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hkskyline

Buffalo, New York - Downtown

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Thanks for sharing those wonderful photos. I last visited downtown Buffalo in '95, and while it was fantastically laid out and oriented, it seemed kinda, oh, vacant. It looks far more vibrant now than then. It's a great city and should benefit from its proximity to Toronto.

- Garris

Providence, RI

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Visit the Providence/RI Photo of the Day thread!

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Yes, thank you very much. I've wanted to visit Buffalo and this just encourages me more. I especially liked the photos of the light rail line. They are very lucky to have it.

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Sadly, when I last was in Buffalo, it seemed to be a ghost town. I took the Metrorail from LaSalle Station into downtown, and the most people that I ever saw was on the train. It was almost feeling that the apocolypse had happened and no one told me. That was in May of 2004, though. I really did enjoy what I saw in the layout of the area. If only we could get something like what Buffalo has down here in Greenville, because they have the infastructure, and we have the people, and bam, instant fun place to hang out and get drunk and not have to drive home. :) I sure do lead a boring life.

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It appears you guys have a decent public transportation system going. If only most cities could take advantage of light-rail as an effective form of public transit.

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Wow, great pics!  Being a Floridian, Buffalo sure looks foreign.  It looks like a European City, out of place for such a beautiful, authentic looking City in our austere American Culture!

FLORIDA SKYRISE ORDER

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Being a Floridian would make most of the US seem foreign to you. Buffalo looks alot like every other northeastern pre-ww2 american cities.

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Nice pics.

I always thought Buffalo had a subway line, not light rail. How does that transit only corridor work out? Is the street very active around it?

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Nice pics.

I always thought Buffalo had a subway line, not light rail.  How does that transit only corridor work out?  Is the street very active around it?

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Buffalo does have a subway. It comes above ground downtown. The rail only portion of MAin Street has been a disaster. Planning has begun to add cars back onto the street.

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Buffalo does have a subway.  It comes above ground downtown.  The rail only portion of MAin Street has been a disaster.  Planning has begun to add cars back onto the street.

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I see... That's kind of odd, usually downtown's are the opposite and have rails underground through downtowns. How come the rail only has been a disaster? Not enough foot traffic?

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I see...  That's kind of odd, usually downtown's are the opposite and have rails underground through downtowns.  How come the rail only has been a disaster?  Not enough foot traffic?

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Pedestrian malls all over the country have been a disaster. The one in Chicago on State Street was removed about 7 years ago. The problem is that many businesses feed off the traffic that passes by on the street. they depend on the line of sight and the ability of people to pull up and drop someone off. For example think about a restaurant that can not have valet parking because no one can pull up to the front of the restaurant. That is a killer for a restaurant. The street traffic also adds vitality and the sense that there are people around and that the street is safe. The number of people who walk on a particular street may be small but the people who might drive on that street can be huge. Without the traffic there are many people who never need to go to the Main Street pedestrian mall so they do not know about businesses and restaurants that might be there. In addition to the cars that used to be on the street there used to be at least 12 bus lines running along that stretch. With the busses and cars diverted the population of people on the street has been drastically reduced. Without the people the street becomes deader and deader.

In Buffalo like many American cities downtown retail has become drastically smaller in favor of suburban malls and big box stores. This happened at the same time that the pedestrian mall opened. So Buffalo's downtown retail got hit with a one two punch from which it has never recovered.

Today there is a lot of new development planned in DT Buff. Much of it is residential with over 600 appartments currently planned or in construction. When they open up the street again I am certain that the retail climate on this street will really heat up

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Yeah, there's a street in Providence here (Westminster St.) that used to be a pedestrian mall, but when they converted it, it completely killed it. They have since then reopened it to traffic and although its not doing fantastic, its doing better. Westminster never had any transit running down it though, so I was thinking that the one in Buffalo would do okay since it had the LRT on it. I guess not though.

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Westminster never had any transit running down it though...

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Westminster had a trolley back in olden times, but not while it was a pedestrian mall.

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Pedestrian malls all over the country have been a disaster.  The one in Chicago on State Street was removed about 7 years ago.  The problem is that many businesses feed off the traffic that passes by on the street.  they depend on the line of sight and the ability of people to pull up and drop someone off. For example think about a restaurant that can not have valet parking because no one can pull up to the front of the restaurant.  That is a killer for a restaurant.  The street traffic also adds vitality and the sense that there are people around and that the street is safe.  The number of people who walk on a particular street may be small but the people who might drive on that street can be huge.  Without the traffic there are many people who never need to go to the Main Street pedestrian mall so they do not know about businesses and restaurants that might be there.  In addition to the cars that used to be on the street there used to be at least 12 bus lines running along that stretch.  With the busses and cars diverted the population of people on the street has been drastically reduced.  Without the people the street becomes deader and deader.

In Buffalo like many American cities downtown retail has become drastically smaller in favor of suburban malls and big box stores.  This happened at the same time that the pedestrian mall opened.  So Buffalo's downtown retail got hit with a one two punch from which it has never recovered.

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Interesting that Poughkeepsie, NY had the same thing happen with its Main St. pedestrian mall, albeit on a clearly smaller scale. Over the last few decades, the city has had retail leave downtown and move out to US 9, which is an arterial six-lane divided highway that runs along the periphery of the city. It's really a shame because the core of Poughkeepsie reflects a very vibrant past. It's all beautiful four-story rowhouses and dense commercial properties, but it's also extremely depressed. The city tried to convert its Main St. into a pedestrian mall thinking it would lure customers to a pleasant shopping area, but the exact opposite occurred. Without traffic on the street, the area stagnated even further and became a dark, dangerous area that actually intimidated potential customers rather than encourage them. They finally reopened the street to traffic a year or two ago.

Poughkeepsie benefits from some relative proximity to NYC, though, which Buffalo can't claim. It's 70 miles north, which is a haul, but it's also pretty conveniently located at the end of a Metro-North line, which puts you in Grand Central in about 90 minutes at peak express times. The city is hoping to capitalize on its relative cheapness by pulling off a Lower East Side/Williamsburg-type artist colony revitalization, and it wouldn't surprise me if it worked considering that the town's got a beautiful urban infrastructure and is extremely cheap.

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Poughkeepsie benefits from some relative proximity to NYC, though, which Buffalo can't claim. It's 70 miles north, which is a haul, but it's also pretty conveniently located at the end of a Metro-North line, which puts you in Grand Central in about 90 minutes at peak express times. The city is hoping to capitalize on its relative cheapness by pulling off a Lower East Side/Williamsburg-type artist colony revitalization, and it wouldn't surprise me if it worked considering that the town's got a beautiful urban infrastructure and is extremely cheap.

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Wow, so only about a 2 hr total commute each way!! And the NYC commuter metro continues to expand... When I was growing up in Putnam County, Northern Westchester was considered the upper fringe... Amazing now that Poughkeepsie is considered to be in the orbit now...

Poughkeepsie might have been one of the first areas in the NY metro to have its city killed by strip malls and indoor mall retail. Some of those malls along Rt 9 date to the late 1960's and early 1970's. Similarly, that area of the NY metro was one of the first to get big box retail as well.

In a way, the modern fortunes of Poughkeepsie mirror that of Hartford, and the decline of both happened nearly in lockstep, and for much the same reason (decline in core industries, suburban flight, changes in retail patterns). It feels like, just as with Hartford, I grew up hearing about Poughkeepsie rejouvenation plan after plan after plan, and none worked.

I really hope the city makes it. Aside from NYC, the entire Hudson River Valley doesn't have a single ultra-desirable urban area (Yonkers, Peekskill, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Albany, etc...). Lots of great small towns (Croton, Sleepy Hollow, Garrison, Cold Spring, Hudson, Kingston, even Beacon now), but no cities. I'd really like to see Poughkeepsie be the first urban gem on the upper Hudson River. As you said, the ingredients (including an "A" list college in Vasser and all the culture that brings) are all there.

- Garris

Providence, RI

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I really hope the city makes it.  Aside from NYC, the entire Hudson River Valley doesn't have a single ultra-desirable urban area (Yonkers, Peekskill, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Albany, etc...).  Lots of great small towns (Croton, Sleepy Hollow, Garrison, Cold Spring, Hudson, Kingston, even Beacon now), but no cities.  I'd really like to see Poughkeepsie be the first urban gem on the upper Hudson River.  As you said, the ingredients (including an "A" list college in Vasser and all the culture that brings) are all there.

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I actually go to Vassar, which is why I'm acquainted with the city. :) And unfortunately, we have pretty terrible relations with the surrounding area. We seem to support a lot of businesses within about four or five blocks of campus, mostly restaurants. I don't know what it is that makes some schools exert a positive influence on the surrounding community while others seem to turn inward instead. A certain amount of it is that you get kids who, while "liberal-minded," also tend to have grown up in safe, suburban areas and so rather than explore a place like Poughkeepsie they have a knee-jerk "don't talk to strangers" sort of reaction. I guess you could look at New Haven and Yale as a similar situation from what I've heard. New Haven's a bigger city but Yale's got many more resources at its disposal than Vassar does, too, but as I understand it the attitude there is mostly an insular one. Kind of appropriate that our schools once nearly merged.

We do bring A-list cultural attractions from time to time, for those who are interested. The art gallery on campus is great, and many of the lecturers and performers who come to campus attract people from around town.

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I actually go to Vassar, which is why I'm acquainted with the city.  :) And unfortunately, we have pretty terrible relations with the surrounding area.

I remember hearing as much when I was growing up in the region. Too bad it hasn't gotten better...

I guess you could look at New Haven and Yale as a similar situation from what I've heard. New Haven's a bigger city but Yale's got many more resources at its disposal than Vassar does, too, but as I understand it the attitude there is mostly an insular one. Kind of appropriate that our schools once nearly merged.

I had no idea the two schools nearly merged! Do tell...

I actually went to Yale during the mid-90's, and can relate somewhat to the difficulties, but the dynamics are very different. NH doesn't have that much to offer in the modern age downtown besides Yale (and Yale virtually owns all of it), and Yale managed its properties very badly for decades (meaning the downtown was managed badly for decades).

The current president of Yale has been there since about '94, and he's really dramatically improved relations with the city (a lot of credit also goes to NH's longstanding Mayor). Yale is also finally managing their downtown properties like a city and a business should, and the downtown has completely turned its fortunes around from being dead and dangerous in the mid-90's, to being a hot and hip place to live packed with restaurants, apartments, and stores today. Quite amazing.

- Garris

Providence, RI

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Wow, so only about a 2 hr total commute each way!!

actually, 90 + 90 = 180, which is three hours. And there's also only two express trains that run the entire day, both in the evening. Otherwise, it takes more like an hour and fifty minutes, which brings the minimum commute time to 3 hours and 20 minutes daily. Pretty much what this says, is that few people make the daily commute from Poughkeepsie to NYC. Most of the traffic on that route comes from people further north that don't have jobs in the city. Bottom line: Poughkeepsie is by no means a suburub of NYC. It has to depend on its own economy, and right now it has to focus on that. Creating jobs downtown is paramount the revitilization of this city. There's only so much of a market for artists and their impact only goes so far. Their presence alone is not going to reverse the trend of a declining tax base and loss of population. The leaders of the city must work to preserve the traditional urban fabric of the city to promote pedestrian traffic, which is what this city was built for. Back when the city was at the zenith of its function, its transportation system was built to accomodate pedestrians, and attempts to convert it for automobiles was a cheif contributing factor to its decline.

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It has to depend on its own economy, and right now it has to focus on that. Creating jobs downtown is paramount the revitilization of this city. There's only so much of a market for artists and their impact only goes so far. Their presence alone is not going to reverse the trend of a declining tax base and loss of population. The leaders of the city must work to preserve the traditional urban fabric of the city to promote pedestrian traffic, which is what this city was built for. Back when the city was at the zenith of its function, its transportation system was built to accomodate pedestrians, and attempts to convert it for automobiles was a cheif contributing factor to its decline.

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It sounds like you're quite familiar with the situation. I haven't been back there in some time. How are things going in Poughkeepsie right now?

- Garris

Providence, RI

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first, the city is stabalizing the loss of population. People are still moving out, but a a whole new, diverse body is taking advantage of the housing and cultural assests Poughkeepsie offers. The demographic make-up of the population is strikingly different from the past: whites no longer make up a majority of the population, which is pretty unusual for an American city of this size. This dynamic is more and more being represented in some of the commercial establishments emerging in the city's business districts, notably restraunts and clothing stores. However, the city continues to face a declining tax base as many houses to not increase in value according to the rate of inflation. The schools there are relatively poor in performance, and there is still a presence of drugs that contributes to a perception of danger in some of the neighborhoods. Aslo contributing to that perception, at least for pedestrians, is the broad one-way boulevards that run east and west through the city. Wide streets yeild higher speeds, which is extremely bad for the vitality of neighborhoods, especially traditional ones, like Poughkeepsie's. That said, I personally would love to live there, because what it offers architectually as well as culturally. Its proximity to New York City is definately a plus, and I think the biggest thing between Poughkeepsie and prosperity is a solid education system, and design policies which enforce a correspondance between what is built and the vitality of the urban fabric necessary for a traditional city, like Poughkeepsie, to thrive. If you do that, things like crime would not be a substantial detrimental factor to the city, and the demand (especially as gas prices go up) for houses and neighborhoods offered in Poughkeepsie would go up, which would solve the tax base problem.

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