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Looking Backward: Kensington Expressway

Posted: February 2, 2016

Source: The Public

lb_Kensington-Construction

The construction of the Kensington Expressway, displacing hundreds of homes and a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parkway, is regarded as one of Buffalo’s great blunders. Before construction began in 1957, however, the expressway was pushed by business, labor, and even military interests as necessary to the region’s progress.

At a 1954 Common Council hearing, Chamber of Commerce president Charles Fichtner asserted that the Kensington Expressway is a “golden opportunity” and that failure of the city to accept the project would be “a little short of civic treason.” Ralph Peo, chairman of the Buffalo Civic Full Employment Committee, urged action, warning that “there are many thousands of breadwinners among us who are now unemployed.” Major General Edwin Ziegler cited the need for high-speed highways to move people out of Buffalo in the event of enemy attack from the air. Resident objections were dismissed, as Erie County Savings Bank president Dexter Rumsey pleaded, “Let’s not study any more. Let’s move.” The Common Council voted unanimously, in a 15-0 vote, to approve a resolution endorsing the state-sponsored project. This photograph, taken for the New York State Department of Public Works, shows its first phase of construction from Michigan Avenue to Landon Street, completed in 1962.

Read the original article.



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With a Year Left, U.S. Transportation Secretary Sets New Goals

Posted: January 26, 2016

Source: Governing

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, a former mayor of Charlotte, N.C., has plenty left to do in the Obama administration’s final year. His agency is pushing cities to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety, hosting a “Smart City” competition to showcase how technology can improve transportation,  and doling out money from a new five-year, $305 billion federal transportation package.

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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)

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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.

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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