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Olmstedian Scajaquada: Timber!!

After my recent walk of the Scajaquada corridor, I shared photos on Twitter (at @HeyRaChaCha) along with some of my impressions and initial thoughts. Those became the basis for this recent blog post.

When I initially shared my photos and impressions on social media, I was generally happy with the reactions and how many people interacted with the content. Colin Dabkowski of the Buffalo News tweeted, “Follow this man’s peripatetic weavings through the interstitial nothingspace we call ‘the Scajaquada corridor.’ Get lost in his anti-poetry of nonplace.” That’s good (I think).

But one local attorney, to prospects of removing the elevated portion of the 198 and restoring the widewaters, said “don’t hold your breath.” To which I replied, “Right now, based on what I’m hearing, NYS has gone back to square one on the 198 & doesn’t know what to do. So not a bad time for folks to speak up & say what they do want.”

If you are similarly of the view that removing the elevated section of the 198 is impossible or unlikely, all you need to do is look at what’s happening in Niagara Falls this spring, where the elevated section of the Parkway Formerly Known as the Robert Moses is being torn down. This is in the historic neighborhood of Suspension Bridge, now home to the Whirlpool bridges, the new train station, and the Underground Railroad Heritage Center. In fact, the dismantlement may be in process while you’re reading this. And they’re doing the project with such dispatch that, to me, they’re making it look almost easy.

Don’t believe it? Take a look:

First, this from WGRZ’s redcoat-of-redcoats Dave McKinley, just days ago. You can watch the video on Dave’s Twitter feed here.

^ Video courtesy of Patrick Proctor of Rainbow Air, Inc.

If that doesn’t convince you, the day after Dave shot that video Rainbow Air, which offers helicopter tours of Niagara Falls, offered a helicopter tour of the project on their Twitter account. They also have a dozen great stills and videos of the project on their Instagram account. Here are a couple of the stills:

But perhaps most satisfying of all – because, as they say about snacks, it has a satisfying crunch – was this video posted by Pat Whalen, Director of the Niagara Global Tourism Institute at Niagara University:

^ Timberrrrr!! Down goes the elevated portion of the Parkway Formerly Known as the Robert Moses in Niagara Falls. Video courtesy of Pat Whalen, Director, Niagara Global Tourism Institute

These two situations have more in common than just being elevated sections of urban expressways: they are also very similar in scale. The section being removed in Niagara Falls is about 2,000 feet long, and the elevated section of the 198 (plus or minus a flyover ramp or two) is about the same length.

Elevated sections of the 198 and Niagara Scenic (formerly Robert Moses) Parkway at same scale. Lines delineate elevated section of the Parkway. Image: Chee-Zee Grafix, Inc.

But wait, you may say, this very image attempting to show comparability actually shows, instead, a fundamental contrast that gives the lie to your argument. The Niagara Gorge at Suspension Bridge is, after all, an important scenic, natural, and heritage area. In contrast, the other image shows that the western end of Scajaquada Creek is a post-industrial colon-and-sphincter. So just because the state is investing in one doesn’t necessarily mean the state would (or should) invest in the other. Because apples and oranges, right?

One might make that argument but, actually, there has never been a better time to rethink this area than this year, especially with the announcement by the city and Buffalo State.

Between planning for the auto impound site and planning for remaking the 198 – and really, they should be part of a single plan – there is the potential to completely alter the western Scajaquada landscape. Much of that planning could be done this year. Whatever the future of that landscape may be, it almost certainly won’t include an elevated expressway occupying the creek.

If the elevated section of the 198 were removed and the original Scajaquada widewaters (site of the War of 1812 shipyard that outfitted the ships that won the Battle of Lake Erie) were restored (as discussed here) this would be a treasured recreational & historic landscape instead of this horrorscape:

Mr. Cuomo, come here, to this God-forsaken landscape. Mr. Cuomo, open this landscape.

Mr. Cuomo, tear down this wall!

Written by RaChaCha


RaChaCha is a Garbage Plate™ kid making his way in a Chicken Wing world. Since 2008, he's put over a hundred articles on here, and he asked us to be sure to thank you for reading. So, thank you for reading. You may also have seen his freelance byline in Artvoice, where he writes under the name his daddy gave him [Ed: Send me a check, and I might reveal what that is]. When he's not writing, RaChaCha is an urban planner, a rehabber of houses, and a community builder. He co-founded the Buffalo Mass Mob, and would love to see you at the next one. He represents Buffalo Young Preservationists on the Trico roundtable. If you try to demolish a historic building, he might have something to say about that. He is a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Things you may not know about RaChaCha (unless you read this before): "Ra Cha Cha" is a nickname of his hometown. (Didn't you know that? Do you live under a rock?) He's a political junkie (he once worked for the president of the Monroe County Legislature), but we don't really let him write about politics on here. He helped create a major greenway in the Genesee Valley, and worked on early planning for the Canalway Trail. He hopes you enjoy biking and hiking on those because that's what he put in all that work for. He was a ringleader of the legendary "Chill the Fill" campaign to save Rochester's old downtown subway tunnel. In fact, he comes from a long line of troublemakers. An ancestor fought at Bunker Hill, and a relative led the Bear Flag Revolt in California. We advise you to remember this before messing with him in the comments. He worked on planning the Rochester ARTWalk, and thinks Buffalo should have one of those, too (write your congressman).

You can also find RaChaCha (all too often, we frequently nag him) on the Twitters at @HeyRaChaCha. Which is what some people here yell when they see him on the street. You know who you are.

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