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Preservation advocate says mass demolitions as public policy hasn't worked for Buffalo

File Photo / WBFO News

The City of Buffalo has demolished thousands of buildings, fearing they would stay vacant and deteriorated and contribute to blight. A local preservation exponent told a panel discussion Thursday that it hasn’t worked.There’s a new study out on the resulting economic and planning effects of the massive demolitions across the city, particularly on the East Side. That was the focus at a forum sponsored by Preservation Buffalo Niagara.

Among the speakers was Mark Paradowski, a co-founder of the website Preservation Ready Sites - Buffalo and an exponent of saving a lot of those buildings. Paradowski said the city is mishandling the process.

"They don’t do a good job of inventorying, of understanding their conditions, speaking to their neighborhoods, recognizing trends and they are also not looking at the ancillary problems," he said. "Once you demolish a certain number, you reach a tipping point where there is less incentive for anyone else to invest in what is left."

Paradowski said the city just doesn’t know what to do with the buildings and only considers how to get people to move in from the suburbs.

"Not how we can get them to move here from other neighborhoods or why they would choose to live in the city instead of the suburbs, by giving them more dense neighborhood, giving them parks, giving them waterfront access," he said. "They completely ignore that they are kind of in the business of selling themselves and if they don’t see the value in themselves, no one else will."

Paradowski, who lives on the East Side, would like to see the city work better with affected neighborhoods.

"It’s not coming from the ribbon cuttings and the silver bullet projects, something that they put $750 million into and then, it flops. It is people on the ground and they are making a difference," he said. "But the city has been not just ineffective, but openly hostile to its own citizens, trying to better their neighborhood. They don’t reach out. They don’t listen."

Paradowski said there is a market for many of the older buildings and that they also represent affordable housing for some, when there remains a shortage of that kind of housing.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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