Everything from the Outer Harbor to #BringBackOurGirls

Remember last year, when I began a semi-weekly excoriation of Donn Esmonde and posted things about the Clarence schools budget crisis/vote? I’m sparing you the ugly details this year because I’m putting on my dusty activist hat and making sure the perfectly reasonable budget that the school board passed unanimously is passed next Tuesday, and also campaigning for a school-friendly slate of candidates. This is why posting here has been lighter in recent days. That, and the fact that there’s nothing new under the sun.

For instance, it was late 2004 when my blog transitioned from one that focused on national politics into one that looks more closely at local matters. Since that time, local political blogs of all partisan stripes have come and gone, but I’m still here.  The first local thing that really got me going on a roll a decade ago were three competing plans for Buffalo’s Outer Harbor that the NFTA was pimping. They ranged from bucolic park-like setting to mid-density brownstone to what I called “elevator to the moon“. Of course, nothing came of any of them and in 10 years we’ve seen the Outer Harbor be the focus of patented Buffalo inertia and hand-wringing.

The best we’ve done has been to improve access to the area, and even that was met with false yelling about  how Route 5 was a “wall” that separated downtown from her waterfront, never mind the river and grain elevators you had to get past before you ever reached the road.

So, if I wasn’t currently concentrating on schoolkids and their futures, I’d be writing about this:

1. The Outer Harbor: it’s a state park! It’s a sports complex! It’s the location of the Bills’ new stadium! It goes to show you that there’s nothing new under the sun. 10 years down the line, we’re still arguing over what to do with a patch of dreadfully contaminated real estate on a chilly lake.

A few weeks ago, Pat Freeman, the sports director for WUFO was on Twitter and Facebook urging people to contact  Governor Cuomo and urge him to back the museum/stadium on the Outer Harbor. Someone even got a hold of my cell phone number and the same message was – unsolicited – texted to my phone on two occasions.  And Facebook messaging.

Freeman blocked me after I asked him how and why he got my number. Suffice it to say that it’d be swell if the city or Erie County Harbor Development Corporation would put whatever property won’t be a park on the market and sell it, complete with a comprehensive plan and mandated architectural standards.  Government’s job should be to pave the streets, wire the electric, put in the plumbing, and extend the light rail.

2. David Torke is one of the bloggers who’s still at it 10 years later. He’s morphed into a preservationist activist, so he’s totally in with that local clique. I recall some years ago, he would take people on tours of the East Side, where he lives, and show them how owners of properties – the city in particular – would let them become uninhabitable solely through neglect. He’s revived the “tour de neglect”, and the News’ Colin Dabkowski joined one this past weekend.  On on the one hand, it’s good to open people’s eyes to the problems plaguing a huge swath of the city that’s seen little of the incremental good news we have on the West Side. On the other hand,

Most of the conversation focused on buildings; there was very little talk about the East Side’s current residents, many of whom could be negatively impacted by the kinds of development strategies now being enacted or proposed.

You help the East Side of Buffalo get better by addressing the pervasive socioeconomic difficulties present there. The East Side isn’t a crisis of architecture, but of poverty. We can’t – and shouldn’t – be concerned with the potential we see in buildings until we address the potential in people. It will be people, after all, who will ultimately help to change the East Side, and it’s addressing poverty and violence that need to be in the forefront. Like the annual invasion of the relatively affluent to a poor neighborhood to get drunk on Dyngus Day or shop at the market in someone’s grandparents’ neighborhood, a group of affluent, privileged white faces biking through a neighborhood should be focused first on people, not on cornices. This, to me, is the fundamental flaw in all the planning and preservation activism in Buffalo.

3. A local bar owner is planning on bringing a branch of the iconic Bavarian Hofbräuhaus to downtown Buffalo. Seeing as how Buffalo likes beer, sausage, and boiled cabbage, this has some potential. You’ll just have to learn to pronounce “dirndl“, now. No word yet on how a German chain might affect our sense of place or authenticity.

4. Camille Brandon is apparently one of the Democrats who is planning to run for the Assembly seat most recently kept warm by creep Dennis Gabryszak. In the News’ article, our own local political Snidely Whiplash, Steve Pigeon, just can’t help but to suggest that he might bring in his acolyte, Kristy Mazurek,  to run as well. But if you pay close attention, note that both Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner and his chief rival, Frank Max, are backing Brandon. Any effort by Pigeon to insert Mazurek into the race – and the brutally defamatory race that would ensue – would go a long way towards maintaining the Democratic infighting on which Pigeon thrives.

Make no mistake, Pigeon’s insertion of Mazurek has more to do with preserving Tim Kennedy’s Senate seat than the useless Assembly.

5. Much of the natural gas located in the part of the Marcellus Shale that’s in New York isn’t as marketable as what Pennsylvania has. Because of the fracking boom that’s scarred, among other places,  the Pennsylvania countryside, the price of natural gas has plummeted. There are too many unknowns, and the people shilling for drilling are likely overstating the potential economic benefits for New Yorkers. I think that fracking in New York is inevitable, but I hope they regulate how it’s done and ensure that people know what chemicals are being injected into the rock in order to extract the gas. It’s not worth it, e.g., to sacrifice clean drinking water for a short-term boomlet of natural gas.  Although it has to do with coal, not natural gas, use West Virginia’s Elk River disaster as a cautionary tale.

6. A Muslim terrorist group in Nigeria kidnapped 276 schoolgirls and is supposedly selling them off into slavery. Nigeria doesn’t have an especially competent government, so there haven’t been any credible attempts to do something about this. People are trying to bring attention to this tragedy through social media, using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.  Even Michelle Obama tweeted a picture of herself holding a piece of paper with the message on it.

Of course, because Mrs. Obama got involved, the right wing is politicizing it. They mock the notion of hashtags and efforts to inform people about something horrible that happened.

But it wasn’t Michelle Obama’s idea. It’s not her thing. It was started by a Nigerian lawyer.

It’s thanks in large part to an initially uncoordinated campaign launched by local Nigerian activists that the girls’ disappearance didn’t continue to fly under the radar at major news providers. The campaign began on April 23 with a single tweet by Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim M. Abdullahi, the first to use the now viral #BringBackOurGirls tag, amid what he calls “complete dissatisfaction” with his government’s response to the incident.

As Abdullahi watched a live address on that date by former Nigerian Minister of Education Obiageli Ezekwesili, he tweeted a phrase she used as follows: “Yes #BringBackOurDaughters #BringBackOurGirls declared by @obyezeks and all people at Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014.”

The lawyer and activist tells DW it is a “great joy” and “heartwarming to know that [the campaign] has gone so global,” as #BringBackOurGirls today nears three million uses on Twitter since April 23. In the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Abdullahi says a group of around 20 campaign volunteers has expanded into more than 100 individuals. They meet daily to monitor progress on finding the girls and follow how the viral campaign is developing.

I don’t get what’s so wrong about this. Suddenly, people are talking about it. British Conservative PM David Cameron even joined in. The point is that the online effort has brought much needed attention to what happened in a part of the world that Americans especially tend to ignore completely. Conservative mocking of #bringbackourgirls is, in effect, saying that we shouldn’t raise awareness about horrible things that are taking place. With this crowd, no matter what Michelle Obama does, she’s just the President’s fat wife who is micromanaging kids’ lunches or whatever. At least #bringbackourgirls brings attention to something worthwhile. #tcot is just a typical conservative circle-jerk of hatred. I suspect that conservatives on Twitter won’t be abandoning #tcot, though.

26 comments

  • Sounds as if the people behind the planned Hofbrauhaus have already identified a site and just aren’t saying. My .02?… The second floor concourse of the DLW terminal would be an amazing space for something like this.

    • Is there anything even up there? I’ve seen the old pics when it actually had a pretty good looking terminal station house, but today it sorta looks like machinery space. If not, that would be an excellent spot on the river

  • Residents of Buffalo have no say when they build in Orchard Park or Amherst. Clarence does not hold meeting on the eastside of Buffalo to discuss development. People from Buffalo are not even allowed in many suburban parks, but now everyone wants to tell us what we should do with OUR waterfront. The last thing i want to see on the lake is a stadium and parking lots. Find a spot in the city, but only an idiot would build a giant stadium on the most valuable land in western NY.

    • I get your point, but title to the outer harbor is held by a public benefit corporation, the Erie County Harbor Development Corporation. As a creation of state law, it holds the land in trust for all New Yorkers, and what happens with land like that affects all western New Yorkers in a way that the Clarence Town Park or Hamburg Town Beaches don’t affect the community at-large.

      • If what happens in Buffalo affects all of western NY, then the people that come here and use our services , police , parks maintenance ,should start paying for it. I can’t swim at Hamburg Beach, but for some reason Delaware Park is a community asset.

  • Betty Jean Grant showed a lot of leadership in instituting a new law in Erie County banning fracking in the county, and also banning the transportation of fracking waste on county roadways. It probably is inevitable, as Alan says here, and at least one local leader has provided some measure of protection for county residents – especially residents of southtowns communities. Betty Jean stuck up for them.

    I don’t see a lot of state politicians leading on this issue.

    And Betty Jean had the guts – she is always fearless – on this issue, and she stood up to the fracking industry interests and the pro-fracking politicians Rath and Lorigo, two shortsighted politicians for sure. I remember the Buffalo News reporting that southtowns residents were fearful of fracking byproducts being used on roadways to melt snow and ice, but their legislator (Lorigo) pretty much said “screw you” and voted against the Betty Jean Grant law.

    Betty Jean is exactly the kind of local leader we need in state office, as opposed to any Pigeon-backed candidate. What have these Pigeon’ candidates ever done for the community in the first place? They are all in it for themselves.

  • Gotta love how Fox News “discusses” the virtues of hashtag activism, and by discuss I mean dismiss since its Oh-baaahma’s wife, while their vapid she-stretch armstrong does the exact same thing. Oh wait, it was a joke? Wow. Such Edge. Such Burn.

    • Faux isnt for news…its for watching hot blonde chicks read stories with a right wing slant…..

  • Perhaps Michelle Obama should start a #NoMoDrones twitter campaign to protest the innocent civilians, women and children killed by drones carrying out her husband’s foreign policy. Otherwise, there’s a bit of hypocrisy in her current twitter campaign.

  • BlackRockLifer

    Alan on #2- David Torke lives on the East Side and has devoted much time and energy to publicize the problems there. His efforts have resulted in some progress and improvements to the area, maybe not on the macro level related to “socioeconomic difficulties” but certainly in the grass roots area of neighborhood quality of life. Please share any other efforts by others to improve the East Side, especially efforts by our concerned suburban neighbors that always seem to have such strong and uninformed opinions about my city.
    As for “a group of affluent, privileged white faces biking through the neighborhood”, that’s not accurate at all. Most on that ride are far from affluent and far from privileged, the only part you got right was “white”. Most on that ride (like most preservationists) care about the community, the people, and the built environment. Believe it or not poor people do care about those things as well and any progress depends on all those factors being addressed.

  • where has it been said that Zellner is backing Brandon?

  • Kristy Mazurek would certainly add some “spice’ to an election season…imagine all the drunken mud slinging…….

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