In January, I posted an idea that saw artistic inspiration for Toronto’s Bentway transposed into an extension of Canalside that I described as “the lame stretch of roadway known as Perry Blvd, which ‘helps’ to bridge Canalside to the Erie Street. Erie Street is the connector between the Erie Basin Marina and the heart of Downtown.” In the post, I suggested that some of Buffalo’s graffiti artists get together to create a central zone for artistic pursuits (see here). I ended up sending a link to the post to local urban artist Vinny Elajandro, who loved the idea. Vinny and I had talked previously about the need for a dedicated art corridor. Shortly after that, I posted another tribute to The Bentway, showing how Toronto was growing the vision of the parkscape (see here).
Just this morning, I received an email from Phil Szal at Buffalo (and Rochester) Pedal Tours. He wrote to me to say that he had just paid a visit to Chicano Park in San Diego, and he saw an inspirational artistic public setting that he felt shared the vision from that post:
“I was just in Chicano Park in San Diego and it can serve as an inspiration for beautifying a stretch of the Skyway or really any overpass for that matter. It has a great back story of just 10 years ago being the most dangerous part of San Diego due to it being a highway on/off ramp where gangs would fight to control the lucrative business.
“Community leaders took ownership and led a gang truce to turn it into an art mecca of wall art over all the pillars of the highway and the bridges, a skate park and a full picnic/playground. Today it is filled with families, tourists and locals alike and the neighborhood is pretty built up. I went for some quick ideas for my new hobby of wall art and ended up spending over an hour taking them all in.”
Public art along these lines could be implemented in Buffalo right away. I’m glad to see that other cities are capitalizing on these short term successes that tap into the urban art communities.
The thing that I love most about Phil Szal, is that he’s always traveling, and he’s always thinking. More people need to get out of Buffalo, to see what sort of ideas are being generated. We don’t always need to be reinventing the wheel. There are tons of great ideas just waiting to be picked up, as Phil readily points out by saying:
“Some other things I saw across the country that I think would work well in Buffalo… or to look out for…
“Uber/Lyft drop off and pick up points, especially in the bar districts to prevent traffic jams. Too many times a car tries to go around an Uber/Lyft waiting for its pick up on Allen, Elmwood, or Chippewa and creates a close call for oncoming traffic. Having a set spot by a bunch of restaurants, food trucks, carts could do wonders for their businesses, and make it easier for police to safeguard the masses.
“Street performers. I can’t think of having seen anything besides a guy playing his guitar on Allen once in a while. Do you need a license or something in Buffalo? Anywhere I went, where there was a crowd, someone was performing any number of different things. You rarely see it in Buffalo – street performers.
“Bathroom art – cool work pieces, whether it be celebrity mug shots, colorful elements – cool bathrooms were the norm, not the exception.
“Tours of stadiums – I got to take paid tours of University of Texas football stadium, Petco Park of the San Diego Padres, and Azteca stadium in Mexico City but the Buffalo Bills don’t offer that (or Sabres). With all of the government money they get they should offer it so that families can bring kids to the stadiums in a safe, non-gameday environment to convert our next generation to Bills’ fandom.
“Food Halls are the next big thing in eating out. Everywhere had them – multiple ones tailored to certain varieties. It makes sense to cut back on ‘back of the house’ staff, and just worry about making the best food possible.
“The dangers of high concentration homeless areas. I think it doesn’t get covered because no one wants to report about homeless problems and look bad, but Austin, Texas should be held as an example of the harmful nature that hundreds of homeless people have on businesses and offices. Beggars have to compete for cash and you get annoyed having to say “no” 20 times on the walk to the bar, and smelling the reek of urine. People stay inside bars, and not on patios on nice days, because they do not want to be harassed while they eat. There are cities that are coming up with solutions to the problems of high concentrations of homeless people – Buffalo is doing a pretty good job of taking care of its own. The cold weather is also factor – living on the streets of Buffalo year round is not a pleasant thought.
“It’s time for Buffalo to get DEDICATED bike lanes in the city. It’s embarrassing that ALL cool progressive cities have them everywhere… except us.
“The dangers of chains as they relate to Grubhub/Uber Eats. The chains spend a lot of money advertising and are stealing market share from the smaller restaurants because they can afford to spread more advertising dollars around. These delivery services have become the norm in many other cities, and are helping to “drive the market”, which gives the chains a leg up. Once again, Buffalo is lucky that chains restaurants are not rampant – it’s one of the things that makes this city so special.”
If you are traveling to other cities, and you come across some ideas that you think would fly in Buffalo, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s continue to look for inspiration from other parts of the world, while also looking from within.