This past Sunday, I was extended an invitation to have breakfast at Inn Buffalo, along with a few of the guests that were staying at the inn. Joe and Ellen Lettieri (the owners) were amazing hosts – Joe regaled his guests with historic stories of Buffalo, while Ellen whipped up a fabulous breakfast. Despite the fact that Joe broke his leg a couple of weeks ago, everything seems to go off without a hitch.
The reason that I was invited for breakfast was to talk about opportunities to market The Elmwood Village. Joe’s nephew, Joel Giambra Jr., was also in attendance. As the conversation got underway, Joel began to shoot some promotional video, which he will be putting together to market a new video/podcast series that Joe is working on, where he will interview some of his guests that stay at the inn. The overall objective is to figure out how to attract more visitors from places like Niagara Falls (less than half an hour away) – a tourist destination that manages to draw around 12 millions visitors a year.
While it was great to talk up Buffalo to the out-of-town guests (who apparently already loved Buffalo), it was even more fascinating to hear what they had to say. One couple was from Olean, NY and they told us that they were very impressed with all of the advancements that were being made – they said that they had come to Buffalo to catch some of the more obscure films that were not being shown in their own city. Therefore, they decided to make a weekend of it. They chose Inn Buffalo because of its close proximity to Elmwood Avenue. Unfortunately, the wife told me, their experience had only been hampered by the lack of sidewalk shoveling in the Elmwood Village. They said that it was hard to get around, even though it was no longer snowing, because a lot of sidewalks had not been cleared. All of the intersections were also congested with ice and snow, unfortunately. The reason they chose to stay close to Elmwood was the walkability, which is ironic, because they said it was anything but walkable due to the lack of sidewalk snow clearing in the neighborhood.
Joe and I both expressed our agitation that an otherwise perfect stay in Buffalo was only marred by the issue of proper sidewalk clearing. Joe told me that he has been toying around with an idea that he believes would keep the Lafayette sidewalks free and clear from snow and ice. “Actually,” Joe said. “I’ve been thinking about creating a No Snow Zone on Lafayette. It’s so important that our city is safe, clean, and walkable. Therefore, I’m proposing that everyone on the street chip in $20, which would more than pay for someone to clear the Lafayette sidewalks all winter long. There’s strength in numbers. It could start with Lafayette, and then other neighborhoods could join in. Everyone should be able to walk about the Elmwood Village, or anywhere else in Buffalo, without worrying about tripping, slipping, or falling.”
Maybe Joe is onto something? What if various neighborhoods participated in creating No Snow Zones? Businesses and residents that chipped into the fund, to clear the sidewalks on their blocks, would be issued No Snow Zone cards, with their names on them. The cards would get them discounts at businesses and services throughout the city. A card-carrying member could make up that $20 investment by going out to lunch a few times, or by purchasing a few gifts. I would think that the businesses would like it, because more people would be out and about, eating and shopping, during the wintertime.
I’ve been talking about municipal snowblowing for years. Just about a week ago, I reflected on a CityLab article that talked about the benefits of municipal snow clearing (for sidewalks). Then, this past Thursday, a Yeti: On Demand Snow Shoveling app launched in Buffalo, to help people dig out their snowed-in cars. More and more, cities are discovering ways to improve the quality of life for their residents in the wintertime, by helping them deal with snow conditions. It seems as if Buffalo couldn’t give a lick about clearing sidewalks, just streets.
This winter has been relatively mild so far, except for the polar vortex storm. But that doesn’t mean that next year, or the year after, will be the same. Buffalo is a snow city. It’s a city that celebrates snow, unless the snow is an interference with our daily lives. Yes, homeowners and building owners are responsible for taking care of their sidewalks, but many don’t. Aside from the sidewalks, who is responsible for the intersections that are laden with treacherous snow and ice mounds left behind from the snowplows?
Don’t just take it from me. Take it from our visitors from Olean, who said that the only negative issue they have with this city was their impaired ability to get around and enjoy it. Other than that, they said that their stay at Inn Buffalo was nothing short of magnificent.