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Town Hall Meeting

Restoring Humboldt Parkway Could Cost $500 Million

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Correcting what one group calls the “Kensington mistake” comes with a huge price tag. The group, Restore Our Community Coalition, estimates it would cost around $500 million to create a green parkway over the 33 from Best Street to Ferry Street.

The stretch we’re talking about goes for almost three-quarters of a mile. It was the topic of a town hall meeting Tuesday night.

The Buffalo Common Council approved getting rid of the original parkway back in 1954, and this coalition wants to restore the Kensington back to its original design, a tree-lined parkway, by covering the expressway.

They showed many examples of other cities that have successfully built green parkways over highways including Seattle, Dallas and Phoenix.

The goal of the Restore Our Community Coalition in 2016 is to raise money. Its leaders explained where it could come from.

“Hopefully, from the federal government and some philanthropists. This has been done across the country and different cities with a combination of both. In some cases, most of the money came from philanthropists, and in other cases most of it came from the government. But no matter what the cost is, we had a study done by UB and it will pay for itself plus create profit to the community” said Richard Cummings from ROCC.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan was at the meeting. His spokesperson tells us that like any major road construction project, this would need a combination of state and federal funding. Ryan is involved now, early on, to help figure out what those funding sources might be.

Nothing has been approved, but this coming year, the Coalition wants to come up with a preliminary design, do an environmental assessment, produce plans, and fundraise.

http://www.wgrz.com/story/news/local/buffalo/2015/10/06/restoring-humboldt-parkway-could-cost-500-million/73491016/

Community members ask for support to restore Humboldt Parkway

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Community leaders in Buffalo want to restore Humboldt Parkway to its former glory. The ambitious plan is still in the preliminary stages.

“Something of this caliber can be accomplished in the City of Buffalo,” said Bradley Bethel, Jr. with Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC).

ROCC spoke in front of NYS Department of Transportation representatives and public officials, including Assemblyman Sean Ryan, on Tuesday night. The group has been working on plans to change the road pattern since 2012.

The Kensington Expressway cuts right through East Side neighborhoods.

“You can’t cross it to get to a store or even see a neighbor,” said Inez Hord, a longtime resident.

Hord has lived a block from Humboldt Parkway since 1962 and remembers what the road was like before that section of NY-33 was built.

“Beautiful, with trees, grass and greenery, children playing in the parkway, just beautiful,” said Hord.

A group of community leaders want to restore the parkway.

The DOT has come up with options that include lowering parts of Kensington Expressway and running it underneath a parkway. The next step would include scoping and creating preliminary designs, which could cost six million dollars, according to the DOT.

“We’ve had about two dozen cities across the country who have accomplished this over the past 40 years,” said Bethel.

ROCC estimates it will cost $570 million to fully restore the mile between East Ferry and Best St. The group is now asking for public support so they can secure grants to reunite the neighborhood.

“Improved property values, less noise and pollution in our neighborhood, and eventually commercial reinvestment in the Fillmore and Jefferson commercial districts,” said Bethel.

They estimate the project would create more than 900 jobs.

Inez Hord said it’s worth paying tax dollars to complete.

“It would be a wonderful thing,” said Hord. “I believe it’s possible but I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime.”

http://wivb.com/2015/10/06/community-members-ask-for-support-to-restore-humboldt-parkway/

Residents want park built over Kensington Expressway

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) – Residents of the Humboldt Parkway neighborhood came out Tuesday night to build support for their idea to build a park over the Kensington Expressway.

Residents say Rt. 33 divides the historic neighborhood. Those activists, with the Restore our Community Coalition, want the neighborhood to have a similar feel for what it used to be.

The meeting took place Monday night at the Frank Merriweather Library.

Activists say “the mistake was to destroy a central piece to an internationally acclaimed park system, dividing a community, leaving a roadway as a scar that continues to serve as a physical and psychological barrier to full economic participation by all areas of Buffalo.”

Advocates also believe that putting an expressway so close to homes causes health issues.

The coalition had four goals Monday night: to discuss preliminary design ideas, discuss other parks that cover highways, review the original parkway in the Kensington Expressway’s place and talk about how to raise awareness.

According to the community coalition, the Expressway “destroyed the clean, green gathering space along Humboldt Parkway.”

The Restore Our Community Coalition was organized in 2007.

http://www.wkbw.com/news/residents-way-park-built-over-kensington-expressway



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Taking Steps Toward New Future for Rt. 33

By Sarah Blazonis
Saturday, August 8, 2015 at 08:03 PM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Before the hum of traffic along Humboldt Parkway, there was the sound of wind through trees. Stephanie Geter remembers.

“It was gorgeous. Four trees across all the way from Delaware Park all the way downtown,” said Geter, who now lives in the neighborhood.

She’s talking about the space between Humboldt Parkway north and southbound. It looked much different before the late 1950s, when work began to build an expressway to help commuters get from the city to the suburbs.

“The 33 went in and really divided the community, what was a beautiful portion of the Olmstead Park System, beautiful homes,” said Mayor Byron Brown.

“It has dramatically decreased property values, and it has impacted commercial development along Fillmore and Jefferson Avenue, and it has impacted overall morale around the East Side,” said Bradley Bethel, Jr. He’s a research associate with the Restoring Our Community Coalition.

Geter is now chair of the group, which is working to change that.

ROCC marched along Humboldt Parkway on Saturday to help bring attention to their effort to build a park deck over the expressway. That would involve digging the roadway deeper and constructing cover over it, essentially turning the 33 into a tunnel.

ROCC said the plan would have environmental, visual, and economic benefits, and they’re hoping for help from federal officials to make it happen.

Brown said he supports reconnecting the neighborhood. He said the project could cost hundreds of millions of dollars that would need to come from a federal source.

“This is one of those things that many consider a planning error that occurred in the City of Buffalo, and being able to reconnect both sides of the community…is something many people support,” he said.

ROCC said a UB study shows economic boosts could include a potential new tax base of $2.8 million.

According to some, the best impact could be including this neighborhood in the city’s overall revitalization.

http://www.twcnews.com/nys/buffalo/news/2015/08/8/rocc-march-and-rally.html



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Buffalo group wants park built over Rt. 33

Saturday, the Restore Our Community group called on the City of Buffalo to build a parkway over the Kensington Expressway, connecting the Humboldt Parkway Community to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Advocates say the route used to be tree-lined and beautiful until the construction of the Kensington Expressway over 60 years ago.

The group is hoping to raise enough awareness for public funding.

http://www.wkbw.com/news/buffalo-group-wants-park-built-over-the-33



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Community coalition calls for restoration of Humboldt Parkway

AUG 9, 2015

What remains today of Buffalo’s Humboldt Parkway is an ordinary stretch of sidewalks and city streets, divided by the Kensington Expressway. Decades ago, it was a tree-lined parkway connecting major parks of the Olmsted system. On Saturday, a community coalition once again led the charge to restore the parkway design.

The Restore Our Community Coalition organized a march along Humboldt Parkway to the Buffalo Museum of Science to spread awareness of the desire to see the parkway restored. Executive Director Karen Stanley Fleming says their message was that it’s time for a change.

Mayor Brown encourages marchers on Humboldt Parkway, en route to the rally to restore the original parkway over the Kensington Expressway

Mayor Brown encourages marchers on Humboldt Parkway, en route to the rally to restore the original parkway over the Kensington Expressway
CREDIT ROCC TWITTER / RESTORE OUR COMMUNITY COALITION

“The group acknowledged that the construction of the Kensington brought economic and environmental devastation to the Hamlin Park and Martin Luther King Park communities,” said Fleming. “But we want to move on from that devastation and move to a place of restoration.”

Fleming says money has been set aside with the department of transportation for half a decade, and within that time two different feasibility studies have been conducted by the University at Buffalo. One illustrates the design of a deck above the Kensington Expressway, turning a stretch of it into a tunnel with the parkway above. The other looks at the economic value.

“We really look at it as an investment, and the return on the investment could be over 900 jobs on such a construction project, and also increasing the property values, and therefore the personal wealth of home owners all along Humboldt Parkway,” said Fleming. “But also spreading and eliminating the blight all the way over to Fillmore on the east and over to Jefferson on the west of Humboldt.”

According to the Coalition, that there are 21 other cities in the U.S. where parks have been built over expressways to reconnect communities and build green gathering spaces.

Restore Our Community Coalition Logo

Restore Our Community Coalition Logo
CREDIT RESTORE OUR COMMUNITY COALITION

If the deck is going to happen, Fleming says it’s got to be a federal-level project. That’s why the coalition has gathered support from city, county, and state legislators, in hopes of catching the eye of federal officials like Senator Charles Schumer.

The coalition hopes to get federal attention before the year is over, but recognizes that any large-scale progress could still be years away. Fleming says the movement is by no means in its beginning stages, noting that community activists and residents have been advocating for the change since the 1970s.

http://news.wbfo.org/post/community-coalition-calls-restoration-humboldt-parkway#stream/0



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87 Humboldt Parkway

Special thanks to Daniel Cadzow for these lovely photos of Humboldt Parkway (c. 1920s)

humboldt 1920s 2

humboldt 1920s - 1



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A City Divided Comes Together

Reposted from Buffalo Rising.

There is a renewed energy and spirit when it comes to reevaluating Buffalo’s high speed roadways that disconnect us as a city, and block us from accessing our waterfront. For some people, the battle to heal our city from the harms of urban renewal run deep. Deep scars that tore communities apart, and left trails of disinvestment and blight in their wake.

One organization in Buffalo set out some time ago to address the issues and convince The City to reverse the damage wreaked upon Humboldt Parkway. Today the message of Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC) is louder and more clear than ever.

On June 12, 2015, from 2-4pm, ROCC will be taking that message to the airways, in the form of a Radiothon at WUFO 1080 AM. There is no better time than the present to right the wrongs of the past, and to restore what was lost – Olmsted’s tree-lined Humboldt Parkway (from Delaware Park to Parade Park – now MLK Park).

Residents were shocked when the construction began. What was left was a disconnected community that has witnessed economic and physical decline in addition to health and safety concerns,” states Stephanie Barber Geter, Chair of Restore Our Community Coalition.

This is not a new battle. This is the same battle that the community has tirelessly been fighting all along. ROCC has attributed much of the newfound momentum to a spirited generation of Buffalonians that are spearheading renewal projects all over the city.

Humboldt-Buffalo-Green

The construction of Route 33 was a mistake, there is no doubt. But there are cities throughout the world that made similar mistakes, and many of those cities have done what many thought was impossible.

See 6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

In order to harness the newfound energy, and direct it in the appropriate places, ROCC is in need of funds that will help to bolster the movement.

By leveraging an ongoing “I Remember” campaign, and launching new fundraising mechanisms (including the Radiothon), ROCC believes that there is nothing that can hold this community back.

*To find out how to get involved please email info@roccbuffalo.org. To contribute to the fundraiser please see the “donate” button at roccbuffalo.org, or mail checks payable to: ROCC 60 Hedley Place Buffalo, NY 14208

 

 



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Restore Our Community Coalition Remembers the Female Advocates of the Movement

by Jennifer J. Parker – PR Consultant

ROCC Remembers the History and Honors the Early Leaders of the Campaign to Protect and Restore Humboldt Parkway

On Saturday, April 18, 2015, the Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC) will honor the ladies of the early movement to protect and restore the Humboldt Parkway neighborhoods. The decision to destroy one of America’s tree lined Olmsted parkways and replace it with an expressway was introduced over 60 years ago. This planning decision has resulted in decades of decay, an economically disconnected community and decline of a once vibrant, clean, green, and beautiful neighborhood.

Why ROCC Legacy Tea? Women History Month was the inspiration. The Committee reflected on the long journey to seek answers and social justice for the community destruction. The ROCC Committee wanted to begin a tradition of honoring the legacy of the female advocates of the movement during Women History Month.

“These ladies are the connection from our past to our future”, stated Karen Stanley-Fleming, the Executive Director of ROCC.

As spoken word artist Common and musical artist John Legend recited in their award winning song, Glory, “No one can win the war individually. It takes the wisdom of the elders and the young people’s energy.”

ROCC is now seeing this transition. The ROCC Committee includes leaders of the early ROCC movement and emerging leaders that have stepped up to take the baton to assist in building a reconnected community. Realizing that the vision is much larger than one group, ROCC has expanded the mission and reached out to other community environmental and social justice groups. Justin Booth, the Executive Director of GObike, explained the power of collaboration the best, “There is a need to build a coalition of coalitions.”

ROCC would like the dedicated community advocates to know that their work have not been forgotten.

“We remember the passion and work to restore the Olmsted vision of a vibrant, green community space and to remediate the devastation caused by the construction of Route 33. The new Buffalo should include a restored and reconnected community”, stated Stephanie Barber Geter, Chair of ROCC.

continue reading →



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Hamlin Park Looks to Re-Establish Humboldt Parkway

Reposted from the GoBike Buffalo website.

It has been about 60 years since Humboldt Parkway was dug up in exchange for the Kensington Expressway (the 33); this destroyed the Hamlin Park neighborhood by cutting it in half, killing connectivity, and reducing the neighborhood vitality.

Well, the residents of Hamlin Park have had enough.  A coalition aptly named Restore Our Community Coalition is spearheading an effort to make the 33 into a tunnel, to reestablish Humboldt Parkway on top of it and to return the neighborhood back to Olmsted’s original vision.  This would ultimately reconnect the communities that were so wrongly destroyed as a result of the 33.

According to the Coalition, “We envision a beautiful, green parkway that will serve as a gateway connecting the historic Humboldt Parkway community to downtown and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. At the same time, a green parkway and promenade will serve as a vibrant community gathering place that is an attraction within a neighborhood that includes anchor institutions the Buffalo Museum of Science, Olmsted-designed Delaware and MLK Park and Canisius College. We seek to restore the Humboldt Parkway Community that has suffered from decades of decay and economic decline due to the construction of the Kensington Expressway.”

We look forward to supporting this effort and working with the Coalition in the future. For more information on this campaign and the Restore Our Community Coalition, check out their website.



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Calvert Vaux Barn

One of the few existing remnants of the original Parade Park, which would eventually become Martin Luther King Park, has a chance of returning to its original foundation. Seen in The Buffalo News.

Some would like to see Calvert Vaux building returned to MLK Park

The two-story barn, a block and a half south of Martin Luther King Jr. Park, is easy to overlook.

The timbers are worn, the yellow paint faded and its days as a working barn long past.

But despite the neglect, the building at 350 Mills St. – its Stick style architecture still structurally sound despite some rot at the base – has historic value beyond its 19th-century birth.

And some park aficionados say it’s time to move the building to its original home in the park, while restoring it for contemporary use.

“It’s not just a barn, it’s part of the park system’s grand past,” said Tony James, an architect with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. “It’s the earliest park building surviving in the city, and unfortunately it’s not in one of the parks, and we want to get it back in the parks.

“The barn’s also significant architecturally, because it’s the only Calvert Vaux building left in Buffalo,” James said.

Vaux was an English-born architect who teamed with landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1869 to create the Buffalo park system of parkways and traffic circles. The men earlier designed Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and during Vaux’s 40-year career in New York City, he designed two of that metropolis’ most visited attractions – the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Among the Buffalo park buildings Vaux designed was the decorative Parade House, completed in 1876 in the Parade, MLK Park’s original name, where the Greenhouse and brick Shelter House are today.

The wooden Parade House burned down the following year, but was rebuilt in similar fashion by architect Cyrus Porter.

The barn was part of the complex, and it was moved to Mills Street in 1897, several years before the Parade House was torn down following the park’s redesign. The Parade House was seen at the time as being too expensive and time-consuming to maintain, James said.

“The Parade House was the most elaborate structure Vaux ever designed for any park. It was made of pine, which is why it burned, was elaborately carved and decorated, and painted very bright colors,” said scholar Francis R. Kowsky, author of two books about Vaux.

The Parade House was designed for everyone, reflecting Olmsted’s and Vaux’s view of parks as a place for socializing without regard to social class despite the Gilded Age they were in, Kowsky said. The building, which included a boisterous beer hall with music and dancing, came to be especially popular with the German community, while frowned on by the Anglo-Saxon Protestants on the West Side.

“Returning the barn to the park would be a nice reminder of that great building that was here,” Kowsky said.

The barn was identified by Martin Wachadlo, a local historian who came upon it while working on a historic survey of the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood about 10 years ago.

“When I saw that building, I thought this doesn’t belong here,” Wachadlo said.

He speculated the barn could have been in the park as part of the Parade House complex, and it was confirmed when a building with the same dimensions was found there using an old map of the city.

The map also showed a horse shed attached to the barn. Wachadlo, upon further inspection, found a post on the barn’s right side where the shed would have been attached.

Researcher Monica Rzepka eventually discovered the city permit that recorded when the barn was moved out of the park in 1897, at a time when the large circular basin – now a splash pad – was installed and the park’s name was changed to Humboldt Park.

Wachadlo said he hopes the chance for the park to reclaim the building won’t be missed.

“We talk about the parks system being so important. Well, this is the only opportunity for the people of Buffalo to have an original parks structure in our parks system. It would be a shame for it to be lost, especially now when there is such a greater appreciation for our architectural heritage,” Wachadlo said.

“This is one of those valuable historic resources we can’t afford to be losing.”

The barn, 25 feet deep and 36 feet long, is being used for storage by a landlord who has agreed to sell it for a reasonable amount, James said. But there are a number of additional costs that make bringing the barn home an expensive proposition.

The Conservancy received an estimate in 2012 of $160,000 to buy and move the barn to the park. The cost rose to $617,000 to also restore the structure and build a replica of the former horse shed, James said. A garage door apparatus installed a few decades ago must also be removed.

The long-term plan would be to use the barn for employee training in the summers, provide office space for the park superintendent that currently doesn’t exist and to rent it to the community, James said.

Tim Tielman, executive director of Campaign for Greater Buffalo, suggests buying the barn and nearby land, and converting it into park use at a fraction of the cost. That would speed up the process of saving the barn and putting it into the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy’s fold, without precluding the move at a later time.

But Stephanie Crockatt, the Conservancy’s interim executive director, said acquiring the barn is not a priority because of the cost and the many pressing needs the parks system is confronted with. She said the Conservancy could envision working with historical and preservation groups to acquire and move the barn, but someone other than the Conservancy would need to lead the charge.

“It’s a really worthwhile project, but it’s just a bit outside of our reach,” Crockatt said.

email: msommer@buffnews.com



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One Buffalo

Chairperson Stephanie Barber Geter reminds us how important it is that each and every Buffalo neighborhood participates in the city’s redevelopment. Seen in The Buffalo News.

Let’s reclaim parkway to create One Buffalo

The “I Remember” campaign by the Restore Our Community Coalition is more than a nostalgic nod to a Frederick Law Olmsted masterpiece landscape connecting Delaware Park and what was then called Parade Park (now Martin Luther King Park). Even as we create a community memory album at roccbuffalo.org, the “I Remember” campaign is a call to action for reclamation of Humboldt Parkway to create One Buffalo. We must reconnect a community left out of Buffalo’s economic renaissance. To restore the parkway would bring almost 1,000 construction jobs and create a fitting gateway to downtown Buffalo and the medical corridor.

This part of Buffalo’s African-American history is painful. As the 1950s turned into the ’60s, the tree-lined parkway was gutted to build the Kensington Expressway, just as the neighborhood was becoming home to some of the city’s most prominent African-American families, such as Robert Coles, an architect who defiantly designed his home with its rear to the expressway, or the Waltons, who both worked at the Chevrolet plant, where Mrs. Walton was the plant nurse, or the Singletons, whose father was a union leader at the Bethlehem Steel plant and a real estate agent. Those residents fought, but lost, the battle when public officials presented a plan to expedite access to downtown for suburbanites.

Powerless to prevent their property values from plummeting, and defenseless against the property damage caused by the blasting and highway construction, a remnant of those residents remain today as owner occupants amongst absentee landlords meeting the demand for student housing. Construction of the Kensington is a shameful part of Buffalo’s history, environmentally, economically and socially; but to rewrite that history, we must first acknowledge the wrong, and then prioritize funding for the restoration. A restored and reconnected community is important to the growth of the One Buffalo, the New Buffalo, which should include vibrant and healthy communities for all.

Stephanie Barber Geter

Committee Chairwoman

Restore Our Community Coalition