July 16 is 716 Day. That means that it’s time to reflect on all of the incredible Buffalo undertakings at hand, and the ones that are on the horizon.
As I ponder 716 Day, I think about all of the people that I know who are doing their part to better Buffalo. I think of my buddy Mark Madden who is determined to create an urban art scene on Amherst Street – he recently hosted the Black Rock BBQ & Art Fiasco (lead image). I think of my new Paint vs. Paint friends on the city’s East Side. Then there’s Buffalo Rising contributor John Straubinger (Dr. Rehab), who feverishly documents the many real estate rehabs that are underway in Buffalo.
716 Day gets me excited about the ongoing environmental efforts at the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, to introduce Maintained Meadow Areas (MMAs), and at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper – the local Waterkeeper organization recently held their International Waterkeeper Alliance Conference in Buffalo. Incredibly, all 300 Waterkeepers (representatives from 30 counties and over 30 states) traveled to Niagara Falls to discuss issues pertaining to macro global waters and micro grassroots challenges.
More than anything else, on 716 Day, I think about how we can be a better city by continuing to be welcoming, supportive, caring, and just. We are in the midst of such incredible change at the moment. I see the West Side as a melting pot of people, just as Buffalo once was back in the day, before we all assumed the same identity as “Americans”. With open arms we are embracing people from war-torn countries, who have come to call this city ‘home’. At the same time, we are collectively thinking about the future of the East Side, and how we can affect positive change, while being sensitive to the residents who have held down the fort to the best of their abilities. My hope is that one day, there will be no West Side and East Side, the way that we think about it today. We need to work towards a day when our city is simply a city, with no barriers or delineations.
I look at so many issues that we are facing as the world gets smaller and smaller due to the ongoing population explosion. I see environmental struggles that we face as a planet. And I know that we, as a city that is reinventing itself, can set examples for others, whether it’s the way that we treat our neighbors, or supporting our urban farming community, or by simply offering a helping hand to someone in need (or an animal). We have the ability to re-emerge as a city that others look up to – one without boatloads of traffic, one that is affordable to live, one that supports its culturals, and one that protects its fresh waters.
On this 716 Day, think about the ways that you can make Buffalo a better place to live. If you own a house that needs a paint job, this is the year to paint it. If you thought about buying a bike and driving less, this is the year to do so. If you thought about donating some time to a worthy cause, saying hello to people as they pass by, inviting people over to sit on your porch, exploring a reawakening downtown, or sending someone a postcard inviting them to visit Buffalo, this is the year for that too.
If we all continue to be selfless in our pursuits, to fulfill the city’s limitless potential, we will set ourselves apart, while being inclusive and welcoming at the same time. After all, we are The City of Good Neighbors. The City of Light. And the City of Trees. The city is many things to many people, which is why it has so much potential – we must realize that potential together.
Happy 716 Day!