Urban Renewal: The History Of City Of Buffalo

2474 words - 10 pages

After his completion of the Delaware Park and Parkway system with Calvert Vaux throughout Buffalo, New York, Frederick Law Olmsted declared Buffalo as “the best planned city, as to its streets, public places and grounds, in the United States, if not the world.” Inspired largely by the baroque styling of Paris, France, Olmstead wished to create a park within urban Buffalo but rather put the city of Buffalo in a park system. The parks were non-gated and easily accessible for all patrons creating an ever changing green space across an urban vista. Olmsted’s plan only added value to the existing urban fabric consisting of numerous natural and architectural landmarks. Buffalo had prized itself as a commercial and industrial hub at this time. It’s location on the Buffalo River and Lake Erie made it a viable center for railroads and grain-milling. After posting rapid population growth between the early 1800’s and 1950, reaching a high of 580,000 civilians within a metropolitan region of one million, one would be surprised to see the cities condition today. After posting 6 straight decades of population decline, the urban fabric that was once a center for industry and commerce has become like one of many rust belt cities that have struggled to remain proficient in the twenty-first century. The collapse of the grain-mill industry may have been the most crippling to Buffalo’s economy. Today the shorelines of the Buffalo River are besieged by the abandoned grain silos that once defined its skyline and are often in disarray. Shipping through Buffalo became obsolete with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the railways once vital to the harbor area were superseded by other forms of travel. For the last several decades, poverty, segregation and unemployment has plagued the greater Buffalo area due to the loss of industry.
At first glance, it may seem that the problems afflicting Buffalo were inescapable due to the changing of manufacturing methods around the 1950’s. However, if one were to look at the fabric that is Buffalo today, they would not see the well-designed city-scape that Olmsted envisioned over two centuries ago. Instead they would see a bombardment of unsightly and poorly planned urban renewal projects juxtaposed carelessly along the Delaware Parkway system. They would see that these ventures had a severe negative effect on neighborhoods and communities. It is my belief that these projects also contributed to the decline of Buffalo’s welfare during some of its most troubling times.
The concept of bringing Urban Renewal projects to urban American Cities was unveiled at the World’s Fair in 1939 in New York. Funded by General Motors, the exhibit displayed an array of low-income high-rise towers and free-flowing motorways. [Figure 1A, 1B] This vision would in turn brutally alter the city as it was currently known. The projects began with noble intentions. Post World War II, under the Housing Act of 1949, federal government wished to eliminate...

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