Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

You're not a special snowflake, Buffalo.

One thing I've been thinking of late, with regard to Buffalo's eternal quest to reinvigorate itself (or just stop the bleeding), is that folks in this area are too convinced of Buffalo's inherent unique and wonderful nature, and that all we need to do is keep shining the already-existing facets of our little diamond and one day the rest of the world will see how shiny we are.

This seems to me...complete nonsense.

Buffalo has loads of notable architecture. But what city doesn't?

Buffalo has a vibrant arts scene. But what city doesn't?

Buffalo has potential for waterfront development. But what city doesn't?

Buffalo has lots of local colleges turning out fine students. But what city doesn't?

Buffalo has a long industrial tradition. But what city doesn't?

About the only thing that Buffalo has that is genuinely unique among American cities -- minus a handful -- is its proximity to an international border. But Detroit has one, too, and it's not really helping there, either.

There are a lot of cities in America. Quite a few of them are doing very well, and some, like Buffalo, are not. If all the things we always cite as reasons we should be doing better aren't getting it done, what does that tell us?


Earl of Obvious said...

Sounds like your ready to move to cleveland

We welcome his majesty with open arms

Tayna L said...

Everyone seems to have this bizzare misconception that Buffalo can be a gigantic shining beacon that brings in tourist dollars, become a highway of manufacturing and be at the height of the technological forefront because, hey, it was once!

A hundred years ago.

I think the best thing for the city to do is to take a big reality pill and realize that the best thing everyone can do is to make the city a better place to live. For the people who actually live there, not for the residents in potentia or the future tourists.

For if you rebuild the crumbling infrastructure, repair the buildings, clean the streets (I mean that quite literally) and light the avenues - you will make Buffalo a city that the residents will be proud of.

Bill said...

Actually, Buffalo has a lot more of this stuff than quite a lot of places, and some of it really is unique. You'd be surprised at how many larger cities have so many fewer interesting buildings, for example. Houston, the third largest city in the country, is plain old ugly. Dallas is too. There really isn't much to look at in Phoenix. With the possible exception of Miami there is nothing in Florida that can match what we have. Likewise Atlanta. I could go on.

Arts? Please, we got arts like nobody else. Whenever I'm out of town I have a look at what's on offer from the local culturals. Cities with populations in the millions can't compare-- we are closer to being Chicago than we are to being Utica.

Buffalo's real problemis that income inequity is as pronounces here as in the third world. That is notable, but the quality of life in WNY is pretty damn good, notwithstanding the relative deprivation.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Bill: I've been to a lot of places, and if there's one thing I've discovered, it's that no city has a monopoly on anything. At all. I've been to cities that I thought would be insanely dull and found them full of interesting things. I'm sure there ARE cities with less cultural stuff, but there are also plenty with more, plenty with better, and plenty that just plain have some.

As for buildings and whatnot, I've not been to Houston, but just Googling around a bit turns up a fair number of interesting sounding and looking buildings. "Not much to look at" is pretty much an unproveable statement of opinion -- and besides, cities like the ones you cite may well offer other amenities than those available here. Maybe Miami has good architecture, maybe it doesn't...but it's got beaches. And, likely, better seafood.

So, alas, color me unconvinced that any of our 'stengths' are things that are 'unique' to Buffalo. I didn't say that quality of life in Buffalo stinks, but that it's not significantly better than just about any other place. There's not a city in this country that won't have people defending it as you do here, which is why I think we need to stop relying on a 'sense of place' as a selling point.

Bill said...

I think we may be talking past each other here. What do you mean by 'selling point'? What are we selling? WNY as a tourist destination? It already is-- people come here from around the world. WNY as a place to locate businesses? Well, that's more of a challenge, for a number of reasons, but the unique snowflake claims you're knocking aren't really the sort of things that businesses necessarily look for when making location decisions.

I'm not from WNY, and I've been around a little. My affection for Buffalo is pretty clear-eyed, and I have to say that there is much here that is distinctive, and even some things that are unique. These deserve to be points of pride, and I think that more and more people are getting that.

Bill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dani said...

Couldn't agree more. There is nothing about Buffalo that you can't find bigger and better elsewhere. I've lived in cities all over the world and I'm constantly amazed at the myopic view that Buffalo is in any way unique, or actually a great place to live. Protip: it isn't.

I'm all for making Buffalo a *better* place to live (especially since work means I'm involuntarily stuck here for the foreseeable future), but people need to stop deluding themselves that it's special.