Author: Rudra Chakraborty (Gorton Fishman)
As Donn Esmonde of the Buffalo News wrote on Saturday morning, the Scajaquada Expressway, following years of community displeasure and downed lampposts will be downgraded into a parkway. But as he put it, the impetus behind this was not a more conscious mindset or new approaches to traffic, rather the tragic and senseless death of a young child. Before he was old enough to think about or even comprehend the scars on our city, his life was the sacrifice it took to heal one of them.
Before we debate the pros and cons of the new boulevard that is apparently to come from this tragedy, we have to stop and ask; Why? There has been a collective community outrage about the Scajaquada for over 20 years. Anyone who has driven through its winding paths has surely noticed the damage to lighting. It has probably faced countless accidents or near-accidents over the years courtesy of the nigh-absence of guardrails or the weird entrances/exits. Is something as abhorrent as the death of a child really the only thing that can bring about the changes this city so urgently needs?
If not, then there is perhaps one more scar on the city of Buffalo that deserves attention from the state, the Kensington Expressway. If the Scajaquada has committed the sin of defacing a park, then the Kensington Expressway has committed an even greater sin by not only destroying an Olmsted Parkway, but entire swaths of neighborhoods and businesses along with it. Current residents not only face a massive trench dividing their neighborhoods, but traffic, noise, and fumes from the highway. This is more than a mere aesthetic issue, it robs entire neighborhoods of property value and quality of life. The residents of Hamlin Park unsuccessfully fought the construction of the 33 and have been asking for its removal for just as long as the residents of Parkside have been pleading for change on the 198. What does it take for us to listen to them?
Let’s tell the DOT to move forward with actions to cover the 33 rather than study after study. Let’s learn to listen to the people who have to live and struggle with urban barriers like the 198 and the 33 rather than the transit planners who tell us that change will shut down traffic and create carmageddon. Let’s prove that it doesn’t always take a horrible thing to do the right thing.
Inset image – The dream of a parkway
About the Author:
Rudra is a graduate of the University at Buffalo and a software developer at a local company. He relocated to Buffalo after working in DC for a year. He enjoys blogging about beer, politics, current events, and urban issues in a non-partisan way.