“Humboldt Parkway, The Dream of a “Green Parkway””
Below article was featured in Buffalo Rising July 18, 2014.
“Humboldt Parkway, The Dream of a “Green Parkway”
Neighbors living around Humboldt Parkway are rallying together in hopes that one day they might see the revitalization of their neighborhood, with a transition from freeway to “Green Parkway”. A new University at Buffalo study/report* brings to light the huge economic impact that would be realized if the project was to come to fruition (exceeding $1 billion – property values, construction employment of hundreds of jobs, etc). The area that is most impacted by the transition stretches the length between the Fillmore Business District and the Jefferson Street Business District.”
“Already a number of different interests are speaking out about their enthusiasm for the drastic change that would take the parkway back to the way Olmsted first envisioned it. “We absolutely embrace the vision to re-create a viable, walkable, green environment on all sides of the Museum,” says Mark Mortenson of the Buffalo Museum of Science. “That is the environment that the Museum celebrated until it was tragically lost by the construction of the Kensington Expressway.”
Looking back to the way Humboldt once seamlessly connected the Olmsted park system, it’s crazy to think that we would have lost our way so drastically. This is truly an epic Moses vs. Olmsted [ideology] battle that is still not over yet. The majestic parkway that once connected Delaware Park and The Parade (now MLK Park) is not lost, just buried under a sea of freeway that also disconnects vital areas of the city. “Six rows of mature shade trees once provided a wonderful canopy not only to connect Olmsted’s Delaware and Parade Parks, but also to provide a valuable green space where everyone was welcome to enjoy nature, enhancing the visual character and quality of life for the whole community. Restoring this green anchor on the East Side of Buffalo is a major priority of the Conservancy,” stated Olmsted Parks Conservancy President Thomas Herrera-Mishler.
Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC) chairperson Stephanie Geter stated, “We want to update the community on the progress toward reaching our goal to restore the Olmsted vision of a vibrant, green community space, to remediate the devastation caused by the construction of Route 33, and to create a beautiful gateway to Buffalo’s Medical Corridor. ROCC came together in 2007 to bring this issue to the attention of local and state leaders, focusing our coalition power on the New York State Department of Transportation. Much work has been going on behind the scenes, and we have a plan to make this vision a reality.”
Richard Cummings, President of the Black Chamber of Commerce, asserts that “while the Kensington Expressway construction led to community devastation, we are optimistic that some of the damage can be reversed. Even though the introduction of the expressway in the 60’s isolated the East Side from the rest of Buffalo, we are working with businesses, residents and city leaders to reverse that decline. We believe that our community can be restored.”
For years there has been a battle going on regarding just how to restore the freeway back to a boulevard. Infill? Decking? There are those who say that the freeway must continue to allow cars to get in and out of the city. They oppose infill. Then there are those who say that decking is too costly, and that the money would be hard to come by. Stanley Fleming, who serves as the Executive Director for ROCC, stated, “ I was elated to meet several leading planners and urbanism experts [at a Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) workshop in Buffalo this past June] who affirmed the human, economic and environmental benefits of sustainable planning projects such as our proposal to create a green deck over a portion of Route 33. Projects like this are going on around the country, and at even greater expense that the projected $560 million that a Green Humboldt Deck would cost, because the point is that this in an investment, which will reap returns. It is not just a transportation cost to correct an urban sprawl mistake. An investment to turn part of this highway into a green boulevard will reap dividends in terms of job creation and increased property values. An investment to restore a Green Humboldt Parkway will bring to our Buffalo Renaissance the beautiful gateway that our Downtown Revitalization deserves.”
The Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC) will share highlights of the UB report with the general public on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM at the Buffalo Museum of Science Cummings Room.
*Study commissioned by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), the UB School of Architecture and Planning in conjunction with its Regional Institute Urban Design Project, a team of experts led by principal investigator, Robert Shibley. Key study investigators Paul Ray of the UB Urban Design Project and Professor Hiro Hata, who led a team to develop potential implementation designs for a green parkway, will also be on hand at the meeting.
Lead image: the c&s companies | Historic Humboldt Parkway Reconstruction Concept Study”
Below article was featured in Buffalo News, July 22, 2014.
“Hamlin Park neighborhood envisions change
To the people gathered Tuesday evening around the wooden-block model of the Hamlin Park neighborhood on Buffalo’s East Side, it seemed like an exact replica, except for one small but significant detail.
Between East Ferry Street and the Buffalo Science Museum at Best Street, the Route 33 Kensington Expressway disappeared. It went into a tunnel. At grade level, it looked like what it was before the six-lane road was built in the 1960s – a tree-lined Frederick Law Olmsted parkway.
This “green parkway” plan is the vision of the Restore Our Community Coalition, a group of more than 20 East Side civic and faith-based organizations, who put the model on display outside the Cummings Room at the Science Museum as a preview to a public meeting on the project.”
““We’ve been meeting for four years in this building,” ROCC Chairwoman and Hamlin Park Taxpayers Association President Stephanie Barber Geter said to an audience of about 50 as she opened the meeting, “and we’ve focused singly on one thing, restoring this community. We want to regenerate the Humboldt Parkway … (and) we think we’ve made the case for a huge, huge investment in the center of Buffalo.”
Professor Hiro Hata from the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, which built the model, explained how creating the mile-long green space would partially restore the parkway network linking Olmsted’s parks and would act like a zipper in uniting two halves of a neighborhood divided by the expressway.
Paul Ray, who led the Kensington Deck Economic Impact Study for UB’s Regional Institute Urban Design Project, said the $560 million project would have a primary economic impact during five years of construction, and many millions more from enhanced property values, new housing and revitalized business districts on Jefferson and Fillmore avenues.
“We believe we can restore the integrity of the community,” said Richard Cummings, president of the Black Chamber of Commerce and an Olmsted Parks Conservancy trustee.
“Until Buffalo comes to the East Side and corrects the mistake done to the East Side, Buffalo can not attain the greatness it is capable of having.”
During the question period, several speakers proposed filling in the below-grade section of the Kensington between Ferry and Best streets and turning it into a street-level parkway.
Karen Stanley Fleming, ROCC executive director, explained that the coalition decided that covering the expressway would be best because it would not disturb the current traffic pattern.
“Ten years ago we had the same debate about filling it in or covering it,” said one of the public officials in attendance, Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith. “What the community said was they really wanted the cover. And the (state Department of Transportation) does not want to take out the 33.”
Some of the speakers expressed concern about whether longtime residents would be priced out of the neighborhood if property taxes rise along with real estate values.
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, said that a special tax district could be created, freezing property assessments, a solution proposed for the impoverished Fruit Belt, next to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where real estate values have soared.
Others feared that a revitalized Hamlin Park neighborhood, which one of them characterized as “the other Parkside,” would attract development that would adversely affect the neighborhood.
“We need to make sure that people don’t come with projects that don’t help us, said Valencia Sease, co-chairwoman of the Gethsemane Manor Matters Coalition.
She cited the plans for multiple housing units on the former site of Deaconess Hospital, which she said would “increase congestion and increase pollution.”
She also urged preservation of vacant century-old homes in the neighborhood instead of demolishing them.
“We’ve got to stop being afraid of a vacant house,” she said. “It doesn’t make any sense to cap the parkway if all of the houses along the parkway are torn down.”
The next step, Geter said as she closed the meeting, will be to get federal support for the “green parkway” project.
She urged the audience to call the offices of Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both D-N.Y., and Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport.
“We always thought this was a good idea,” she said, “and now that it’s been studied, we know it is. We want everybody from the mayor to the president of the United States saying this a good idea, covering this thing.”
Renovating homes in the Hamlin Park Neighborhood will help to RESTORE OUR COMMUNITY. See this local TV segment on $1 homes from Aug 27, 2014.
“BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A program called the Urban Homestead Program allows buyers to purchase certain abandoned homes within the City of Buffalo for only $1, plus real estate closing costs.
Mike Puma recently took advantage of the program to purchase a home on Buffalo’s east side. The home is certainly what anyone would call a “fixer upper,” to put it nicely. The home near Canisius College needs several repairs; the paint is chipping, holes in the floor need patching, and the structure is crumbling.
News 4 asked Puma what his friends think of his purchase. “Do they think you’re crazy?” News 4 asked.
“They’re actually kind of jealous,” he answered, citing the cost of the home as one probable reason.
Puma, who works in historical preservation, bought the home for $1 through Buffalo’s Urban Homestead Renewal program. Puma said he wanted to make a difference in the city.
“I wanted to take a blighted eyesore, make it my own and contribute back to the community and greater whole in Buffalo,” he explained.”
“The beginning of the end for Robert Moses Parkway will restore Olmsted’s vision”
This article was published in Buffalo News November 18, 2014.
A “riverway,” at top, will replace part of the Robert Moses Parkway, bottom.
“The beginning of the end for Robert Moses Parkway will restore Olmsted’s vision
Robert Moses was a complicated man who left a complicated legacy. He was the powerful state development official responsible for some spectacular public achievements, including New York City’s Triborough Bridge and Long Island’s Jones Beach, but also for some long-lasting disasters, prominent of which in these parts is the Niagara County parkway that carries his name. Its damage is about to be undone.
The Robert Moses Parkway begins at the North Grand Island Bridge, then sweeps west along the Niagara River, cutting city residents off from one of the world’s most famous and spectacular waterways. The City of Niagara Falls interrupts its path, but it soon resumes its destructive course, cutting the city’s North Side off from one of the world’s most famous and spectacular waterways. Farther north, the parkway moves inland and is, for the most part, innocuous and useful.
But now, as part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion, much of the parkway will be reconfigured to restore the riverfront to the righteous vision of Frederick Law Olmsted, the 19th century designer of Niagara Falls State Park, the country’s first state park. Once again, it will become a place of beauty, where visitors can appreciate the splendor of the upper river, free from the scar that is the Robert Moses Parkway.
The work has been in the planning for two years, but last week work began. The project will remove a 1-mile stretch of the parkway and replace it with a “riverway” – a stretch that will improve pedestrian access to the river, as Olmsted wanted.
Specifically, a section of the parkway west of John B. Daly Boulevard will be converted from four lanes to two; the two eastbound lanes between the park and Daly Boulevard have sat unused for nearly 25 years.
In addition, the overpass at the interchange between the parkway and Daly Boulevard will be removed and replaced with a roundabout. An embankment that propped up the parkway will be lowered, making the river more easily visible. Nature areas will be added, including a small pond and a more extensive system of trails along the river. There will also be a new path to the water from Buffalo Avenue near the First Street bridge over to Goat Island.
And that’s just what is happening along the upper river. Plans are also in the works to remove the section of the parkway that blocks North Side residents from the Niagara River Gorge, which in its tumultuous, churning current is nearly as spectacular as the falls, themselves.
Moses elevated the automobile above all other concerns. It was the way of the future, he believed, and all resources had to be marshaled to its benefit. No price was too high to pay in disruption or even suffering. But here, more than 50 years after the parkway’s construction, the mistake is being fixed.
The natural resource that Western New York has in abundance is water, and in some of its most breathtaking configurations. Access to that resource was stolen away, and not just in Niagara County. With this project, Western New Yorkers are beginning to get back what is theirs. That counts as a big day.”
“Update on a Restored Humboldt Parkway: “The Green Parkway””
Below article was published in The Challenger, Aug 3, 2014.
Update on a Restored Humboldt Parkway: “The Green Parkway”
“Because of the persistence of neighbors and institutions around Humboldt Parkway, the dream of a “Green Parkway” to restore the community is coming into clearer vision. A new University at Buffalo report has been released, which documents the economic impact of a restored Humboldt Parkway. In a study commissioned by the New York State Department of Transportation, the UB School of Architecture and Planning in conjunction with its Regional Institute Urban Design Project, a team of experts led by principal investigator, Robert Shibley, has ascertained that such a project would have a minimal regional economic impact exceeding $1 Billion and construction employment of hundreds of jobs. In the best case scenario, the impact would catalyze the complete revitalization of an area from the Fillmore Business District to the Jefferson Street Business District and the residential neighborhoods in between. Such revitalization would spur new mixed-use development, improving property values and household wealth.
The Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC) shared highlights of the UB report with the general public last Tuesday at the Buffalo Museum of Science. The target audience was residents of Hamlin Park, known as the Hamlin Park Taxpayers Association, and block club advocates from Humboldt Parkway, East Ferry, and Delevan Streets, as well as owners of neighborhood businesses from Fillmore to Jefferson. The meeting was open to the public.
ROCC chairperson Stephanie Geter stated, “We want to update the community on the progress toward reaching our goal to restore the Olmsted vision of a vibrant, green community space, to remediate the devastation caused by the construction of Route 33, and to create a beautiful gateway to Buffalo’s Medical Corridor. ROCC came together in 2007 to bring this issue to the attention of local and state leaders, focusing our coalition power on the New York State Department of Transportation. Much work has been going on behind the scenes, and we have a plan to make this vision a reality.”
Indeed, the vision is not a new one. In the 1870’s, Frederick Law Olmsted articulated a vision of a “city within a park” that became the nation’s first interconnected park system. A major corridor in the system was Humboldt Parkway connecting Delaware Park with the former “Parade,” later renamed Humboldt Park, and now called Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. Olmsted Parks Conservancy President Thomas Herrera-Mishler noted that Humboldt Parkway was designed to allow users to travel from one park to another without leaving the serenity of the park-like atmosphere. He said, “six rows of mature shade trees once provided a wonderful canopy not only to connect Olmsted’s Delaware and Parade Parks, but also to provide a valuable green space where everyone was welcome to enjoy nature, enhancing the visual character and quality of life for the whole community. Restoring this green anchor on the East Side of Buffalo is a major priority of the Conservancy.”
Richard Cummings, President of the Black Chamber of Commerce, asserts that “while the Kensington Expressway construction led to community devastation, we are optimistic that some of the damage can be reversed. Even though the introduction of the expressway in the 60’s isolated the East Side from the rest of Buffalo, initiating a period of disinvestment and neighborhood decline, we are working with businesses, residents and city leaders to reverse that decline. We believe that our community can be restored.”
The Humboldt community includes neighbors, business owners, cultural institutions and tourist attractions. “We absolutely embrace the vision to re-create a viable, walkable, green environment on all sides of the Museum”, Says Mark Mortenson of the Buffalo Museum of Science. “That is the environment that the Museum celebrated until it was tragically lost by the construction of the Kensington Expressway.”
The idea to cover a portion of Route 33 may have seemed farfetched to many local residents and even elected officials and transportation leaders, but the reality is that there is a movement across America to remove urban freeway systems in order to create more livable cities. “Highways to Boulevards” is a major initiative of the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU), which came to Buffalo for its 22nd Annual Congress this past June. The 4 day conference was themed “The Resilient Community,” and several sessions addressed issues related to the restoration of the Humboldt Parkway community.
Conference attendee Karen Stanley Fleming, who serves as the Executive Director for ROCC, stated, “ I was elated to meet several leading planners and urbanism experts who affirmed the human, economic and environmental benefits of sustainable planning projects such as our proposal to create a green deck over a portion of Route 33. Projects like this are going on around the country, and at even greater expense that the projected $560 million that a Green Humboldt Deck would cost, because the point is that this in an investment, which will reap returns. It is not just a transportation cost to correct an urban sprawl mistake. An investment to turn part of this highway into a green boulevard will reap dividends in terms of job creation and increased property values. An invest terms of job creation and increased property values. An investment to restore a Green Humboldt Parkway will bring to our Buffalo Renaissance the beautiful gateway that our Downtown Revitalization deserves.””
This fantastic article was posted on December 14th, 2014 on Buffalo News.
Hamlin Park hoping to regain its wholeness
Don Hill remembers when his parents bought a home in the Hamlin Park neighborhood in the 1950s – only the third black family on his block of the old Humboldt Parkway.
Hill, now 68, had a newspaper delivery route for two years, and recalls his neighbors and “wonderful” experiences living along one of the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parkways. When they first moved in, the neighborhood was still somewhat exclusive, with attractive homes lining the wide, grassy median of the beautiful, tree-lined boulevard.
“If you saw anyone walking along Humboldt Parkway to Main Street, after a snowfall, it was like walking through paradise. It was unbelievable,” Hill said Sunday during a community gathering. “When the trucks came through to cut down the trees in 1962, 1963, it was devastating. My neighborhood changed.”
Now, the professional photographer and others in the neighborhood want to correct what one termed a “travesty” by restoring the trees and grand parkway – over the top of the Kensington Expressway. That would reunite two communities above and restore Olmsted’s vision after 60 years, while still allowing the speedy flow of traffic underneath.
And on Sunday, their group – Restore Our Community Coalition – launched its “I Remember” grass-roots campaign of lawn signs, social media and public pressure, designed to build a groundswell of support for what would be a $560 million construction project.
“It’s a grand idea, a grand vision for Buffalo,” Karen Stanley Fleming, executive director of the coalition, said during a fireside chat-style program in the neighborhood’s historic 1854 stone farmhouse on Hedley Place. “We want to see a beautiful, fitting gateway to our waterfront.”
Ultimately, supporters want to see the parkway restored from downtown to the Scajaquada Expressway, but the initial focus will be on the portion from Ferry to Best streets. And, they stressed that they want to reconnect and strengthen the community – not remove the highway.
“We don’t want to disrupt that traffic. We want suburbanites to come in and leave,” said Richard Cummings, president of the Black Chamber of Commerce, a trustee of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy and a member of the coalition’s steering committee. “But we don’t want it to disrupt our life as much as it has.”
Championed by resident Clarke Eaton since the expressway was built, and now led by a professional executive director and steering committee, Restore Our Community Coalition is focused on restoring the parklike atmosphere of Humboldt Parkway and the Hamlin Park neighborhood.
Organization members lament the Kensington’s impact on the neighborhood – when the state tore down houses, ripped up the boulevard and dug a canyon to construct the expressway through the neighborhood, despite community opposition at four public hearings. Residents were evicted or moved to North Buffalo and the suburbs. Businesses struggled, failed or left. Blight developed and crime grew. And today, instead of owner-occupied homes, many houses in the neighborhood are owned by absentee landlords and rented to college students.
“This is a group of people that has lived with a mistake for 50 years,” said Stephanie Barber Geter, chairwoman of the coalition and president of the Hamlin Park Taxpayers Association. “We can change this, right here.”
Humboldt was one of the only Olmsted-designed parkways in the country to be deliberately destroyed, in stark contrast to Chapin, Lincoln and Bidwell parkways in the city, the group noted.
But all that can change, its leaders say. “If we can restore Humboldt Parkway, we can stop the blight, even stop the crime,” Fleming said.
A $100,000 study by University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning and the Regional Institute found that the project, despite its high upfront investment, would generate about $1 billion in economic impact. That includes creation of 1,000 construction jobs, with spinoff effects. UB students even created a mock-up of what the neighborhood could look like, now on display in the nearby Buffalo Museum of Science.
Restoration of the neighborhood would also raise property values and create wealth, draw more residents because of the appeal of living on a boulevard or parkway, and lure businesses back to a community that they largely abandoned decades ago, Fleming said.
Environmental remediation – by planting oxygen-producing trees and burying the polluting traffic in a tunnel – would improve air quality, addressing concerns about asthma. And the project would enhance overall quality of life, she added.
Proponents said the project, first unveiled earlier this year, has already gained some support in the community and among political leaders, including Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. But Fleming noted that “it takes more than a conversation” to loosen the federal or state purse-strings.
“This provides the politicians with the wind beneath their wings,” Fleming said. “We know it’s not an easy task, asking Congress for $560 million. We want to help them.”
The campaign is designed to evoke memories of what the neighborhood was like before the highway, and to energize not only current residents but anyone in the region who used to live there. The group, which presented a slideshow of old photos from the parkway’s glory days, hopes to record video recollections and testimony to bolster its case. And the campaign will culminate in a “Restore the Community” march in late spring along Humboldt, from Ferry Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
“Everyone in this committee is working hard, trying to rectify this wrong,” Fleming said. “We are trying to engage as many professionals as possible.”