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Buffalo Issue Alerts: Examining Buffalo’s Built Environment

Buffalo Issue Alerts is a site that originally launched as a Yahoo group in March 2002 as a forum that addresses Buffalo’s built environment, with an eye toward preservation.  “Issue Alerts” is aptly named; it is a site in which subscribers can pose or comment on various issues important to the built environment.  
According to the site’s founder, local Director of Library and Archives at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Cynthia Van Ness, “The name came from one of my pre-Yahoo group recipients, who described it to a friend as an issue alerts service, so that’s the name I went with.  Discussion is limited to built environment issues, though I define them broadly, within the City of Buffalo.” See the BIA links page for a breakdown of topics.
Van Ness has long been steeped in Buffalo history and preservation.  As with most whose passions lead their career paths, Van Ness’ off hour activities, including the websites she maintains, continue her on focus.  She was with the Preservation Coalition from 2002 to 2008, ending as president, and Preservation Buffalo Niagara from 2008 to 2009.  When her term ended at PBN, Van Ness decided that Buffalo needed a chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, so that will be her next project.  See also buffaloresearch.com, another of Van Ness’ ongoing projects.
Though BIA  started in the late 1990s as an email service, spreading the word about meetings, hearings, proposed developments, and preservation concerns, it has picked up steam – along with 375 members – who have an interest in and knowledge of local historical architecture.  Among this group there are a few local officials, and it would seem a good idea for all local government seats to make themselves privy to this forum as a good way to understand constituent concerns.
“I think it offers a very high and thoughful spam-free level of conversation about where we are and where we’re going,” Van Ness says, “but then, I am biased.”  Maybe not so much, or at least she has plenty of company.  She notes that pitched battles have broken out, but in seven years, she’s only had to moderate three or four parties and unsubscribe one or two.
Van Ness recently posted about Donald Shoup’s (The High Cost of Free Parking) upcoming Buffalo lectures.  A long-time fan of the author and professor of urban planning, Van Ness describes herself as a Shoup Groupie.  “Does that make me a Shoupie?” she asks. 
She is also the wife of Vincent Kuntz, a building contractor who specializes in preservation, and the newly appointed board president of Buffalo ReUse.  Between the two of them, they cover many sides of Buffalo’s built environment.
In short, BIA is a great site for gathering knowledge, sharing ideas and information, and staying informed about Buffalo’s built environment – and its members are the passionate and the invested.  After referring many Buffalo expats to the site so that they could keep up on local issues, we realized that it should be on everyone’s radar. Subscribe here
Image: Nathan Mroz, Buffalonian4life
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