Sophistic Jaundice Tuesday

1. I know HBO’s adaptation of Game Change is a dramatization of one side of one story, but if there’s even a smidgen of truth to any of it, thinking people who live in our Republic need to work together – multipartisanly – to ensure that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is never elected to anything ever again. I don’t just mean some national position – I’m saying that her particular mixture of proud ignorance and narcissism is downright dangerous, and she doesn’t deserve election even to a homeowner’s association.

2. Interesting that the Oishei Foundation, which was set up with Trico money, isn’t knee-jerkedly joining the keep it crowd when it comes to the Trico building that the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus wants to demolish to make way for something as yet unannounced. There’s now a “save Trico” blog, and it has reposted something from Derek Punaro in which he analyzes what he perceives to be the arguments against preserving the dormant factory. My response to him was this:

You omitted the part about landowners having a qualified right to do what they want with the property they own.

You’re right about most of your points, but so what? Trico is gone, and hell, if you try hard enough you can come up with an historic rationale to save any building, anywhere, at any time. I’ll bet you if someone came up with a reasonable, funded plan to replace the execrable Buffalo City Court building, there’d be opposition to it. And if there wasn’t, I’d do so ironically.

A quick scan of the BNMC plan shows that the surface parking lots surrounding the Trico are already slated for development, and expansion of the campus.

So, if tomorrow the BNMC held a press conference revealing what it wanted to build on the Trico plant site, that it wanted to build it as soon as practicable after demolition, and that the funding for it was in place, you’d withdraw your opposition?

Because the question isn’t really whether Trico COULD be used as a modern medical research facility – the question is whether BNMC wants to use it as such – whether its layout comports with the way in which BNMC wants its people to work, and whether it’s economically or environmentally feasible or desirable to do so.

Just because Zemsky re-did the Larkin doesn’t mean every factory and warehouse facility that happens to be old and harken back to a long-gone industry needs to be preserved. What I tweeted yesterday was,

The Trico Building is a monument to nostalgia & the industrial abandonment of Buffalo. Hold @BNMC to a high standard, but let them build.

I stand by that statement.

Derek and I aren’t going to agree on this, and that’s ok. He’ll advocate for its preservation, and I’ll hope someone rips it the hell down and builds something new as soon as possible. To me, it’s time for the next generation of Tricos and Larkins to make their architectural mark on the city, and the BNMC has built a couple of badass new buildings lately. Knee-jerkedly keeping every old building for the sake of its oldness and some trumped-up “significance” is just tiresome.

But then local expert-at-everything Chuck Banas left a comment that began thusly:

Mr. Punaro has written an excellent deconstruction of the issue. It is no surprise, nonetheless, that Mr. Bendenko’s mindless contrarianism is on full display here. Indeed, his comments display the lack of creativity and vision — as well as the cynicism — that we’ve come to expect.

But Bedenko’s train of logic really derails when he states that Mr. Punaro is correct about most (if not all) of his points, and then glibly says, “so what?” Even a cursory interpretation of Punaro’s individual arguments reveals them to be germane and immensely relevant. The Trico buildings are exactly the type of structures that successful, progrssive cities preserve and repurpose. These are precisely the type of industrial buildings that can be reused easily and inexpensively.

The real rub, however, is not Bedenko’s sophistic argument, but that his jaundice has apparently blinded him to the obvious problems with the BNMC’s behavior. And the problems are surely obvious:

I’m pretty sure my comment was somewhat critical of the BNMC for not being as transparent as some might like. I’m also pretty sure that my comment to Derek was respectful and didn’t call him an asshole. So, I’m puzzled as to why everyone’s favorite development/architectural busybody found the need to describe me and my position as “mindless contrarianism” and deceitfully hostile.

Also, the preservationists should make up their minds over the “significance” and “BNMC isn’t playing nice” arguments. Of course, there’s nothing short of reusing that building that the BNMC could do to satisfy the preservationists, so the former argument is probably more persuasive.

Well, my argument with Derek was none of those things, and if your position is to just call me names, mischaracterize my position, and then simply re-state what Derek has already written, then you ought to piss off.

I really dislike the Trico building. I think it’s downright ugly. An eyesore that stands as a stark reminder of how far down the city has gone. Over the last decade, it’s been nothing but a headstone for a business that’s abandoned Buffalo and her people – a business that’s still making a profit, making wipers in Matamoros, paying Mexican workers pennies per day, taking away factory jobs from the working class in Buffalo – a working class that’s finding it ever-tougher to get a job in this area, which leads to poverty and flight.

I don’t care if it’s got skylights and other fin de siecle anachronistic “features”. I don’t care if its brown paint is distinctive or if its lead paint dust or asbestos are architecturally significant. It’s a monument to loss and failure, and I’ll bet if someone wanted to build an exact replica of it today somewhere, the same people clamoring for its preservation would be screaming and yelling about how ugly and out-of-place it is for that part of town.

3. Victims of child abuse at the hands of a disgraced Syracuse coach are lobbying Albany for a change to the statute of limitations for lawsuits arising out of that abuse. People often stay silent as a result of such abuse, and live a life of shame and silence. Astonishing, isn’t it, that the major opponent to this change in the law is the Catholic Conference.

Similar bills passed in the Assembly in years past but never reached the Senate floor, because the Catholic Conference is against it. Church officials said they don’t oppose the Statue of Limitations increase, rather, the one-year window.

“Just the whole concept of going back 50, 60, 70 years and bringing old lawsuits against teachers, priests, whoever the accused is, and have the institutions try and defend themselves, is just contrary to justice,” A Representative for the Catholic Conference said.

Aside from that being an inaccurate description of the proposed law, it’s astonishing exactly who‘s piping up to oppose a rather simple change in the law to enable child sex abuse victims to get their day in court.  A Cardinal, of all people

16 comments

  • On your topic #1, I wonder how many others are just acting?

  • “The Trico buildings are exactly the type of structures that successful, progrssive cities preserve and repurpose. ”

    I’m not sure Mr. Banas knows what ‘progressive’ means. It sure doesn’t mean hanging onto old factories that have strangely applied ‘historic’ labels.

    Let BNMC build.

  • I could be potentially be convinced by the preservationists if they actually provided examples of how cities like Buffalo (economically struggling, rust belt) have managed to preserve buildings like Trico for modern use. I am not as impressed when a wealthier city like San Francisco or New York pulls this off. We don’t have those resources and we probably never will.

    However, only in Buffalo would someone hold up development in order to preserve what will undoubtedly stay empty forever. If there was someone with a competing plan to develop Trico in a way that preserved or even improved upon it, I am sure most people would be behind it. However, not surprisingly, no one has any plan to do that – most likely because it is not economically feasible.

  • I like cool old buildings that are repurposed as much as the next guy, but the truth is that BNMC has the right to do with their property what they want to. It is a basic right of property ownership, so long is it does not violate any laws or codes. Seriously, if the preservationists want to do something different, pull together the financing and do it. If not, it is not their business what a private property owner does with their property, so long as it doesn’t violate the law or zoning code. Seriously, no wonder we can’t get anything done here.

  • @Mike,
    There are several significant projects that resemble Trico that have been successfully rehabbed in the City of Buffalo. Lets go through the list.

    Directly across the street from Trico – M. Wile. A few blocks away – AC Lofts. There are others too including Larkin Land( Exchange building and 701 Seneca) and the Tri-Main Building on Main Street. All of these have been successful and many of just as big or bigger than Trico. It can be successful if the owners want it to happen.

    Hope this helps you realize the importance of saving this building.

  • Directly across the street from Trico – M. Wile. A few blocks away – AC Lofts. There are others too including Larkin Land( Exchange building and 701 Seneca) and the Tri-Main Building on Main Street. All of these have been successful and many of just as big or bigger than Trico. It can be successful if the owners want it to happen.

    Bernice, I don’t have any doubt that Trico could be rehabilitated, or that it could be rehabilitated successfully. It’s all about choice, though, isn’t it? We’re talking about preference – what we’d like to see versus what we need.

    Would it be nice to keep Trico around? I guess some people would say yes. (Personally, I’d like to be the person invited to hit the button on its demolition because I think it’s ugly and out of character for what we’re trying to accomplish in that part of town). Do we _need_ to keep it around; is it significant enough to justify a law or regulation that mandates its continued presence there? I don’t think so, and that’s underscored by the fact that no such law or regulation exists at this time.

    While keeping Larking around and M. Wile around and other places around is great, I see no reason to prevent BNMC from ripping Trico down and building something different there.

    My original sentiment is that BNMC should be held to a high standard, but in the end they should be allowed to build. That presupposes that they’re going to build something, and not keep that site empty. It also implies that BNMC has done some pretty neat things architecturally, and I’m sure they’d do so again here.

    Saving this building isn’t anywhere nearly as important as you think, and it’s something the owner should have the choice to save – not be forced to do.

  • Where was the outcry when the Aud was ripped down? Was it ok because they found a bloody bandaid in the hallway?

  • @Bernice Buffalove – Were any of these buildings converted for high-tech use – such as what would needed for a medical facility?

    But more importantly, back to my original question – who is ready and willing to rehab Trico into something useful? If the answer is “no one”, (or worse yet, “no one, unless the taxpayers step in”), then we should have no say whatsoever here.

    I get what the preservationists are trying to do – I would love to see these places adapted. But if you are holding up what could be a significant economic development in the hopes of someone one day rehabbing this facility, even though no one has bothered in the last 20 years, it is time to step back and let it go.

  • @Mike – Trico was in the process of being redeveloped when the previous owner died suddenly. BNMC has redeveloped the M.Wile building into modern space, so until this point there has been no indication that the rest of the Trico complex was at risk.

    For an example of a similar structure redeveloped into a modern medical/biotech use, see Wake Forest Biotech Place. http://www.wakehealth.edu/news/downloads/

  • John (not McCain)

    “Astonishing, isn’t it, that the major opponent to this change in the law is the Catholic Conference”

    I would LOVE to see a proposed law banning taxpayer money from going to any organization or affiliate thereof with a history of perpetuating and covering up child abuse. Make those scumbags expose themselves for what they really are at every opportunity.

  • In the battle of ‘We might be able to do something someday’ versus ‘We have a plan for this site and are ready to go’, I’ll take the latter.

    Buffalo spends too much time worrying about what someone MIGHT do. The BNMC legally owns the property, has a plan for what they want to build, and the money to do it.

    Get the hell out of the way and let them do it. It’s an abandoned factory. The Memorial Auditorium was 100 times more historic than the Trico building.

  • Derek – I am not arguing that it cannot be done. Someone with enough capital can convert the Trico building into anything. But is there anyone ready to do that now? If there was truly a profitable way to do this, entrepreneurs would be lining up. But they are not, which is telling. The property is idle and currently useless. That it happened somewhere like Wake Forest is no indication that it will happen here.

    Are we sure we just aren’t completely overstating the architectural importance of this building? Would we really miss it? This city often reminds me of an episode of “Hoarders” where no one can let anything go.

  • The Vernor building right around the corner had a similar story. An emergency demolition was granted due to the supposed condition of the building and a mid rise residential building was supposed to be built in its place. Promises promises…

  • A lot of preservationist battles occur as the result of Buffalo’s experience; when a building is razed it’s rare when one takes its place.

  • Alan, you say the Trico Building is “An eyesore that stands as a stark reminder of how far down the city has gone”. I understand this as people relating to Buffalo’s better days and not wanting to see remnants of industry and jobs that have gone away, and the resultant pain. I’ve heard similar sentiments from others regarding Trico, and have also heard it a lot about the Richardson Complex, which was at one time a miserably overcrowded mental hospital.

    Unless I’m completely misreading you, this is an emotional argument. The emotions I’ve heard related to the Richardson buildings are stronger, and relate to peoples’ personal experience with relatives who spent time there or just a general dislike of the buildings’ “spookiness”.

    I’d rather base preservation decisions on rational grounds such as economic reality (which can be quite flexible and tends to change), capacity, scholarly analysis of historic significance, accurate assessment of building condition and environmental contamination etc., and I know you don’t ignore these grounds either. I was just struck by you using this argument, as you’re an attorney (logical thinker), a decrier of “placemaking” as emotional/unscientific and you didn’t even grow up around here and experience the decline, as I and thousands of others did.

    I’m sure my emotions sneak in when it comes to preservation – I live about 1,000 feet from the Richardson buildings and am quite fond of them, walk my dog around them all the time and value them as part of my neighborhood – but I also work for a demolition contractor and thus am full of contradiction.

    Derek, as is his style, was rational and eloquent in his analysis and defense of preservation. He’s also one of the “moderate” preservationists who is very aware of the realities of our current circumstances. And, like all the Central Terminal folks, an incurable optimist.

  • Thomas R Beecher Jr

    For the record Thomas R Beecher Jr is not the Tom Beecher who has made comments on this blog. This is my first and last blog on this site. Thomas R Beecher Jr

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