Sabres Fans are Hockey’s Best

January 19, 2010

…or maybe Phoenix fans are the worst.  I’m not positive, but when the away crowd outnumbers the home crowd you know the home time has a problem.  And when the away team is from 2,000 miles away the home team has a real problem.

That was evident last night when Buffalo fans succeeded in turning the Jobing.com Arena into a sea of blue and yellow, and out-cheered Phoenix fans by roughly the same ratio with which the Sabres beat the Coyotes.

Sabres Fans at Coyotes Game

Whether it was hanging out in front of the arena…

Sabres Fans at Jobing Arena

…lining up as the gates opened…

Fans in the Crowd

…or inside the arena, Sabres fans were everywhere.

It was an impressive exhibition of fan support that I’ve ever witnessed firsthand, and an example of why the Coyotes will shortly be playing in Winnipeg or some other city.

I didn’t get the MSG feed so I don’t know how much they talked about it, but having been there I can readily say that in the NHL, Buffalo has no equal when it comes to supporting their team.


The Ohs Get a Sendoff

January 1, 2010

Today is the first day of the new decade (well, not technically but that’s okay).  The Buffalo News wishes us a Happy New Year with these three front page headlines:

  • Colgan pilots fault stall training (describe method as ‘Joke’)
  • A Year of Tragedy
  • Brown ousts Gipson as city’s top cop

The first article that one might construe as “hopeful” (albeit unlikely) is found on page 4North Korea makes a commitment to a nuclear-free peninsula.

This is a depressing, depressing newspaper.  Even Esmonde’s New Year’s wish list is nothing more than whining about what will prevent his wishes from happening.  There are good things worth reporting, aren’t there?  The News always surprises with their slant toward the forelorn and depressing. I just couldn’t get through today’s paper.  I think it will be the last Buffalo News I try to read.

So, my response to what the News does not provide is a list of some of the really neat things that happened last decade.  They give me hope for a Happy New Year and the start of a great decade.  Here goes:

  • Lance Armstrong.  He never gives up.
  • Planets Everywhere.  The odds of finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe keeps going up as we discover just how common planetary systems are.
  • …and related to this, Water on Mars.  The odds of finding any kind of life elsewhere takes a giant leap forward wherever we find water.
  • The Human Genome Project, and the hope that it brings to understanding the genetic framework for many diseases, including cancer and diabetes.  I may not live long enough to reap the benefits but I think my children will.
  • The 2008 Olympics.  Beauty, form, grace, and grandiose settings.  Amazing what a country with a limitless supply of low-cost labor can do for a few billion dollars.  [Anecdote:  Today the Bird’s Nest is barely used and needs a bit of a paint job.] May Rio de Janeiro be so successful in 2012.
  • Globalization.  New markets, new opportunities.  Fear mongerers spew nonstop about cheap labor overseas destroying America, but we saw that in the 70’s and got through it.  America is still the land of innovation and so long as we continue to innovate we will continue to be an economic powerhouse.
  • Extreme Makeover, Buffalo.  ‘Nuf said.
  • Alternative Energy.  Finally, government and industry are taking notice.  Even if we can’t eliminate fossil fuel use (until it’s gone) we are rapidly approaching cost-effective alternative energy.   At that point – I predict it happening this decade – the alternative floodgates will open.
  • Going Green.  Even if global warming turns out to be more hype than substance, awareness of how we are polluting our environment has raised our efforts at conservation.  We see it in everything from simpler packaging to more efficient building construction.  Clean Technology grew almost 20-fold last decade to a $10 billion industry today.
  • The Internet.  The awakening of an online generation to the power of a tweet and a blog.  Social networking now wins and loses elections and drives the direction of government and industry faster than ever before.

I wait with excitement for what the 10’s will unveil.


Another Feel Good Story

December 29, 2009

Mike Madonia, UB alumnus and now Director of Development at the School of Engineering, writes about the impact that everyday Buffalonians – and everyday Buffalo – has on him and the people around him.

If only the Buffalo News could replace any one (of their typically four) alarmist and/or depressive tone-setting front-page reports with one of these every day; we’d all be smiling just a little more, holding our heads just a little higher, and seeing good PR about our area spread just a little further.


Buffalo Dreamin’

December 14, 2009

Andrew Sullivan from The Daily Dish had this article today.  Its references contain many more compliments about the Buffalo region.  Funny how often I sense more optimism for this city from sources that live outside the area, than those who live within its boundaries.

Thank you, Andrew, for a great article.


How Many Employees Does it Take?

December 13, 2009

While Buffalo Pundit chastises the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation for lack of strategic foresight in its lending practices, I found today’s article on the BERC disappointing for a wholly different reason:

-It takes 25 employees to administer about a loan a month.

Six-sigma lean it ain’t.


Whiteout Conditions

December 10, 2009

On a day when they closed all area schools; and the winds gusted to over 50 mph; when the Weather Channel warned of a bitter cold weather pattern expected to last all day; with the possibility of 6 to 10 inches of snow in the Southtowns and more in the Southern Tier, my normal 30 minute commute to work took me…40 minutes.

How long did it take you?


Extreme Makeover – The Aftermath

November 18, 2009

Mayor Brown would be smart to distance himself from taking any credit for the success that Extreme Makeover brought to Buffalo’s Massachusetts Avenue neighborhood.  Instead, he should cite this as an example of what can be accomplished when everyone works together for the betterment of a neighborhood.  He’d be way ahead if he uses his political clout to help sponsor and organize Extreme Makeover, Part II – XYZ Neighborhood.  I think any area around Jefferson and Best would do just nicely.

Someone asked about the tax liability that Delores Powell will have on her new home.  Rest assured that the producers of Extreme Makeover don’t leave that open-ended.  Essentially, they got the city to agree never to raise the assessed value of Delores’ property so long as she owns it.  What Extreme Makeover did was lease the house for two weeks from Delores, so that they could renovate it under leaseholder improvement provisions.  There is even a federal provision nicknamed the Extreme Makover Loophole that Congress passes every year, just so these guys on ABC can do what they do.

I’m not sure how New York State sees this but I wouldn’t be surprised it sends Ms. Powell some kind of tax bill for imputed income.  It is New York State, after all.

It’s a wonder that this Extreme Makeover segment even happened.  When the producer first went to City Hall with the schedule, some of the first words out of the Municipal Housing Authority were “It’s not gonna happen by those dates” to which the producer said “We’ve done 168 homes throughout the country so far; do you really want to be known as the first city that couldn’t accommodate the schedule?”  The permits were put into place shortly thereafter. 

This is yet another example of the territorial nature of our local government.  I’m happy that clearer heads prevailed and if Mayor Brown had something to do with this, then good for him.  Rather than embrace Extreme Makeover and its potential for great intentions and even greater PR, some clown in City Hall decides to throw his weight around.  The issue of little duchys permeates across Western New York govenment and grows by example, starting with our political leadership.  How do we ever change something so ingrained as this?

Buffalo needs more Extreme Makeovers.  What a great way to bring out the best and show the rest of the world why we so rightly deserve the title “City of Good Neighbors”.


The Paladino/Rudnick Battle

August 26, 2009

Part 4:  So Where Does that Leave Rudnick and the Partnership?

I’m a member of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership for the networking aspect; it gets me in front of people whom I would otherwise not get the opportunity to meet.  Some will argue that this benefit is not worth the dues one must pay to be a member and that’s a fine argument.  For now though, I’ll continue to pay my dues.

In addition to networking the BNP has (if I may paraphrase from their website) three other goals:

  • Support of business growth
  • Business services
  • Political advocacy

The third item has always been controversial as not all members may think like Carl Paladino or I do, putting the Partnership in a position where virtually any political advocacy in which they engage is bound to alienate some of their members.

I am in full agreement that the BNP (and all Chambers of Commerce in WNY) need to recalibrate, but replacing its leadership with someone who fits Carl Paladino’s expectations is no different than what Tom Golisano is doing to the State Senate, and likely to result in as much chaos as construction.

I think that if you’re going to work in both the community and in the political realm, diplomacy is of utmost importance.  Carl’s diplomatic efforts are, well, erratic at best (and I wish I could emphasize how badly we need more people like Carl, if only he could color the arguments in a more positive way).  He sees the BNP, BNE and other local organizations as structures that are in such bad shape that they must be plowed under and rebuilt from the ground up.

I think that Andrew Rudnick’s public persona is one of civility and diplomacy.  But what he also does behind the scenes matters, especially if he is not following the Partnership Board’s directives.  This is important:  Corporate leaders are beholden to their boards, not the other way around.

Should Rudnick go?  A friend of mine suggested that all public leaders be subject to term limitations.  I find that term limits have merit as long as they don’t apply to me or anyone else doing a spectacular job in his/her position; fans of Rudy Giuliani would agree as well.

Boards remove their executives when they fail to accomplish the board’s strategic directives.  If the Board decided that the Partnership should recommend voting against every incumbent next November (I hope I hope I hope), and Rudnick fails to execute, then that’s grounds for dismissal.  If the Board decides to take less provocative or behind the scenes approaches and Andrew complies, then he’s doing his job.  If the CEO is doing as the Board wishes then the CEO is doing his job.  Paladino is screwing up the chance to foment real change because he’s shooting at the wrong target.  If he doesn’t like what Rudnick is doing he should focus his attention at the Board.

But really, when it comes to Upstate success stories I can’t think of a single organization (and I’ve been thinking about this for well over a month) that stands out as having produced major, consistent results over the past 15 years, the Partnership included.  And by major I mean consistently media-grabbing.  In that regard, even Carl has only his Thruway toll initiative to brag about; what else has he done that has made a real difference for the community?

This is in no way meant to impugn Carl; indeed, in private he seems extraordinarily gracious and charitable, and I suspect he has impacted this area in many small ways, as has the BNP, the BNE, Catholic Charities, UNYTS, the Red Cross and so many other organizations.  The problem is that none of us are creating blockbuster initiatives with major, consistent impact; and none of our very worthwhile behind-the-scenes activities will ever make the press.

Maybe it’s because we can’t create those initiatives.  Short of taking up arms – short of a revolution – none of us, collectively or otherwise, can make a revolutionary difference given the political structure of our city, county and state governments.

So that leaves an evolutionary approach, a strategy that the BNP appears to be addressing at least as well as any other group.  I don’t think replacing Andrew Rudnick is an agent of change any more than I think creating a new chamber of commerce would be an agent of change.

In summary: Two polarizing figures, two different approaches, neither one visibly successful on a regular basis but striving for the same thing.

They’d be so much more effective if they’d figure out how to work together.

The End.


The Paladino/Rudnick Battle

August 24, 2009

Part 3:  The Partnership, and the Paladino – Rudnick Love Affair

I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog post that the Buffalo Niagara Partnership offers its members some benefits that are informative and – in the case of the Movers and Shakers session with Senator Stachowski, highly entertaining.

Equally entertaining has been the recent media blitz headed by Carl Paladino to oust Andrew Rudnick as the head of the Partnership.  A quick review, according to the dozens of emails (53 actually, and counting) that Carl has sent to Partnership members past and current:

  • Andrew stinks at his job;
  • Andrew is a polarizing figure;
  • Andrew should resign;
  • Anyone on the Partnership Board of Directors who supports Andrew should resign;
  • If this doesn’t happen in 60 days (clock started June 10th, do the math) Carl will “…lead a concerted effort to form a new Chamber of Commerce to lead our community”.

I have lots of respect for Carl.  He’s a family man, passionate about Western New York and both times I’ve had the chance to talk with him he’s been cordial and even-tempered.  I’ve written of him in past posts and complimented him (sort of) in his quest for change within state government.  I think he’s a pretty cool guy, influential in the local area and keen on trying to make Buffalo a better place (within his lifetime; pretty far-fetched, no?)

But he’s also acting like a jerk, spitting venom and twisting reality with some numbers that I think he pulled out of some stinky orifice somewhere.  He would accomplish lots more if he’d can the bullshit and build consensus rather than further polarizing a polarized community.

The tone of Carl’s campaign goes beyond confrontational and would have better served the community had it focused on whether or not the Partnership is achieving its goals for the betterment of Western New York.  Instead it’s loaded with vitriol, supposition, lots of statistics (plenty of taint there) and loads of innuendo but not a lot of meat.  Questioning Rudnick’s role as CEO is one thing; blaming him for our dysfunctional city school system and lame politicians is a bit of stretch. That part I don’t get.

Many of the emails begin with Hey Andy.  This has become the campaign catchphrase.  The emails are hard to read not because of their rancor (they’re like a bad car accident; you know you shouldn’t slow down and look, still you must) but because they are replete with bad grammar and even worse spelling.  Carl should hit the spell-checker button now and then; really, it would help a lot, especially coming from an executive as high up the ladder as Carl.  Okay, this is selfish motivation on my part:  I want my kids left with the impression that it takes more than grade school mastery of spelling to achieve greatness, just so they stay in school!

Rudnick isn’t biting, at least not yet.  The Partnership’s board so far has taken the high road and delivered responses that are both cordial and boring, not at all controversial enough for media attention.  You know that full-page ad the Partnership put in the newspaper a few weeks ago?  I suggested that they proactively put in some catchphrases of their own, be creative and grab people’s attention in the first three sentences, maybe cut through the storm clouds with some sharp wit.  They opted for maturity – thoughtful but bland – not something that would draw media attention unless they paid for it.

In the midst of Carl’s Hey Andy emails was one regarding Uniland’s successful attempt to get state subsidies for its development of the Avant building, and how unfair that was to all us taxpayers and to businesses like his own “…that…have to go to bankrupcy [sic][you know you shouldn’t look but you must] court to address our mistakes or incompetence”.  But Carl forgot to mention that his own company got an Empire Zone extended so he could place high-priced condominiums in it, saving him close to $1 million in sales taxes.  The hypocrisy spoke volumes and made me realize that cronyism is a personal failing only when it’s being painted on someone else.

Rudnick and the Partnership have said little in response to this or other Paladino emails.

Gary Burns from Buffalo Business First asked Carl what he would do to fix things around here.  Carl’s responses followed an interesting pattern:  Repeal this law, Remove that politician, Close those schools, Allocate money to Western New YorkThese are great ideas, and I am behind Carl all the way! And I’ll bet Andrew Rudnick would think these are great ideas too!  If only Carl were King of New York so he could implement these changes at will but he’s not so these solutions are nothing more than the same wistful thoughts all of us have.  Without going through the glacially slow and Carl-incompatible approach of working with the existing political structures, these changes will not occur, regardless of who is running the Partnership, the BNE or any other well-meaning organization, for that matter.

The problem with this battle is that it’s all Carl, yelling and screaming, demanding and getting media attention, throwing down the gauntlet and providing non-solutions while the Partnership and Rudnick try to take the high road and not settle into tit-for-tat trench warfare.  So you get this one-sided view of things which is tainted with opinion and innuendo dressed up as facts, when it didn’t need to be.

Yet Carl has a legitimate case.  Andrew Rudnick’s been a polarizing figure within an organization whose issues and opinions run the gamut from ultra-conservative to the radical left.  He and the Partnership can’t so much as sneeze without pissing off someone in that broad-spectrum constituency.  Carl should have kept it professional and leveraged concerns for Rudnick’s leadership into a more polished package, one that might have garnered both respect and influence from inside the Partnership board.  That he didn’t makes it all the harder to be an instrument of change but easy to be one of derision.  As a Partnership Board member and a corporate manager I find it hard to comprehend why Paladino would not try to maintain a professional mannerism on such a critical issue.  That he didn’t do this is a disappointment, and an impediment to progress.  As a successful business leader he knows darn well that the Partnership’s effectiveness comes down to the same questions asked of any organization:

  • What are its goals?
  • How well is it achieving these goals?
  • How can the leadership facilitate achieving these goals?

I’m afraid that if I joined Carl’s Let’s Fire Andy crusade that I would be sorely disappointed the moment I disagreed with the direction that Carl takes his version of a Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, for it is clear from his emails that it’s Carl’s way or the wrong way:  In essence, he evokes the same attitude for which he is criticizing Rudnick.

And in spite of all the media attention, Carl is a one-trick pony:  He got the toll barriers removed.  Anything else?  Nothing comes to mind.  That he is a polarizing influence – without a really great track record – in a community that has been incredibly polarized for two generations does not convince me that he could do any better at running a chamber of commerce than Rudnick has done.

Next Up:  So where does that leave Rudnick and the Partnership?


Bill Stachowski Meets His Constituents, Part Deux

August 23, 2009

Part 2:  Why 62 Senators Stood Pat for 2 Months NOT Doing the People’s Business.

Bill Stachowski

Senator Bill Stachowski spent an hour and a half with about 25 members of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership last Thursday.  His introductory remarks focused on why he voted for the 2010 state budget.  In summary:

  • The governor’s office gave them little to work with;
  • Legislative rules prevented them from making wholesale changes;
  • The state senate was forced to re-insert necessary expenditures that the governor’s office removed;
  • The other side refused to deal with this mess last year.
  • Voting YES was the lesser of two evils;

I’m glad he was able to deflect blame away from the Democrats; otherwise he would have had to implicitly blame my Democratic-leaning friends who voted for him.  Luckily, there were plenty of other entities with which he could spread fault for this fiscal mess.  This was a practice session:  I’m sure that next year during the election season he’ll find even more scapegoats and not-for-the-people public officials to impune.

But I was interested in learning more about the recent two-month-long senate stalemate, so during the Q&A I asked this question:

“There were 62 senators who – to a person – decided that allegiance to the Party was more important than the people’s business.  Why, to a person, is the Party so much more important than your own constituency?”

Stachowski got clearly irritated and trampled on the last word of my question to blurt out

“You’ve got it all wrong”

At which point some guy to my right shouted out “That’s bulls**t, that’s exactly what it was”.

Stachowski and the guy, and the guy next to him went back and forth for what seemed to be an uncomfortably long time but was probably just a few seconds.  I didn’t really mean to cause a ruckus, I just wanted an answer to a question that’s been on my mind since June.

“Our side offered 15 different resolutions to solve the impass.  The other side rejected all of them.”

He proceeded to explain the compromises that the Democrats offered the other side about power sharing, each party submitting bills on alternate days and some other measures to break the impasse.  He was clearly irritated but not belligerent.  I think it was because I distracted him from the roll he was on with the budget, with all that smugness because he could throw out jargon and policy-ese and bill-ese that only those in the know, like him, could comprehend.  The 31-31 impasse was clearly not something he wanted to talk about and he did so in a more curmudgeonly manner than on budget questions.

He never did answer my question though.  It is clear that neither he nor anyone else in the senate thought that crossing party lines was a solution.  I learned a lesson here, that someday, if I really want to wield power, I should join a political party so they can tell me exactly how I should wield it.  Yesiree, I’ll take my marching orders from the Party!

Stachowski is betting that by next November we voters will have forgotten about this rotten budget and the senate impasse.  Brian Sampson of Unshackle Upstate is betting that our state politicians’ collective behavior will not be forgotten.  Unshackle plans to be highly visible during the 2010 elections reminding the voting public how political spinelessness and Party allegiance above all else got us to where we are today.  Stachowski on the other hand has $4 million in legislative pork to spend on his constituency in order to buy their votes and make them forget.  Ah, pork:  a most potent amnesiac.

Back to the budget.  Brian pointed out that with 38 million people, California’s state budget topped off at $91 billion.  New York – with half that population – has a $132 billion budget.  Here’s what the burden per person looks like:

NY-Calif per capita burden, 2010

Brian also spoke of the state pension hole that will force dramatic tax increases in 5 years as state employees retire en masse (and move to Florida where the New York State legislature has much less authority).  Stachowski brushed it off as an accounting trick, that in reality the hole doesn’t exist.  This article begs to differ.  I beg to differ too.  In fact, I begged to differ with almost everything Stachowski said.  It would have been refreshing to have him even hint that New York State is out of control both fiscally and politically, but it didn’t happen.

Sampson was impressive in his ability to keep a straight face while Stachowski spoke.  When it came to credibility there was no contest.  When it came to having to feign respect, there was also no contest.  Both speakers get one point each.

I have to compliment Senator Stachowski for his willingness to sit in front of us and provide justification for political decision-making that clearly no one in the room believed was justifiable and then repeat that process time after time in front of various audiences.  It takes a real belief in the system and a really thick skin to do this, or else abject stupidity.  I’m not sure which camp he belongs to.

Next Up:  The Partnership, and the Paladino – Rudnick Love Affair


Bill Stachowski Meets His Constituents

August 22, 2009

Part 1:  Encounter with Bill Stachowski:  Lessons in Finger Pointing Assigning Responsibility

Bill Stachowski

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership offers member access to its Movers and Shakers events, usually held monthly.  This month’s M&S was a meeting with state senator Bill Stachowski (D, deflection) and Unshackle Upstate Executive Director Brian Sampson.  Whether you like or dislike the Partnership the M&S event is usually informative and sometimes entertaining.  Last Thursday’s event was both.

Brian spoke first and set the stage with a critique of this year’s state budget, the inability of the state legislature to hold the line on expenses and the impact that new taxes and fees will have on personal incomes and businesses.

Senator Stachowski then aggressively took the defensive, following up with an explanation of the budget.  He spoke rapid fire – spoke might not be the correct word here; for at times I thought he had marbles in his mouth or suffered a stroke or horrible malady, his speech being so mumbly as to be intelligible – about the limited options the state senate had available to cut expenses because of what they (meaning the governor’s office) delivered.  He clearly laid blame for the current budget fiasco at the feet of the previous majority‘s refusal to deal with it in last year’s budget.  In burbled tones he spoke of FMATs and “ATAT’s”.  [I really have no idea what he said but it sure sounded like “A-T-A-T”; throughout his narrative he tossed around jargon without explanation, expecting his audience to know it cold, I guess.  I am in awe of his mastery of speed mumbling.]

Stachowski also speaks while viewing people’s midsections, like he’s trying to look at you out of the top of his glasses but not quite succeeding.  I think he was trying to make eye contact but maybe his neck or something wouldn’t let him raise his head enough to actually do so.

The good senator did make a point that the state budget’s actual increase was only 1% even though, um, when using what I learned in 4th grade it’s 10% or $12.1 billion.  “The [federal] stimulus money allowed us to fund programs that otherwise would have been cut”, he explained.  Now, even though that means next year’s budget will suffer a monster shortfall when stimulus funds are no longer available to cover those programs, that’s apparently a 2010 problem and something that he swept aside maybe for the sake of brevity during this meeting, or maybe because he didn’t want to face up to it, what with an election cycle starting soon.

Stachowski also pretty much glossed over the 88 new taxes and fees that were enacted to close the budget deficit.  Actually, he didn’t speak about those at all except in the collective:   “It was hard to vote for this budget,” he said.

But I got the feeling from the matter-of-fact bluntness by which he deflected blame elsewhere that voting YES was probably the easier choice since it was clear that the governor and the other side were to blame for this mess.  I should note that Senator Stachowski seems to have trouble saying the wordRepublican”.  I’m not sure why.

Next Up:  Why 62 senators stood pat for 2 months not doing the people’s business.


There’s a New Building Project in Buffalo!

August 3, 2009

IMG_6719

This would not be big news in any city with a bustling economy.  It’s major news here.

A bunch of people showed today up to a tent in a vacant lot and applauded everything and anyone and proclaimed that the new Kaleida Global Vascular Institute  is the best thing to happen to Buffalo since sliced bread.

10 politicians participated, so you know this was big.   The upside to this event was irresistible, even though most politicians hate sharing the limelight with other politicians.  That alone was telling:  This gathering was unique.

The downside is that it is unique.  Groundbreaking ceremonies for 300 million dollar projects are almost once in a lifetime occurrences in Western New York.  That put an edge on this celebration that I found discomforting.  All these people taking and giving credit, celebrating the all-too-rare win.

Well, that party’s over.  I wish for our political leaders not to bask inebriated-like in the glow of the Vascular Institute – as if this one building demonstrates how much they’ve accomplished – and instead get to work on the next project, and the next one after that.


Buffalo, and Fairbanks

July 15, 2009

Fairbanks Weather, July 15-19

Fairbanks Weather 2009 0715

Buffalo Weather, July 15-19:

Buffalo Weather 2009 0715

‘Nuf said.


What’s Wrong With This Picture?

June 15, 2009

Dewitt

Behold the tree-statue of DeWitt Clinton marking the opening of the Erie Canal.  What’s wrong is the car in the background.  The parking lot is just past the single row of trees, about 20 feet from the sidewalk and adjoining Erie Street.

No matter what direction from which you photograph this and all the other tree-statues (the “Carvings“)  temporarily lining Erie Street as it extends to the end of the Erie Basin Marina, you cannot get away from the asphalt.  You can find plenty of parking and a very nice road that hugs the shoreline, but virtually no grass.  Barely a place to spread out a picnic blanket, set up a tent, hold a party.

No place to avoid engine exhaust.

My last post was about the lack of access to our waterfront.  This post is an example of how development of that access has sacrificed the very reason we go to the water:  To get away from the sights and sounds of urbanization.  In this regard we planned poorly but executed the plan well, leaving us with a jetty that from above looks dull and gray, and from the ground looks wanting for anything green.  I recall while living in Silicon Valley how parking lots were divided by fingers of grass and foliage to break up and hide the proliferation of cars.  Is that design, which sacrifices one in ten parking spots, not feasible out here?

The planned redevelopment of the Waterfront Village – with a newly approved hotel plan – really needs to incorporate natural elements into the design.  So do the existing properties in the Village, the road leading to the marina and the oversized parking lots on it.  My suggestion:  Take out the road beyond the last set of boat docks, and force everyone to walk the final 400 yards to the end of the marina on a grassy and sandy surface.  Barefoot even.


Getting To Buffalo’s Waterfront

June 13, 2009

Buffalo’s waterfront is a vibrant, ever-changing world of private and public investments, dwarfed only by the length of its shoreline and frustrated by the lack of access to it.

I saw this firsthand today on while on a tour sponsored by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s Young Professionals group.  We traveled as far south as the Bethlehem Steel property and north to Squaw Island.  In between there was some amazing development, made even more so by Luke the bus driver’s needle-threading precision maneuvering around roads not ever meant for bus travel.

The Bell Slip, a tranquil cove adjacent to a staging area piled high with stone curbing.  In the calm and soothing natural setting you could almost ignore the deafening bellows of the front loader working on the Route 5 redevelopment nearby.

Bell Slip Panorama

The Outer Harbor Parkway Project, which punches holes into the soon-to-be new Furhmann Boulevard so that traffic will eventually be able to move east/west under Route 5, connecting the outer harbor to South Buffalo, possibly allowing South Buffalonians to flee west.

The Antique Boat Club, nestled inside and behind Nanodynamics, the old Ford Plant.  One would think that the Antique Boat Club area is a perfect spot for a boat launch, inside the breakwall, were it not for the fact that the water is 15 feet below the rusted steel pilings that make up the abrupt and artificial shoreline in that area.

IMG_5723

The Old Freezer Queen (cum next condominium, if the economy ever improves and the Outer Harbor starts to take shape) complex, taking up oodles of space on the water, almost directly across Furhmann Boulevard from the Tifft Nature Preserve.  The amazing Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park, a huge plot of reclaimed brownfields encompassing the Union Ship Canal, parkland and brand new facilities courtesy of Sonwil Distribution, Certainteed, Cobey and a dozen yet to be claimed undeveloped and spooky-being-in-a-city parcels.  The Riverwright complex, which while shockingly ugly and even uglier up close still holds promise as a future biofuel manufacturing center until we Buffalonians litigate it to death or controlled nuclear fusion is realized, whichever comes first.

There’s the cobblestone district, Canal Side and Buffalo Harbor, condos on the lake, LaSalle Park, the Black Rock Channel, Towpath Park, Cotter’s Point and that tiny part of the Erie Canal that sticks out by the Scajaquada and is full of driftwood and old tires.

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And there’s a most tortuous trip between really ugly Navy property and the no-man’s land adjacent to the tracks which are adjacent to the I-190, to the West Side Rowing Club and an absolutely spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fontana Boathouse next door.  I now know how to get to this place but it would be impossible to give someone directions to it.  Frank’s secret is safe with us.

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These and other small parks, slips and marinas pepper the waterfront among the ruins of a once booming shipping and transportation center.  What’s lacking is a great many small things.  For instance, there were a total of three restaurants along this 7-mile stretch, one of which was the Hatch which no one in their right mind would consider a restaurant.  There are rusting and crumbling industrial properties looking for a buyer.  There are still huge brownfield areas begging for reclamation dollars.  There’s barbed wire, concrete walls and debris strewn everywhere.

But the big thing that’s lacking is easy access.  Squaw island via a narrow one-lane steel-decked bridge?  The West Side Rowing Club via a snaky drive past some snarky buildings?  Buffalo Harbor via streets that twist and turn under the elevated I-190?  Who dreamt up this road map?

There’s a ton of stuff on the waterfront.  We just can’t get to it.


Fights Behind the School

June 10, 2009

School Fight

As I read about the ever-dysfunctional New York State legislature I’m reminded of my youth, growing up in Holland, watching the fights break out among the 12-year-olds who wanted to use the basketball court behind the school.

We were twelve.

We pay our Senators how much to act like this?


Thinking about Next Year’s Ride

June 9, 2009

Tour de Cure 100 mile Start

Except for a slightly sore butt I feel completely recovered from Saturday’s 100 km Tour de Cure bike ride.  Next year I think I’ll start training just a little earlier, and go for the 100-miler.

To everyone who donated on my behalf or for anyone else, thank you so much for the support.  The Tour de Cure is much more than a fund-raising event; it’s a festival, the first of many festivals held during our wonderful summer months, when the glorious weather brings out the best in us.

Last week was also the Greek Festival and this weekend it’s the Allentown Art Festival; then the Ride for Roswell; and shortly after that the Taste of Buffalo and the Italian Festival and many other great places to gather and celebrate.

Buffalo’s great for that kind of stuff.


Controlled Burn

June 8, 2009

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The Bowmansville volunteer fire department had a heyday this evening when they set a house on fire, for training purposes.  Volunteer fire companies live for this kind of opportunity.

The old brick house on Pavement Road is being torn down.  The fire company would have preferred to burn it to the ground but because the bricks are being salvaged the company was only allowed to put in some smoke pots and other things to make it hot and smokey, good enough for the guys to get some experience with smoke and darkness and hard-to-breathe, smelly places.

There must have been 30 or 40 firefighters at the scene.  I sure hope there are no other fires in Bowmansville right now.


Small Business Week in Buffalo

June 6, 2009

This past week was Small Business Week in Western New York.

  • Monday:  UB’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) annual meeting
  • Tuesday:  Small Business Innovative Research grant writing seminar specifically targeted to small businesses and start-ups
  • Tuesday Night:  Buffalo Niagara Partnership Endurance All-Stars event.
  • Wednesday:  CEL Class of 2009 graduation ceremony
  • Thursday:  UB Business Partners Day

Before you say “Small business, so what?  Who gives a crap?” know that small businesses account for half of all employment in the U.S., and since the mid-90s have created 60-80% of net new jobs.  A very recent NPR report cited that small businesses accounted for 100% of all new hiring in 2009 so far.  Small business is Western New York’s future, for God knows that until New York State’s government is overthrown changes we are not going to be attracting any large companies to this area despite the best efforts of the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise and our local politicians.

Some big corporations were represented at most of these events, too:  Moog, National Fuel, Greatbatch, M&T and others are sponsors of many of these programs, in part as a giveback to the community in which they operate.   I am grateful to the big guys who probably get little in return, other than some friendly PR.

UB Business Partners day was an unequivocal success.  Attendance was probably twice last year’s, and it will continue to grow.   UB and the CEL both recognize that entrepreneurialism is the seed by which business will blossom in Western New York.


I Need Help

May 24, 2009

My closest friends will all tell me that admitting it is the first step.

But this is a different kind of help that I need.  I’m going to bicycle the 100 km Tour de Cure on June 6th; it’s to raise money for the American Diabetes Association, and I’m looking for inspiration to complete the ride. I am not diabetic, but I know lots of people who are.  Chances are you or someone close to you is suffering from and fighting this condition.

Your donations will help inspire me to keep going and ignore the butt pain I’m going to feel by the 50 km mark.

This is not an attempt to get you to empty your wallet; indeed, a few dollars from a lot of people will go a long way.  Donations can be made directly to the Tour de Cure through this link.

Thanks in advance.

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