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Seeing Buffalo through a different lens

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

It’s a guilty pleasure to read what outsiders think of Buffalo, mainly because I’m still trying to grasp an understanding of the city and its direction myself. Sometimes Buffalo is portrayed as a beaten “city of the past” with little hope of revival, while others offer much more hope.

The Economist produced an article in its print edition last week that circulated on the web late this week. The piece hails Buffalo’s progress on the waterfront, Howard Zemsky’s creative renovation of the Larkin District and the promise of Governor Cuomo’s $1 billion economic revival of Western New York. The tone is upbeat—damning the notion that Buffalo remains a forgotten Rust Belt city.

“Bruce Katz, of the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, says he is bullish on Buffalo,” the Economist article reads. “He believes the city can lead the next economic wave, one driven by advanced manufacturing, innovation and exports and powered by low carbon.” We can get behind that.

On the other hand, though, a recent visitor from Oahu, Hawaii—David Teraoka from Ka-Leo: the Voice, a student newspaper in Hawaii—paints a much more mixed image, one that could be a little more realistic than the Economist’s giddy piece.

“There were old factories, tall offices and blocks of housing all mangled together,” Teraoka writes. “Many of the buildings were abandoned and decrepit. Buffalo was an old steel mill town, but most of that business is done overseas now. The ‘Rust Belt,’ the manufacturing areas around the Northwest [sic], has truly rusted.”

The blog is a little amusing, with honest mistakes like “Maiden of the Mist” and “Transit Street” appearing in the honest, anecdotal post. There’s even a line that reads: “On the continent, there is soil in all directions.” Still, there’s something charming about a Hawaiian student experiencing Mighty Taco for the first time, noshing on a “nacho buffito” a few days after checking out Childish Gambino at Town Ballroom.

Perspectives still differ on Buffalo—it’s truly neither a decrepit, long-lost city, nor is it a wildly progressive metro area set to shoulder the states into a new economic era. I think the Queen City is somewhere in between, a city in transition with equal reasons of hope and frustration. Which, honestly, is a great place to be.

(Header photo credit: Don Nieman from the 2012 Allentown Art Festival—full gallery here).

TAGGED: kaleo the voice, the economist

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