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198 Panel: “It’s not too late to correct this mistake.”

The Olmsted Parks Conservancy sponsored “Scajaquada Corridor: Where Is It Going” earlier this week, where a panel of three local experts spoke to a packed crowd about the past, present and future of the expressway.

Frank Kowsky, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at University at Buffalo, led the three panelists with his presentation emphasizing the history and principles of Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision for Delaware Park.

Kowsky’s presentation painted a really fun and engaging history. I have to admit as a bad Buffalonian I didn’t really know much about the original plan or thought process behind the park system and his slide show now has me searching the internet for more information. The irony that the park was purposely built in then desolate North Buffalo to avoid future problems with infrastructure can not be lost.

“They built the park in an unformed neighborhood so they could build the city as it expands around the park, not the other way around,” said Kowsky.

Mark Goldman, author, restaurateur and urban change agent, helped lend some context to how exactly the expressway was built in the highway happy twentieth century and urged those in the room to reach out to their neighbors on the east side.

“If you want people in this community to take you seriously than you have to include our community groups like the Hamlin Park Tax Payers Association. They are probably more eager to see a master plan put in place and see the two sides of the city reunited than anyone in this room. It’s not too late to correct this mistake and I urge you to get them more involved,” said Goldman.

The panel finished up with Bob Shibley, Dean of the UB School of Architecture and Planning, urging the community to take a slow, careful approach to planning. He agreed with Mark Goldman’s earlier statement about anything substantial, like a highway, taking about twenty years to complete. Shibley reminded everyone there is a reason that planning takes so long.

“Be careful about those who argue just to implement stuff. Look at all the implementing they did in the 1970’s without careful enough planning. It left us with an empty urban mall and the Elm/Oak corridor even further dividing the East and West sides of the city,” he said.

Shibley pointed out that all of these decisions seemed to be progress at the time, they seemed to be the right things to do at that specific moment in our every changing culture but we now view so many of them as mistakes to be corrected.

I’ve been going to these meetings on the future of the Scajaquada Expressway for about a year now, whether hosted by the DOT or informational panels like this one. It’s been eleven months since the last public meeting sponsored by the DOT was held on the Buffalo State campus. A very memorable part of that meeting was the overwhelming community support for completely removing the 198 and returning it to park land. Based on the Q&A’s after the presentations that sentiment seemed to be echoed at this meeting as well.

The DOT is expected to announce another public meeting soon.


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