Update: According to Feroleto, it’s not at all in a vacuum. The meeting, he says, is one that he was invited to attend by a neighborhood block club (Claremont Ashland and Bird Block Club), and has nothing to do with the Chason Affinity project. Instead, it’s about a proposed turning lane, that the block club proposed over a year ago. The turning lane issue is a function of the Department of Public Works. Feroleto is simply attending the meeting at the request of the block club, so that he can answer any questions that people might have.
Update: According to Courtney Huckle, the block club member who initiated the meeting, “I would simply like to clarify that I advocated for the lane changes, at the behest of my block club. This was a community led effort, for a community concern. This is about as grassroots as you get, addressing real neighborhood issues.”
Did you know there’s an effort underway to change the traffic patterns at Elmwood and Forest? We didn’t either, until a tip came in from a local block club member (keep those tips coming in!).
Here’s what we heard:
There is a new traffic pattern being proposed at the intersection of Elmwood and Forest. This new pattern would involve the addition of bike lanes and turning lanes. We will be having a quick community meeting to introduce the plan and receive public comment. Councilmember Joel Feroleto will be present with several depictions of the planned changes for your review. The meeting will be February 6, 6:30-7:30pm, on the second floor of Cole’s restaurant. Please stop by to have a chat with Joel about the changes and any other neighborhood concerns.
This information came originally from a local block club in the vicinity of Elmwood and Forest, but it doesn’t appear that the larger community was given any notice of this meeting. The latest Elmwood Village email (sent in January) doesn’t mention this project or this meeting. Councilman Feroleto’s own Delaware District newsletter, the February issue of which was sent yesterday, doesn’t mention the project or the meeting, either. That’s despite that the meeting is billed, in the description we got, as in part a kind of town hall: “Please stop by to have a chat with Joel about the changes or any other neighborhood concerns [emphasis ours].”
And what kind of neighborhood concerns might there be about Elmwood and Forest? Lots, as it turns out. The recent “Long Story Short” blog post by Bruce Adams in Buffalo Spree, with its lead image of the immense crater left by the demolitions carried out there over a year ago, has fueled questions about just what is happening with that project. (Note: I decided against sharing the name some Elmwood Village neighbors have given to the crater, but if you know how to reach me privately I’ll tell you.) The latest we’ve heard is that at a block club update on the project, the project architects said the developers have turned their attention to rental units there, which if true would be contrary to their initial promises to the community. Others in the know say that “steel is going up soon – an issue with an unrecorded easement delayed the project 10 months.”
This also raises the question of why major changes to the street and traffic patterns are being planned, largely in a vacuum?
Clearly, changes at such an important node affect not just one block nearby, but the entire Elmwood Village and even beyond. The fact that the plans have progressed to the point where there are “several depictions” of the “planned changes” raises obvious questions: Who planned the changes? Who is producing the “depictions”? The information we got doesn’t say.
If anything should be governed by the City of Buffalo’s Complete Streets Ordinance, enacted over a decade ago, it would seem to be this. Yet the Complete Streets Coalition, of which I was a founding member in 2010, hasn’t met in nearly two years (last meeting notice was sent in April, 2017). Given that, who is coordinating a complete streets approach to this? That’s especially important as people often associate complete streets with bike facilities, forgetting that being “complete” is about much more than that. It is about holistic planning, with a diverse collection of stakeholders at the table and a broad array of aspects and considerations taken into account. That requires outreach and coordination.
But that doesn’t appear to be what’s happening here. It raises the question of why we keep planning things in Buffalo with a lack of broad-based community knowledge and a meaningful process of community engagement? Especially when the lack of that leads to the kind of out-of-scale, out-of-context solutions that were used at the northwest quadrant of this very same intersection. We can and should do better, and get better.
NOTE: Just before publication we received this from a reader, “The two houses on the corner of Elmwood and West Delavan are about to be demolished. Asbestos abatement has been going on the last two days and today the utility companies came to disconnect everything.” We wrote about those houses and the controversy over their demolition last year and understood that the Zoning Board of Appeals had denied the plan to demolish them. So there’s another thing to ask about at tonight’s meeting.
If you make it to tonight’s meeting, do let us know what you saw and heard.
Who: Councilman Joel Feroleto
What: We don’t know!
When: TONIGHT, February 6, 6:30 to 7:30PM
Where: Cole’s Restaurant, second-floor meeting space
How: Very carefully, please – the roads and sidewalks are treacherous!