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NYT Article on Right-Sizing a Community: Shrink and Save

The first time Michael Clarke and Anthony Armstrong of LISC Buffalo posed the ideas of landbanking, right-sizing and smart decline to us, the concepts were as foreign as the decimated East and West Side neighborhoods we’d never have reason to drive through because…well, there’s nothing there.
That’s exactly the point.  And by nothing, we don’t mean no one.  There are people, unfortunate enough to have been left behind by the industry and neighbors and relatives who went out feet first, and the others who left of their own volition because of the former.  Oh, and the ones who got priced out of their homes due to bad sub-prime lending practices.  There are, unfortunately, a lot of reasons why some neighborhoods are virtual ghost towns.  The house is there, but the lights aren’t on and nobody’s home.
At least, if you live next door, you hope there’s nobody home.  The four left-behind walls often invite the criminal element.  You hope there’s nobody there doing drugs, dragging crime victims in or ready to start a fire that will engulf your house if the wind pleases.
This article from today’s New York Times that focuses on Flint, Michigan, holds great relevance to our area.  In essence, it asks the question: “Why wait until a neighborhood declines?”  In a city with a shrunken population, why not consolidate the citizenry of shrunken neighborhoods then?  Why not move the left behind to the neighborhoods that are still salvageable, where some amenities exist, while capping the areas where so little exists, that the task of taking care of the infrastructure is like throwing money at the wind. There are areas in the city where the sporadic residents don’t even generate enough tax revenue to get the simple jobs done, like plowing, like maintaining streetscapes and lighting.
The answer doesn’t lie in building Sycamore Villages, houses that cost nearly $200K, in iffy areas, though Belmont looks to be on the right path.  The answer also doesn’t exist in taking down a house here and there, leaving so-called “green space”.  An empty lot is an empty lot, and razed urban houses don’t make neighborhoods more suburban-like; they make them feel empty.
A rerouting of citizenry to homes around the newly reconstructed schools with some much needed businesses mixed in would create desirable neighborhoods again.  Sound crazy?  Look at the last line of the NYT article.  Betcha we’ve got a few Ms. Kellys out there on the urban prairie, just waiting for a way back into a neighborhood, if they could. 

Written by RaChaCha

RaChaCha

RaChaCha is a Garbage Plate™ kid making his way in a Chicken Wing world. Since 2008, he's put over a hundred articles on here, and he asked us to be sure to thank you for reading. So, thank you for reading. You may also have seen his freelance byline in Artvoice, where he writes under the name his daddy gave him [Ed: Send me a check, and I might reveal what that is]. When he's not writing, RaChaCha is an urban planner, a rehabber of houses, and a community builder. He co-founded the Buffalo Mass Mob, and would love to see you at the next one. He represents Buffalo Young Preservationists on the Trico roundtable. If you try to demolish a historic building, he might have something to say about that. He is a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Things you may not know about RaChaCha (unless you read this before): "Ra Cha Cha" is a nickname of his hometown. (Didn't you know that? Do you live under a rock?) He's a political junkie (he once worked for the president of the Monroe County Legislature), but we don't really let him write about politics on here. He helped create a major greenway in the Genesee Valley, and worked on early planning for the Canalway Trail. He hopes you enjoy biking and hiking on those because that's what he put in all that work for. He was a ringleader of the legendary "Chill the Fill" campaign to save Rochester's old downtown subway tunnel. In fact, he comes from a long line of troublemakers. An ancestor fought at Bunker Hill, and a relative led the Bear Flag Revolt in California. We advise you to remember this before messing with him in the comments. He worked on planning the Rochester ARTWalk, and thinks Buffalo should have one of those, too (write your congressman).

You can also find RaChaCha (all too often, we frequently nag him) on the Twitters at @HeyRaChaCha. Which is what some people here yell when they see him on the street. You know who you are.

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Posted in:

NYT Article on Right-Sizing a Community: Shrink and Save

The first time Michael Clarke and Anthony Armstrong of LISC Buffalo posed the ideas of landbanking, right-sizing and smart decline to us, the concepts were as foreign as the decimated East and West Side neighborhoods we’d never have reason to drive through because…well, there’s nothing there.
That’s exactly the point.  And by nothing, we don’t mean no one.  There are people, unfortunate enough to have been left behind by the industry and neighbors and relatives who went out feet first, and the others who left of their own volition because of the former.  Oh, and the ones who got priced out of their homes due to bad sub-prime lending practices.  There are, unfortunately, a lot of reasons why some neighborhoods are virtual ghost towns.  The house is there, but the lights aren’t on and nobody’s home.
At least, if you live next door, you hope there’s nobody home.  The four left-behind walls often invite the criminal element.  You hope there’s nobody there doing drugs, dragging crime victims in or ready to start a fire that will engulf your house if the wind pleases.
This article from today’s New York Times that focuses on Flint, Michigan, holds great relevance to our area.  In essence, it asks the question: “Why wait until a neighborhood declines?”  In a city with a shrunken population, why not consolidate the citizenry of shrunken neighborhoods then?  Why not move the left behind to the neighborhoods that are still salvageable, where some amenities exist, while capping the areas where so little exists, that the task of taking care of the infrastructure is like throwing money at the wind. There are areas in the city where the sporadic residents don’t even generate enough tax revenue to get the simple jobs done, like plowing, like maintaining streetscapes and lighting.
The answer doesn’t lie in building Sycamore Villages, houses that cost nearly $200K, in iffy areas, though Belmont looks to be on the right path.  The answer also doesn’t exist in taking down a house here and there, leaving so-called “green space”.  An empty lot is an empty lot, and razed urban houses don’t make neighborhoods more suburban-like; they make them feel empty.
A rerouting of citizenry to homes around the newly reconstructed schools with some much needed businesses mixed in would create desirable neighborhoods again.  Sound crazy?  Look at the last line of the NYT article.  Betcha we’ve got a few Ms. Kellys out there on the urban prairie, just waiting for a way back into a neighborhood, if they could. 
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