Picking One’s Battles: Part 1
Forget for a moment about the things that the media are telling you to be absolutely terrified about – ebola, ISIS, drought, global warming/climate change, Russia, Ukraine, flights from West Africa, genocide, etc. After all, while all of this stuff is going on, most Americans either think it’s an Obama-led plot, or are more concerned with who did what on Dancing With the “Stars”.
Locally, our outrages are much more pedestrian in nature.
We don’t get incensed, and we don’t do jack squat in response to a devastating report about poverty in Buffalo. Well, we do tend to moralize and lecture the victims of poverty, while others identify at least one of the root causes.
But I can tell you two recent points of civic outrage that are not at all important, in the wider scheme of things. One is the Labatt ad affixed to a dilapidated grain elevator, replacing what appears to be peeling and chipping lead paint. The other is the notion that anything that might be labeled “the indoors” be built anywhere on the Outer Harbor.
A scan of preservationist message boards reveals that some people are simply outraged by the idea that a locally-headquartered national beer importer would so crassly deface our lovely blight. (Query: if it was PBR cans, would that be ok?) A Change.org petition has 132 signatures, is being promoted by a guy from Dutchess County, and calls this location “downtown”. The petition alleges that the Labatt cans violate up to three codes or regulations.
The petitioners claim that Alcoholic Beverage Control Law 83.2 prohibits this display. Untrue. Any reasonable reading of that language reveals the prohibition to signs posted by a retailer on “retail licensed premises”. This location is not a retail licensed premises for on-site alcohol consumption. A claimed second code violation alleges that the Labatt ad is illegal because it can be seen from a park with a playground in it.
The city code cited, 452-4, prohibits any alcohol advertising, “in any publicly visible location on or within 1,000 feet of the perimeter of any school premises, playground or playground area in a public park.” The 333 Ganson location is just about 1,000 feet from the boundary of Conway Park itself, which contains a playground. It is almost 1,500 feet from the “playground” or the “playground area in a public park”.
Finally, the petitioner cites a city code having to do with “accessory signs”. It doesn’t appear to me that the cited sign ordinance applies to a sign that is a part of the building itself, but instead deals with billboards and other types of signs that are separate and distinct from the adjoining structure.
But all of this boils down to personal taste – trying to shoehorn dubious statutory violations into the argument is a weak substitute for just saying you don’t like it; that we can do better. One person wrote that if we let this Labatt ad stay on the grain elevator, “we’re getting the city we deserve”. I honestly can’t fathom how putting a dilapidated commercial structure to commercial use poses an existential threat to Buffalo.
You don’t have to like the ad, but unless you own the building, who cares what you or I like?
Our second moral outrage has to do with the Outer Harbor. Every single plan for the Outer Harbor incorporates bucketloads of parkland. The problem is that in Buffalo, at that location, parkland is basically unusable much of the year, unless maybe you go fishing through holes in the ice or enjoy cross-country skiing with acute wind chills. The notion that there be something indoors on the Outer Harbor is, apparently, haram.
The rhetoric against the ECHDC-promoted plan has been as bombastic as you’d expect it to be. The process was flawed! Sure, there were three public hearings/meetings, and they were conducted like all of these types of meetings are – Green Code, Placemaking, One Region Forward – but this one was flawed! ECHDC’s plan will harm the ecosystem! The effort wouldn’t, of course, be complete without noted civic horror Donn Esmonde weighing in, complete with allusion to “lighter, faster, cheaper” from the Placemaking rip-off.
So, what could they possibly be planning? Singapore-on-the-Lake? An endless sea of Waterfront Villages? A suburban office park surrounded by parking, like Larkinville?
I don’t know about you, but there’s a lot of green on that rendering. Looks like Times Beach’s ecosystem is preserved. Most of the construction would be in small clusters, away from the shore.
There are plenty of things to be outraged about in Buffalo. These two don’t seem to be among them.