With all of the progress being made to reclaim our waterfront, there is one section of the waterfront that still appears to be completely off the radar of the community. I’m talking about the stretch of the Niagara Thruway (190), which does a damn good job of disconnecting a good chunk of the city from the Niagara River – the incredible waterway that leads to a natural wonder of the world, Niagara Falls.
Earlier this year, during a Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) meeting that pinpointed properties along Niagara Street for renewal efforts, someone actually brought up the ‘elephant in the room’ – the longterm vision of the Niagara Thruway. When the question was posed, it drew an ovation from the room, although the cheers were soon quelled due to the proposal being beyond the scope of the BOA meeting. At the same time, just the thought of a boulevard-esque roadway replacing the thruway would be a dream come true for many. Especially now that the DOT is looking at converting the Scajaqauda Expressway into a boulevard – could there be a better time to examine the big picture?
Speaking of the 190 (formerly the location of the Erie Canal), urbanist Tim Tielman once proposed that the highway be redirected from the Niagara River in Black Rock/Riverside (north of Scajaquada Creek) by shifting the auto traffic to unused rail property (see here).
“The Lower Scajaquada Expressway can then be removed between Grant Street and the Black Rock Canal, and replaced with a parkway and greenbelt to the Boulevard along the northern edge of the old Pratt & Letchworth brownfield. This will shield the adjacent neighborhood from the site. It will also free Scajacquada Creek from the expressway, which now actually has support piers directly in the creek bed. The confluence of the creek with the Black Rock Canal would be an expansive space for parks and attractive housing.”
The City should be examining even better ways to reinvigorate its neighborhoods along the waterfront, and we have seen other cities forge ahead with drastic measures to reclaim urban lands that were once squandered for dated urban renewal efforts. Look at what we are doing with Niagara Street, and the Scajaquada Expressway… it seems that we are forgetting to examine the entire puzzle as we play around with a number of puzzle pieces.