BUFFALO, N.Y. (Buffalo Rising) | When it comes to Buffalo’s East Side, we all have our notions as to why it is has been developmentally stagnant. Some say that it’s due to population flight to the suburbs, while others will say that it’s the division by roadways and walled off buildings, or disinvestment by the government, redlining by banks, discrimination, bussing, transportation, quality of housing, crime… the list goes on. But have you ever heard anyone say the problem stems from the wind?
In a TED Talk, anthropologist and venture capitalist Stephen DeBerry discusses a notion that he says is caused by disparity by design. DeBerry is of the belief that during the industrial revolution, when cities like Buffalo were booming due to the steel industry, the smokestack dispersion tended to head east… towards the city’s East Side. He states that this same phenomenon took place in cities all over the world, which is why so many cities have an East Side that is at a disadvantage from the start – polluted by airs blowing easterly. The pollution tended to emanate from the industrial core, including smokestacks and coal-fired freight trains. Did you ever hear the idiom “from the wrong side of the tracks”?
According to DeBerry, the two different sides of the tracks depended upon wind direction. The better, healthier and wealthier side of the tracks, where the rich people lived, did not have to deal with the issue of pollution from the trains and smokestacks. It’s a very interesting theory that we can now add to the list of reasons that the East Side has unjustly suffered over the years.
The good thing is, Buffalo’s steel industry is now long gone, which, according to DeBerry, leaves monumental opportunities on the table. But we must be vigilant and aware. We must be inclusive and fostering. We must make sure that as the rebirth of the city unfolds, no one is left behind. Take a listen to DeBerry’s TED Talk, and decide for yourself which side of Buffalo is on the wrongs side of the tracks.