Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cap Buffalo, N.Y.'s Kensington Expressway

Alas, this sensible idea is under attack by a well connected, well funded campaign to waste the trench and place all of that corridor's traffic upon the surface, as if that would be more pedestrian friendly- NOT.

The Reclaiming Our Community Coalition (ROCC) is a committee of concerned organizations focused specifically on the goal to reclaim the beauty and dignity of its once beautiful community.

For three decades beginning in 1868, Frederick Law Olmsted, his partners and successors created for Buffalo a series of parks and parkways that attracted national and international attention. These men were motivated by the belief that developing a plan of interconnected parks and parkways would promote the health, wealth and prestige of the city. These convictions hold true to this day. Recent studies confirm that cities with well maintained parks and parkways (especially those designed by Olmsted) are healthier and attract more businesses and workers.

A case in point is the recent study conducted in Philadelphia. It is an older city that is plagued by similar problems to those facing Buffalo. Its population is shrinking, aging and losing economic strength. In areas of the city with easy access to parks, however, the educational attainment and median income of residents was higher. Additionally, unemployment declined and housing values increased notably. Higher property values near parks, in turn, increased revenues from property taxes, resulting in the expansion of the tax base of the city. In this connection, researchers estimate that urban parks increase tax revenues by as much as 30 percent. In short, this study shows that cities like Philadelphia and Buffalo need to attract people who will contribute to increasing the education and income levels of community residents as well as boost the tax base. Cities with well maintained parks and parkways, then, are more likely to achieve those goals.

The Reclaiming Our Community Coalition is proposing that a cover be built over a portion of the Kensington Expressway complete with trees, shrubs and flowers. This project would restore the visual quality and natural environment of the Humboldt Parkway neighborhood by recreating Humboldt parkway over the section of Route 33 from east Ferry Street to the Best Street exit. This project would promote an aesthetically pleasing physical connection across the existing below-grade expressway, reuniting communities. In implementing this project, it should be noted, there would be no impact on existing traffic patterns.

In sum, this project would restore the treasure envisioned by Olmsted. A majestic tree-lined parkway would be restored which would improve the looks, health and benefits of the neighborhood. Specifically, with regard to looks, it would: return the beauty and elegance of the parkway; change the aesthetic perception of the community; and affect the curbside appeal thereby encouraging investment and attracting potential home-buyers. Regarding health, it would improve air quality and impart all the benefits of trees and green space. And, in terms of benefits, it would: stimulate the repair and improvement of existing structures economically, which would appreciate property values in a real way; stimulate commercial interests in the community, monetarily restoring needed vitality; highlight the City of Buffalo as the city of solutions for improvement; and show the community’s children the possibility of a better way of life.

Reclaiming Our Community Coalition
Stephanie Barber, President

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