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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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Tied Together — and Torn Apart — By Parkways

Posted: September 15, 2015

Source: Belt Magazine

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Buffalo’s historic parkway system may be key to its friendly spirit. But parts of it have been ripped up — to dismaying result. What can a Rust Belt city do now?

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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.

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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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Developing: Bringing back an Olmsted parkway

Posted: April 2015

Source: Buffalo Spree

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Picture the Hamlin Park neighborhood in the winter of 1959. As a light snow falls, resident Donnee Hill steps out of his house, feeling the fresh snow crunch under his feet. The mighty elm trees overhead seem to go on forever and create a snow-covered canopy as far as he can see. As he takes a moment to gather himself, he realizes that Humboldt Parkway, where his family has recently bought a house, is one of the most beautiful streets he’s ever seen.

Over fifty years later, when Hill leaves the same home on Humboldt Parkway, he’s now confronted with the Kensington Expressway. Even though he only had a few short years to enjoy the parkway, his memories are vivid. “Walking the parkway was like being in an Ansel Adams photograph,” he says. “When the trucks came in 1962, it was devastating.”

Looking back on that day and so many others like it, Hill remembers the paradise that once was Humboldt Parkway—and he’s not the only one. A movement that has been decades in the making—to restore Olmsted’s vision for his longest and grandest parkway—is gaining traction in Buffalo. Dedicated community members who want Humboldt Parkway returned for future generations to enjoy have organized as the Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCCBuffalo.org).

 

Tell me about the Restore Our Community Coalition—what are you trying to achieve?

Clarke Eaton (founder/board member): To bring back to the neighborhood what was here before the expressway destroyed Humboldt Parkway. I’ve lived in the community for the past forty-eight years, and, like any person who loves their home, I want to see the best for it. I raised my daughter here and she raised her son here. This is something we want for future generations. It’s time for us to go back and restore the beauty of the parkway. I even remember the days we could pet horses still using the bridle path.

Stephanie Barber-Geter (board president): ROCC was formed five years ago, but Clarke has been involved in some form to restore the parkway as far back as the 1970s. I remember as a kid living downtown on Eagle Street when they took all the land, moved everybody, and built the Frederick Douglass Housing Projects, which was a big calamity. I remember a woman named Margaret Strasner, who had to move because of the project and moved to Humboldt Parkway. Unfortunately, with the expressway coming only a few years later, she went from one calamity to another. We’re still dealing with the effects today and need to fix it.
We’ve been reaching out to the community with our “I Remember” campaign, where residents recall the beauty of the parkway so we can have an identifiable face for the movement.

 

What’s the solution that ROCC has come up with to restore Olmsted’s vision?

CE: We thought we would turn and look at the economics of the situation. A restoration of the parkway would be beneficial on so many levels. It would create jobs and help maintain and improve the community, while, in turn, draw more people to the neighborhood.

SBG: We looked at every possible fix and we believe that covering the expressway is the way to restore the community and fix the residual effects it created, like the loss of business on Fillmore and Jefferson. It’s not our intent to disturb the flow of traffic with our solution. We don’t propose filling it in; we don’t think that makes sense. Capping the expressway allows us to reconnect the community, while still allowing easy access to downtown.

 

Why not just fill it in and be done with it? It seems like an opportunity to fix systemic problems of sprawl in our region.

SBG: For months, our meetings were just focused on how big this could possibly be, but we decided to have a more specific focus with the ultimate goal of restoring the parkway in the most feasible and least disruptive way. There was a big concern that removing the expressway would result in significant traffic on our streets and many folks along Humboldt Parkway wanted us to avoid that. We believe that filling it in places us too much at a disadvantage for even getting it started.

KSF (Karen Stanley Fleming, ROCC executive director): The design report that was produced by Professors Hata and Warren at UB was to first and foremost reconnect the neighborhood, almost like pulling up a zipper. If we fill it, and create heavy traffic at grade, then we’ve not closed the zipper and effectively reconnected the neighborhood.

 

This would be a pretty big project; what would be the first step?

SBG: Phase one would see the expressway capped from just south of the science museum all the way up to East Ferry. It would actually extend the parkway beyond where it was originally supposed to stop, but it’s an expansion on Olmsted’s original vision.

 

What about the rest of the parkway, since it went all the way to Delaware Park?

SBG: Phase two is more ambitious, and the groups we’ve had look at this have told us we can do some very interesting things with it. Because the expressway eventually becomes grade level past East Ferry, it would require some excavation. A part of that idea could include an extension of light rail that would allow people to get between downtown and the airport. That change in grade is due to the Scajaquada Creek being buried, which presents a challenge. There are a couple of thoughts about how to deal with it, and other projects have run into the same problem, like the big dig in Boston.

 

Speaking about the big dig, how much is this going to cost and where is the money coming from?

SBG: We’ve been working with a number around $500 million. It’s a lot of money, but we believe the money is out there within the state and federal governments.

 

Who are your political and community partners in this endeavor?

SBG: We’ve got a lot of politicians already involved and interested, thanks to the efforts of our executive director. The churches along the expressway have been very supportive, our various community organizations have been very involved, and all of our elected officials. We certainly have support from our Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Senators Kennedy and Schumer, and Congressman Higgins. The mayor and council even passed a resolution in support of the project. There are so many others like the people involved in removing the Robert Moses in Niagara Falls; we have a lot of people who want to help.
Although Sean Ryan doesn’t represent the district, he has been a friendly ally. I hope he’s able to keep the Scajaquada upgrade movement alive for the Parkside community. Speeding through a park just isn’t right, and something has got to give.

 

Do you think this project can have broader implication outside of Buffalo?

SBG: I think in a time when the president and elected officials are looking for infrastructure projects to put people to work, we look pretty good. The shelf life of the current expressway is fast expiring and it has serious issues that will need to be corrected eventually. A project like this is already necessary ,and employs a major number of people in our community for a long time. At this point in Buffalo, the city is coming alive and it should be coming alive for everyone.

KSF: This project could generate over 950 construction jobs for the entire course of work, which would be five to ten years. That number doesn’t include potential additional employment for infill housing, rehab work in the neighborhood, and improving Jefferson and Fillmore businesses. The potential ripple effects of this project are huge.

Read the original article.