods on the brink. There are many issues with this project, but scattered site development is not one of them!

Merle said...

If same setback, presence of porches, building design, roof pitch are replicated scattered sites will fill in neighborhood's missing pieces nicely. See for good example the Frisicaro new build on Park street in Allentown.

See an awful example of bad scattered site design on Michigan Ave, Belmont's suburban scale houses that have briken up setbacks, no windows on the south side, no side lot face on corner lot placement and double wide driveways.