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Robert Klara on ‘Casting Stones’

Mike Miller of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation recently forwarded a BRO post titled ‘Casting Stones‘ to Robert Klara, Managing Editor of Architecture Magazine.

I recently sent Robert Klara the link to the “Casting Stones” post in BR. While it seems that some of his readers do not support his (and our!) position on preservation of the terminal, Robert’s comments about Harlem (in the last paragraph) are very apropos to what could happen on the east side of Buffalo. Perhaps his article will be read by one of the developers with “vision” that he mentions. I know it wouldn’t have been possible without Robert’s interest. Thank you! -Mike Miller

The following is Robert Klara’s response:

Hi Mike,

Thanks! I’ll have to give it more time to read all the responses. It’s funny, I’ve gotten more bile over this thing than I’d expected. Some of my readers seemed rather angry about it–suggesting that I’m naive to call for the station’s redevelopment, or that I don’t understand the complex dynamics at work. The latter may be true, but I had only 550 words to recount a history and make a difficult argument. I also heard from one reader in St. Louis who was angry about that city’s own station redevelopment project and elected to make me the lightning rod for it.

It’s strange; we try our best to serve and inform, but everybody’s obviously got their own unique perspectives and ideas of what we should be doing, or doing better. Still and all, I think the story made its point.
And, as it turned out, I was just about the see the Buffalo terminal for the first time myself! I just got back from vacation, having taken a round-trip of the continent by rail (to the west coast through Canada and then back via the United States.) The train I took to Toronto from NYC passed by the Buffalo station, and I was able to snap a few quick pictures of it. It was even more impactful than I’d imagined–a hulk, in fact, rising from the ground beneath the dark clouds, bathed by a snowstorm that had just started. The station was majestic and ominous. If I lived up there, I know I would surely be one of the volunteers trying to keep the place secure and clean and stable. Such a monument to commerce!
While it’s bad form for me to argue with readers who write us (and I did not), I really don’t agree with those who slammed me as naive for thinking a developer would go in there. I had one guy basically say that if the market would support such development, it would have happened already. Well, fine. But is there not also a compelling case to be made for going in NOW, early, ahead of the curve? Here in NYC, for decades, people said that Harlem would never again rise, and anyone who said that 125th Street could again be a major strip were called naive and idealistic. And now, look: Old Navy, Starbucks, and a slew of other national chains have “discovered” the place. Nobody’s calling THEM naive, surely. And while I understand the complexities associated with any rundown site, there were similar forces hobbling Harlem as Buffalo’s east side: Deteriorated infrastructure, distance from downtown, poor citizens, crime, and so on. All of these factors were overcome by a few developers who saw the potential.
Robert Klara
Managing Editor
Architecture Magazine

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

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  • Thanks Newell!
    I found it very interesting that the readers of Architecture Magazine, being architecture afficianados, would be opposed to the preservation of the terminal. Perhaps they are primarily fans of the more modern architecture that is featured more often in the magazine, or maybe their own cities do not have as much great architecture as we do to preserve.
    In any case, I thought that Robert’s comments about Harlem and its redevelopment were very encouraging to the possibility of the redevelopment of the east side.
    In our efforts to develop his article on the terminal, Robert and I had several discussions about recent redevelopments in Manhattan, namely the Queensboro Bridgemarket. Before English developer Sir Terence Conran decided to invest hundreds of millions into this project, it was suffering the same disadvantages as the terminal: undesirable location and decay from neglect and abandonment. But Conran turned it around and it is now considered “trendy” and upscale. To read more, check this link:
    Robert also mentioned several other Manhattan redevelopment projects that were thought “impossible” at the time. He also lamented the losses of important landmarks that were destroyed before their potentials were rediscovered. We can’t let that happen in Buffalo.
    Robert’s been a great asset to our cause. Without his interest, we would not have had a vehicle to get our message out to such an ideal audience. I will keep in touch with him and keep him appraised of our efforts at the terminal and on the east side.

  • ex-pat

    Nice piece mike. I applaud your efforts!

  • Gabe

    I find the Harlem argument weak at best. I can’t stand it when people try to compare Buffalo to NYC.
    NYC is a city of 8 million and Harlem is practically right next to the largest concentration of jobs in the nation. NYC has an intense real estate market that forces people who are priced out of the most desirable areas into less desirable ones–gentrification. Buffalo has yet to experience gentrification in one single neighborhood.
    Harlem has countless streets lined with beautiful brownstones, the east side has countless streets with hardly any homes left on them–the ones that remain are small, dilapidated wood-frame houses that can hardly compare.
    Comon folks, we’re comparing apple and oranges here.

  • Gabe, who are we “arguing” with?
    Robert’s point in the article was to suggest that there was a mindset about Harlem, just as there is a mindset about the east side. Nothing will ever happen unless we change that.

  • Gabe

    I was more or less addressing your first comment (compounded with the “harlem mindset” thing in the original post), where you talk about a whole slew of things in Manhattan like the Queensboro market and other projects.
    I do agree that Buffalo has serious mindset issues that need to be corrected in order for us to move forward. I just think that using things that happen in NYC is not a realistic comparison and won’t help us move forward. We should be using examples from cities that are 200,000 – 600,000 people in size.

  • I wasn’t really trying to compare NYC to Buffalo. It’s obviously more desireable for developers to invest their monies there. Hell, I’d kill for the $120 million that’s going to be invested to renovate an old elevated train platform into a pedestrian walkway. We could finish the whole terminal complex for that kind of investment and do it right!
    But you can directly correlate the mindset about Harlem with the mindset about the east side. It starts with changing the mindset, first.
    I know perfectly well that what works for Harlem, will not necessarily work for the east side of Buffalo. I also know that what works for the west side and the downtown hub of Buffalo will not necessarily work for the east side. I know that only too painfully well. At the terminal, we believe that we have to work harder and be better than everybody else, because of where we are. We work very hard for every dime we get. And then we work harder at spending those dimes with real manual labor in the building.
    We have enough creative minds here to tap into and start some real change.