The Curiousness of Selective Preservationist Outrage

Earlier this year, Donn Esmonde applauded the fact that Howard Zemsky and Larkin Development had retained the services of preservationist Tim Tielman, and that the whole project served as a model for how development could work hand-in-hand with preservation.  My takeaway, however, was that Tielman’s involvement in that project amounted to Zemsky and Larkin paying Tielman off; essentially, paying protection money. As with Canalside’s retention of Fred Kent’s “placemaking” sideshow in order to placate an irascibly relentless Mark Goldman, what better way to silence your litigious critics than to co-opt them? 

Andrew Kulyk in the comments section of my post essentially laid out the theory in so many words, even though I didn’t get many other takers.  And without a test, a theory is just a theory, right?  

My theory may be tested this week. As it happens, a subsidiary of Larkin Development is applying to Buffalo’s preservation board for permission to demolish an entire row of houses on Seneca Street in the Larkin District on what appear, on their face, to be flimsy grounds.  More details on that below.

Buffalo without its relentless preservation and planning conflicts would be a better Buffalo; however, some developers have figured out ways to ingratiate themselves or join with the preservationist near-west side elites, and from that derive a real benefit.  For example, Buffalo Rising writers and commenters are not shy about criticizing developers for poor design; e.g.,  inveighing against Dry-Vit (modern stucco) facades.  Yet Karl Frizlen puts bland, Dry-Vit-heavy buildings on Elmwood and there’s nary a peep. Is it a coincidence that Frizlen also happens to be a favorite with that audience, having founded the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers Market, and collaborating with Buffalo Rising founder Newell Nussbaumer?

And aren’t Buffalo’s preservationist/New-Millennium types supposed to like businesses on Elmwood to be 2 stories or more?  They do, except when the owner of the Acropolis personally offends them by not asking their permission first before trying to expand to a second floor, and even co-opts their favorite tactic of appealing to blogs and social media.  The preservationist/planning elites came down on Pauly and Acropolis with downright viciousness

Then there’s developer Sam Savarino, who somehow has managed to get even individuals and blogs that normally display their preservationist street cred like badges of honor on his side, even as he plans to knock down buildings, or takes on the Elmwood Village in a cat fight over a charter school.  Then again, Buffalo Rising and its leadership were charter tenants at his Cobblestone District development; could that be the reason?

It all suggests that perhaps BNMC might have actually had some success with its plan to begin demolishing the Trico building this year, if only their leadership had hired a preservationist as a “consultant”. Sort of like how Tony Soprano was a consultant to the waste management industry. 

But Howard Zemsky may be far and away the savviest of all in this regard.  No one could begrudge a businessman – especially a developer – seeking to learn everything about how business “really” gets done in his city. He goes with what works, and avoids what doesn’t.  With that said, look what Zemsky has managed to do: 

In the broadest terms, he’s used old buildings to, essence, create a suburban office park in the city, right off an expressway, set far apart from the downtown core, and surrounded it with a sea of free surface parking and some landscaping, and he’s given people there something to do other than work, making it superficially attractive and rendering trips downtown for lunch moot. His biggest cheerleaders are the very people who are the most rabid enemies of expressways, suburban office parks, surface parking, free parking, etc.  The one thing the Preservationist/Hipster/New Millennium Group axis especially hates about suburban office parks is that they drain tenants away from historic downtowns.  Although Larkin has drawn some tenants in from outside the city, some of the most prominent ones moved out there from downtown.  But no worries; if you read the recent Buffalo Building Reuse Plan, overseen by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership at Mayor Brown’s behest to look at strategies to combat an expected glut of vacant office space downtown, it simply redefines downtown to include the Larkin District, despite its separation from it by over a half mile of post-industrial wasteland. 

At least Larkin has a free London cab service for tenants to use. 

And what else?  To do historic research for him, Zemsky hired a prominent preservationist who also happens to be one of City Hall’s top green code planners.  To design Larkin Square – the centerpiece of the district – he turned to Tim Tielman, who, as far as I can determine, hasn’t actually planned or designed a single other thing, anywhere, ever.  Despite that the Larkin District is home to several firms that do a combination of planning, preservation, and architecture.

To create a plan for the overall district, Zemsky several years ago turned to UB’s Urban Design Project, headed by Robert Shibley, an insider central to many planning and development issues in the city.  It turned out to be a good bet: Shibley is now dean of UB’s architecture and planning school, and played a major role in the development of the regional economic development plan that so far seems to be working to our benefit with the Cuomo administration.  Hey, if Howard Zemsky’s savvy insider knowledge about how to get things done in Buffalo, and his strategic creation of networks of allies can create positive results for the community, it’s no problem if  they also create positive results for him at the same time.

The icing on the cake: Zemsky and Larkin Development hosted a bash for preservationists last year.  Held in a reused church (the Montante Cultural Center at Canisius College), and promoted by Buffalo Rising, several major figures in the preservation community were invited to speak, and Tim Tielman’s plan for Larkin Square was unveiled.

But back to Seneca Street, and that overall plan for the Larkin District, and the threatened row of houses.

Not surprisingly, the plan talks a great deal about historic preservation, and even shows improvements to enhance Seneca Street where the houses are located.  Even a quick peek at the Google maps satellite imagery shows that the row of houses along both sides of Seneca in the Larkin District just west of Smith Street are the only set even remotely still intact from downtown all the way to the Seneca/Babcock neighborhood.  Isn’t “intact streetscape” something the planning and preservation community is supposed to value?  And what about real economic value, considering that just two years ago Larkin Development and their new anchor tenant First Niagara Bank invested millions of their own funds creating the very enhancements along Seneca Street that their master plan called for?

Doesn’t this place matter? 

Why would Larkin Development be looking to “de-enhance” this part of Seneca Street, which they recently invested in enhancing based on their own master plan, by creating a largely vacant block?  Even more pertinent to this theory, why are they proposing these demolitions in what seems to be a ham-handed way such that it looks sketchy to even a non-preservationist?  Could that be because they are expecting essentially no opposition from a preservation board they see as “friendly”? It’s the Buffalo version of wink, a nod, and some thick manila envelopes. 

As you can see for yourself from the November 1st (today’s) preservation board agenda, the demolition justification for the row of houses is copy/paste identical: “The foundation has shifted, and after years of water infiltration the floor has heaved. It has now been deemed unsafe.”  What, every single one?  Was there a localized earthquake there, or a flood?  According to City of Buffalo property records, these buildings are all owned by Mill Race Commons, LLC, a subsidiary of Larkin Development.  (COBIS).  Dan Reilly is Project Manager with CityView Construction Management (the construction arm affiliated with Larkin Development Group).

23. 866 Seneca St. ____________

DEMOLITION: The foundation has shifted, and after years of water infiltration the floor has heaved. It has now been deemed unsafe. Application received 10/25/2012. (Dan Reilly to appear @ 11/1/2012 03:00 PM 901 City Hall)

24. 860 Seneca St. ____________

DEMOLITION: The foundation has shifted, and after years of water infiltration the floor has heaved. It has now been deemed unsafe. Application received 10/25/2012. (Dan Reilly to appear @ 11/1/2012 03:00 PM 901 City Hall)

25. 870 Seneca St. ____________

DEMOLITION: The foundation has shifted, and after years of water infiltration the floor has heaved. It has now been deemed unsafe. Application received 10/25/2012. (Dan Reilly to appear @ 11/1/2012 03:00 PM 901 City Hall)

26. 872 Seneca St. ____________ 

DEMOLITION: The foundation has shifted, and after years of water infiltration the floor has heaved. It has now been deemed unsafe. Application received 10/25/2012. (Dan Reilly to appear @ 11/1/2012 03:00 PM 901 City Hall)

Beyond these four houses, according to preservation board meeting minutes, the same entity also received permission to demolish a non-residential building adjacent to these properties last spring, without even coming before the preservation board.  Instead, according to the preservation board minutes, Dan Reilly, Project Manager with CityView Construction Management (construction arm affiliated with Larkin Development Group) visited their offices, and (either on the spot, or subsequently – the minutes aren’t clear) the chair of the preservation board cleared the demolition.  Note that the chair of preservation board is also the board president of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo, of which Tim Tielman is executive director (Tim is also a preservation board member).  If this had actually come before the preservation board for discussion and decision, it would have been interesting to see if Tielman had recused himself, due to his consulting work with Larkin Development and the blatant conflict of interest.  That’s not to be overly suspicious of Tielman; as the preservation board members are mostly professionals who serve voluntarily, and Buffalo is a small town, it’s not unusual for volunteer members of all kinds of boards to be alert for potential conflicts of interested related to the work they or their firms are doing.

23. 840 Seneca St.

Mr. Dan Reilly appeared in our office on 4/12/12. Mr. Paul McDonnell – after reviewing this application deemed this building is non significant therefore the demolition was APPROVED. (Not an Historic Site / NO BLUE) (Dan Reilly to appeared @ 4/12/2012 09:30 AM 901 City Hall)

At the end of last year, the same entity apparently got no opposition (just “received & filed”) from the preservation board for the demolition of another building that, according to Google, until recently housed a sub shop on its ground floor.  Wait, I thought we were supposed to like street-level retail?

15. 763 Seneca St. RECEIVED & FILED

Demolish 2 1/2 story frame structure. (Dan Reilly to appear @ 12/15/2011 901 City Hall)

According to City property tax records (see below), Mill Race Commons, LLC, the entity that owns most of these now-vacant properties and perhaps-soon-to-be-vacant properties actually owns about 20 properties in and around the Larkin District.  Yet Mill Race Commons was announced as one of those projects that the preservationist elites gushed over, from the time it was first announced 6 years ago.  It had everything they would want: it borrowed styles from the industrial district nearby, and most of all didn’t (at least as it appeared at the time) involve demolishing any existing buildings.  In fact, its development would eliminate a bete noir: a massive surface parking lot.

Although it was thought the project would involve no demolitions, around the same time – using the Mill Race Commons LLC – Larkin Development went on a property-buying spree in the neighborhood, apparently buying properties for future development sites. In fact, in the half-dozen years since Mill Race Commons was announced (with construction to start when the building was 25% pre-leased, according to Larkin’s web site), the only activity Mill Race Commons, LLC, has engaged in seems to be purchasing other sites in and around the Larkin District.  And demolishing buildings.

SBL                             House Number       Street          Primary Owner

1222600001003000 696 EXCHANGE MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700005020000 840 EXCHANGE MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222600004008000 44 ROSEVILLE MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222600003006000 106 ROSEVILLE MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1118200008004000 696 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222600002005000 763 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700005003000 837 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700002006100 856 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700002011000 866 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700005011000 867 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700002010000 870 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700005012000 871 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700002009000 872 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700002008000 874 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700005014000 877 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700005015000 889 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700005016000 891 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700005017000 893 SENECA MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222700005018300 470 SMITH MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1118200006005000 716 SWAN MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222600003016100 159 VAN RENSSELAER MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

1222600003017000 161 VAN RENSSELAER MILL RACE COMMONS, LLC View Information

And all their subsequent interaction with the preservation board, none of it to discuss landmarking or reusing any of the buildings, suggests their intent to be demolishing all or most of them.  In fact, taken together with other activity on Seneca Street in the Larkin District, it appears there is something of a demolition spree underway there, going back at least a year and with little fanfare and no apparent outcry.

Last year, for example, Larkin Development demolished a connected set of old industrial buildings at 111 Hydraulic Street (at Seneca Street) on the grounds that they were too environmentally contaminated to reuse, to construct a new building custom-designed for a single tenant – a collections firm.  That may sound not unlike the situation with the Trico Building that has led to great outcry in the preservation community, yet engendered not a peep when carried out in the Larkin District.  That’s despite the fact that the replacement building includes a large amount of surface parking, and isn’t even built to the curb.  

This year, on a block across Seneca, a large former industrial plant that closed just last year, was demolished.  According to their Brownfield Cleanup Program application at page 24: 

At this time, future development plans have not been defined for the Site, and future land use cannot be determined. The site is currently zoned for light manufacturing.

In other words, a former industrial plant with some environmental contamination issues was razed (with State aid) to create a shovel-ready parcel for, essentially, real estate speculation in a suddenly hot location.  Yet did preservationists rush to its defense as they did the Trico building this spring?  Nary a peep, except for photos of the demolition and a historic photo in activist David Torke’s Flickr photostream.

This despite that the preservation board denied permission to demolish the building at the December 15, 2011 meeting.

So attempting to tie all this together: in the recent case of the Bernstone Cigar Store downtown, a relatively non-descript building drew a howl of outrage from the preservation community when it was demolished by its Canadian owner.  The outcry over the planned Savarino demolition of the decrepit and nondescript, unused Erie Freight House to build an apartment block has also been quite vocal. The cry to save the Trico Building has been deafening, and led to, as always, stasis. Not to mention, preservationists are forever birddogging their arch-nemesis, Carl Paladino. The three things the city desperately needs are uniformity, predictability, and smart parking. Not a soul is pushing for proactivity, relying instead on reaction and litigation.

Yet a recent demolition tear in the beloved Larkin District has drawn nary a peep from the preservationists.  Is that because of some perhaps inherent east-side/west-side bias in preservation?  Or are the preservationists just too cozy with the folks doing the demolitions there?  How the preservation board handles these requests on Thursday afternoon may shed some light on that question.

 

17 comments

  • Fantastic research and argument, Alan.  I don’t know if if the preservation crowd is too cozy, being bought off or what, but your conclusion is spot on.  Where  is the consistency and predictability on these issues?  The complaint used to be Carl Paladino got to do whatever he wanted because Tony Masiello let him.   Call it what you want, but how is that any different than developers making friends with today’s decision makers and activists.  It might not be as obvious or smell as bad, but in principle, it’s the same thing.

  • Your anti-preservationist vitriol boggles me. It is one thing to disagree with them, but to make borderline libelous statements implying that they are functionally and morally equivalent to mafiosi is a going a bit overboard. On the other hand you also seem to suggest that they are buffoons who were easily disarmed and made into chumps by Zemsky. Which is it?

    A few scattershot points:

    You say that no one complained about Frizlen’s use of EIFS or about the demolition of various Larkin District buildings, but when I look at the the Buffalo Rising articles linked I see a large number of complaints about those very things. It is a very selective reading that allows one to say there was “nary a peep” of complaint.

    As far as I am aware, the Larkin District is not within a local historic district, and therefore the Preservation Board only has an advisory role, able to make non-binding recommendations only. The cigar store was an significant case because it was another “Friday night” demolition without Preservation Board oversight, in a local historic district where the board’s decisions are supposed to be legally binding. Trico is significant because it is on the state and national historic registries and certified by the Preservation Board as eligible to be a local historic landmark, in a very prominent location where its loss would significantly alter the near-downtown streetscape.

    • Trico remains unused and empty thanks to a particular outcry. Frizlen is a side issue, but he gets to build what he wants, how he wants. Your anger at my vitriol appears to be clouding your reaction to what’s been presented here. Suffice it to say, some things are easier to demolish with freedom from complaint than others. Maybe it’s because Larkin is “not within a local historic district”, but then maybe we should stop having a circle-jerk about how Larkin is a model for adaptive reuse and reinvigorating an entire neighborhood. 

      • Trico remains unused and empty because BNMC controls it, and that’s what they want.  Trico is *standing* because of a ‘particular outcry’.  If preservationists have their way, BNMC will be shamed into issuing a sensible reuse RFP.  My question to the author: what’s hypocritical about the preservation community focusing on a 600,000 SF nationally listed building in am extremely viable location (vs. non-landmarks in less economically viable locations)?  Looks like pragmatism to me.

  • Wow. Way to call bullshit when you see it man.

    Looking at the street view of the four or five houses on Seneca street currently proposed for demolition, those houses are in better shape than 95 percent of houses on the East side (where I live and work).

    The fact that the justification for each home’s demolition is identical is further evidence that this is bullshit.

    “The foundation has shifted, and after years of water infiltration the floor has heaved. It has now been deemed unsafe. ” 

  • I do not disagree with a lot of what is said.  I think the preservation movement in Buffalo is loaded with problems of both vision and consistency.  And some of your arguments do point that out.  Much of that has to do with with place of mind.  Its easy to argue that its important to save the building like the trico – because many people drive by it every day, are aware of the Trico company’s history as well as the expanding medical campus next to it.  The reason people are strapping themselves to Trico is because they have an understanding of what it is.  The fact that they do not do the same for the Larkin District is because they’re not familiar with these buildings and they’re not aware of what is going on in that area – they don’t see it everyday.  Tielman might be a different story, but for the average, active city resident who wants to save their city – its not some big conspiracy theory as you suggest.

    But while you make some good points – your article is just littered with complete falsities.  Which make you sound like a total anti-preservation moron.  There was an enormous outcry over the materials used on the Krog/Frizlen building – so much so that lawsuits were threatened, as they are in other cases you disdainfully cite.  Unfortunately – as is so often the case – the City of Buffalo permitted the developer to construct a building with clear violations of the existing Zoning Code (EIFS, exposed concrete block).  By the way – you were also the idiot railing on all the people who were glad to see KFC closed because of massive public health violations and eventually replaced by this much better building.

    The acropolis project had been a disaster from the get go.  There were constant code violations, construction without permits, unapproved building plans.  This was an owner who developed a long (multi-year) track record of complete dishonesty with everything that went on at his building.  Don’t ask the people opposing it – ask the city.  Why don’t you do some actual research (rather than just googling BRO articles) and call city inspections.  Ask them what they think of the process the owner used for Acropolis?  Ask them of what they think of the intentions of the owner.  The massive distrust that he developed is exactly the reason no one continues to believe him when he tells the Common Council one thing and then jumps on his adolescent twitter account and says the opposite. 

    And I take most offense to your insinuation of impropriety by a City Planner working on the Greencode.  Not only are you alluding to potential major illegalities between the city and a private developer – but you are also making enormous leaps about that planner’s personal integrity.  That planner had done work for CityView/Larkin long before he was employed by the City.  The collaboration with the developer did not occur in order to seek some sort of backdoor payoff – he did the work because he’s an absolutely brilliant urban thinker, and is the best educated historian concerning the Hydraulics district around.  Your points are offensive, sensationalizing and downright wrong.

    • “Threatened lawsuits” over Frizlen’s materials didn’t materialize, though, did they? And you admit he was allowed to build what he wanted. So, what part of what I wrote was inaccurate? 

      I know all about the Acropolis fiasco. How dare he try to expand his business in a building he owns?! Outrage!

      As for the KFC thing, attaway to dig up something from a long time ago! I was, of course, trolling the BRO crowd for cheering the closure of an Elmwood business. It’s tough to deal in absolutes, sometimes, isn’t it? 

      As for Chris Hawley, the “city planner working on the Green Code” – where did I insinuate any impropriety? I merely wrote, “And what else?  To do historic research for him, Zemsky hired a prominent preservationist who also happens to be one of City Hall’s top green code planners”

      Is that factually inaccurate, or is it a true statement? The insinuation, to the extent that one exists, is that Hawley and Tielman will be far quieter and slower to complain about demolitions and the sort when it’s being done by people signing their checks. Am I wrong, or has the “Hydraulics” blog got a serious roundup of what’s being proposed for demolition? Has Tielman called for a boycott of the Larkin Building’s tenants because of its threatened demos? 

      So far, the reaction to this piece from the preservationists has been “ARGLE BARGLE”. When asked to rebut any facts that I’ve presented, I have received utter silence. You can disagree with my conclusions all you want – but the facts are there. Larkin is getting ready to do a bunch of crap you guys usually make a scene about. But because it’s Zemsky, the silence is deafening. 

      •  It reads to me that you are grouping Chris Hawley and Tim Tielman as part of the “protection racket” (your words) where developers like Howard Zemsky give them consulting jobs in order to grease the skids in City Hall.

        I think this is a serious accusation of venality, and not one to be made glibly.

        •  That is absolutely right.  I’m sure pundit will be happy to separate out his sentences and claim that he “stated” no such thing.  But this insinuation is clear as day.  If I was Hawley I would be all over him on this. 

          • But instead, Hawley is busy on Facebook, pleading that these houses are not at all “historically significant”. All I wrote was that he was the author of the Green Code and that Zemsky had previously hired him. I think it’s not a factoid that a lot of people were aware of, and you’re free to draw whatever conclusion you’d like from it. 

            But facts are facts. 

          •  This is the first time you acknowledge that Hawley was hired by Zemsky before getting a job working on the Green Code at city hall. 

            That is an extremely important  point – because (as anyone who thinks seems to recognize) – you make it sound, in your article, that he was hired by Zemsky while working at City Hall – which, I know, makes your rant that much juicier.  

            you state:

            ” To do historic research for him, Zemsky hired a prominent
            preservationist who also happens to be one of City Hall’s top green code
            planners.”

            Sure is a fact, asshole – but you were certainly placing it in your story, and omitting the most important fact (that these did not happen at the same time) as a means of alluding to some sort of corrupt circumstance between a developer and City Hall staff.  You’ll whine your way out of it – but you just look like more and more of a child on the playground arguing a “technicality” as to why you should get the candybar.

      •  No, as far as I remember, an Article 78 was never filed for Frizlen’s building.  But you weren’t talking about lawsuits, your point was “there’s nary a peep.”  There was an enormous peep at the time.  I don’t remember whether it blew up on BRO or not, but there were a lot of meetings with Frizlen, with City Hall, review of the code…  There were substantial “peeps” if you want to “deal in absolutes.”  Its tough, isn’t it?  I responded to exactly what you said, which was wrong.

        The KFC thing is top of mind because its still what I think of when your name comes up – one of the stupider arguments I’ve read on the internets..  It was simply a case of someone who is apparently offended by people with different viewpoints, so he decides to be argumentative and make tremendous reaches to make a single stupid point that you think people contradict themselves.

        The Chris Hawley point was a clear insinuation.   Why would you even bring it up if it were not?  You’re insinuating that Zemsky gets a pass in City Hall because he has done favors, been buddies, or whatever with Chris.  What you initially said was not untrue, but your point was clear.  I’m not going to argue with you on that.  And your wrong that Hawley will be “quieter.”  I’ve never known him to be active in “protest” type activities.  And he’s not in an enforcement arm of City Hall – its not his job to approve or halt a development project.  So in that case, you are, in fact, incorrect.

        And “you guys?”  Are you referring to me?  You don’t have a clue to what my opinion or activity in previous “preservation efforts” have been.  But I guess “us guys” are all the same – whoever “we” are.

        And for the most part – as I stated – I generally agreed with your overall conclusion.  But you’re too busy trying to pick apart, sentence by sentence, mundane points to comprehend the message.

        And note that I did not defend Tim Tielman in one instance in my response.  But you kind of just gloss over that and probably figure I hold the guy up as a champion.  I suppose I should have licked your ass for making such an awesome argument on that point because, in fact, I agree with it.  Tim is not designer, he’s not good at envisioning urban space as a part of development (at least based on my conversation with him) and I have thought all along that involving him formally was a way to appease him and those close to him.

        • I don’t invite you or anyone else to “lick my ass”. Weren’t you arguing about “insinuations” before? Hm. 

          In any event, to the wider community that isn’t waist-deep in the idolatry of old buildings, Tim Tielman is the official spokesman for the entire preservation community. No one has done a thing to change or challenge that. Deal with it. 

          It seems to me as if you, and others, are all bent out of shape about the argument I make about Zemsky co-opting Tielman to avoid having people lying down in front of bulldozers when Zemsky decides to demolish something. But you’re all having a very hard time proving that argument to be invalid. 

          • “It seems to me as if you, and others, are all bent out of shape about
            the argument I make about Zemsky co-opting Tielman to avoid having
            people lying down in front of bulldozers when Zemsky decides to demolish
            something. But you’re all having a very hard time proving that argument
            to be invalid. ”
             
            You are a moron.  Did you not read my complete agreement with the assertion that Zemsky brought in Tielman to do exactly that?

            You shout so loud about your nonsense, you can’t hear a thing anyone else says – even when they agree with you.  I guess that’s what qualifies one to be a blogger.

  • I wanted to read and re-read this multi faceted post before just responding with my first reaction. So now allow me to chime in with my 2 cents…

    I grew up just a few blocks north of what is now Larkinville. It was a horrible neighborhood, lots of crime, the racial tension and geographical divide, and eventually my parents and family joined the flight to Cheektowaga along with many of my other neighbors. So it does my heart good to see what an amazing transformation has taken place there and I have to give Howard Zemsky every bit of credit for his vision and for the risks he took. And if today he is land banking development parcels and properties for further growth and expansion of the neighborhood then I am on board. 

    And I also have to give every bit of credit to city planner Chris Hawley for putting his time, energy and passion into chronicling and putting a face on the incredible history of the Hydraulics District, and working with Zemsky to see to it that the history is cherished and preserved and staged in an appropriate format. If you are lucky enough, as I have been, to get a chunk of Chris’ time so that he could guide you through a tour of that neighborhood, both in person and through his voluminous pictures, slides and artifacts, then consider that a treat.

    But as for Tim Tielman’s involvement? Puh-leeeeeeez. You could have paid for my passage to the quaint squares of Europe and back, and with my pedestrian and cursory knowledge of planning and architecture I could have produced the same or similar templates and plans, and certainly at a fraction of the cost. This man is not some visionary..he is simply a grand obstructionist and lawsuit filer who loves to get his name in print and says he speaks for the preservationist community. He speaks for no one but himself and a small band of his like minded friends, yet somehow manages to interject himself in every major imbroglio and repeatedly get quoted in the press, and lords over the city’s preservation board. Wow. If Zemsky paid him a pretty penny to guide him through the design of the pretty public spaces in Larkinville, it had to be much much cheaper than the legal costs that would have surely come when Tielman and people of his ilk had filed lawsuit after lawsuit to thwart the plans down there.

    Moving on to Ohio Street…

    A couple weeks ago my partner Pete Farrell and I traveled down to Texas for our latest Ultimate Sports Road Trip. When we weren’t busy drinking beer and painting our faces and cheering at three different college football games in the same week, we took the time to do walking tours of Dallas’ historic West End District, and our favorite party neighborhood, Oklahoma City’s Bricktown. These neighborhoods came to life, and continue to emerge, because historic preservationists teamed with investors and developers, and government entities, to work together to save the crappy old buildings which could be saved, pool their talents with the capital community to come up with reuse plans, and work hand in hand with the public sector. The result today is great old buildings which are seeing new life, infill development to compliment the old structures, streetscapes which add to the aesthetics of their neighborhoods, and cities which hum and churn and thrive.

    Here in Buffalo we have it ass backward. A developer like Savarino comes up with a $15-million private investment plan for new apartments on Ohio, and the purists howl because it involves tearing down a crappy old tin shack. Yet within a half mile proximity of that parcel, there are at least 20 old buildings in various states of abandonment and disrepair. Only when those buildings come into the peril of demolition will the preservationists complain, hurl insults and threaten lawsuits.

    So instead of being reactive, how being PROACTIVE? Let’s identify and catalog each vacant building in the Ohio Street corridor, identify the owner, come up with a proposed reuse plan, and bring together those property owners, the capital investors and government to make it happen. Preservationists – you can be the genesis of a great thing in this corridor, partnering with Congressman Higgins’ upcoming street redevelopment, or you can stand in the way. Perhaps you will save the tin shack, but the result will be stasis, a decrepit old building continuing to rot until it finally falls apart on its own, in the meantime scaring away other potential investor who don’t want to build next door and feast their eyes on that rat infested pile of dreck. 

    Thanks for the great article Alan… it’s churning up a lot of debate and discussion, and at the end of the day, there is one thing we can all say we have in common – and that is we want our city to realize its greatness and full potential. How we get there… well that’s the debate is all about.

  • Reddit on the dynamics of Buffalo Rising: http://www.reddit.com/r/Buffalo/comments/12dil2/perry_street_to_get_streetscaped/.    A comment from BBulaga55 summarizes what’s too often seen: “It seems like a localized /r/circlejerk altogether”.  

    What’s a circlejerk,m at least in the context of a blog or message board?  Again, from Reddit – http://www.reddit.com/r/circlebroke/comments/zanht/the_difference_between_a_hivemind_and_a/

    “What is a hivemind?
    A hivemind is a group of people that express similar thoughts, ideals, and goals.

    What is a circlejerk?
    A circlejerk is a hivemind that lacks self-awareness.”

    East Side/West Side bias in preservation?  Maybe a bit.  Preservationists cozy with those demolishing?   Can’t say.  In my experience with forums and blogs, especially those where experts in the subject aren’t numerous among the participants, the bulk of it is probably about the upvotes and approval from one’s peers.  From the above-lined page:

    “Circlejerks generally do not encourage people to be free thinkers, because they teach people that alternate opinions are inferior and not worthy of consideration. Because of this stubbornness, there is a decrease of self-awareness, as they will be more likely to disregard other ideas.”

  • Okay, now all you have to do is figure out where the reverse vampires and the RAND Corporation fit in, and you’ll have this nut cracked.  

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