By: Bradley J. Bethel Jr., Restore Our Community Coalition, Research Associate
The air pollution from the Kensington Expressway is fumed with deep layers of oblivion. A freeway that robbed Hamlin Park residents of a beautiful three-mile boulevard has created an unjust precedent that has long-since superseded the well-being of the neighborhood. Today, the Restore Our Community Coalition seeks to spread a mile-long blanket over the Kensington Expressway. This blanket will take the form of a 14.5 acre promenade resembling the original Humboldt Parkway. Joining ROCC is an ongoing effort to restructure the now-former Scajaquada Expressway in the Parkside neighborhood. Together, these studies are part of a citywide collaborative to bring back the civic values that once made Buffalo a model for all American cities.
Our freeways, once promoted as modern conquests from the post-World War II era, are aging and ironically facing deterioration. Whether they deplete property values from Hamlin Park homes, or disrupt the tranquility of Delaware Park, Kensington and Scajaquada have presented safety, environmental and logistical problems from the time of their conception. Both have been acknowledged by Buffalo residents, planners, architects, and historians as two of the city’s worst planning mistakes. Such is the status quo for the New York State Department of Transportation. The bureau in charge of our freeways have long-prioritized the needs of the automobile over the people who drive them. As such, delays for any long-range solutions that would give communities back to residents have been frequently cited to a “lack of funding sources”. However, this passive-aggressive charade has become increasingly evident through many examples across the country that supports local consensus for change.
Klyde Warren Park covers 5 acres of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway in Dallas TX. Margaret T. Hance Park covers 32 acres of the Papago Freeway in downtown Phoenix AZ. Both neighborhoods once-fractured by their local freeways have since been repaired with lavish public promenades, demonstrating the most-favored solution for Humboldt Parkway. Embarcadero Boulevard in San Francisco CA and Tom McCain Park in Portland OR have famously reinvented their respective districts by removing freeways altogether. One is now a thriving transportation corridor, and the other is a celebrated waterfront destination.
The multi-million dollar funding for these freeway remediation projects were made possible by groundswells of cooperation between city residents, philanthropists and entrepreneurs, as well as local and state-level officials. Moreover, these are only four examples out of thirty-six across the country, including New York State efforts in Rochester and Niagara Falls that are already in progress.
There is absolutely no excuse why these civil triumphs cannot be realized here in Buffalo, the “City of Good Neighbors”. We are already witnessing our own tremendous transition that was considered inconceivable only a decade ago. But as the 73rd most populous American city, we still have a long journey ahead of us. At its peak in 1950, Buffalo was the 15th most populous American city, backed by a fabled heritage not limited to its landscape architecture.
Image of Klyde Warren Park aerial view courtesy of Klyde Warren Park. 2015 ©
Image of Central Avenue Bridge at Margaret T. Hance Park courtesy of the City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation. 2015 ©