The long wait is over. Finally, the community can visually grasp the magnitude of a re-envisioned Scajaquada Corridor, free from the constraints of a highway that tears apart Delaware Park. For years, numerous groups and individual activists have been calling for a greater vision – one that would help to stitch together the park, the waterfront, and the city back together.
Now, “…after decades of work and two years of intensive community coordination,” there is a bold and beautiful ribbon-like park presented by members of the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition (SCC), including executive directors from Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, and GObike Buffalo, as well representatives from Blackrock Riverside Alliance, Grant-Amherst Business Association, Parkside Community Association, Restore Our Community Coalition, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, Buffalo Young Preservationists, Vision Niagara, and NYS Senator Sean Ryan.
The re-imagining of the Scajaquada Corridor is another critical boost for Buffalo, that would ripple forth in all directions. From the Niagara River, along Scajaquada Creek, to Delaware Park, and beyond, to “The Scar” (Humboldt Parkway) that ripped apart the East Side from the rest of the city, the impacts of this “historic, ecologically, and economically important” vision would finally put an end to the controversies that have surrounded this area of the city – just think of the missed opportunities, the tragedies, the number of lackluster plans, the ridiculous never-ending timeline, and the all around confrontational nature of this disjointed corridor.
The restoration of the parkway, the removal of the expressway, the reconnection to the water, the integration of SUNY Buffalo State College campus, the fluid park scape… these are things that we should all be getting behind, especially as Federal-State is now dedicating resources to broken and disruptive infrastructure.
Ultimately, the idea is to restore a quintessential Olmsted Parkway, create boulevards where there were once expressways, and funnel cars into existing neighborhood street grids, thus creating vibrant neighborhoods instead of thoroughfares to get in and out of the city.
“We finally have a bold vision to look forward to,” said Justin Booth, Executive Director of GObike Buffalo. “Ultimately, we were able to stop a bad plan that was solely dedicated to getting cars from point A to point B. What we are seeing here is a vision of what community members have been asking for – a concept that puts people first. Until this point, we didn’t have a visual presentation, so that people could see all of the possibilities (the bigger picture). We are finally at a place, where we can have more productive conversations with the Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council, especially in light of the federal government allocating resources to infrastructure and highway removals. It shows what is possible, and what the future could behold. By repairing this corridor, we can start to reduce the deleterious impacts of our urban highways, to instead support resilient, sustainable transportation options reflective of our community’s current values and needs, and build a city ready for the future instead of stuck in the past.”
“We have a legacy responsibility to redesign the Scajaquada Corridor in reconnecting our communities, improving environment and ecological health, supporting the local economy, and healing decades-old wounds to both green space and neighborhoods,” said Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy Executive Director Stephanie Crockatt. “Forming a comprehensive community vision and plan is the main objective, and the SCC is taking a visual first step in showing compelling possibilities. As state and federal funding interests and agencies continue to align, there is no doubt that this corridor deserves the right quality of life solutions, right now.”
Scajaquada Creek is considered one of the most polluted creeks in NYS, pointed out Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. That wasn’t always the case. Where most people today barely recognize the creek as anything other than a polluted waterway, it used to be a major contributor to the city, not only as a source of drinking water, but for nature and recreation. Jedlicka describes the creek in its current form a “13-mile long man-made natural disaster.” Recent efforts have been underway to restore parts of the creek, especially at Forest Lawn Cemetery. Now, she says, it’s time to reclaim what Mother Nature originally envisioned. By getting rid of the trash racks, ridding the creek of sewer overflows, among other progressive actions, the creek can once again become a clean, proud, and resourceful body of water.
“Defining moments don’t come around very often – but here we are. The year 2021 will provide the last, best chance in a generation to reclaim our creek and community,” explained Jedlicka. “Many decisions are on the horizon for infrastructure priorities in our region, particularly in the Scajaquada Creek corridor and closely related to the 198-redesign effort. We can either seize the opportunity now, or get left behind.”
Brian Dold of Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy said that the compelling visuals are intended to get the community thinking, while engaging in the conversation moving forward. This community-driven vision coincides with Olmsted’s 200th birthday.
Stephanie Barber-Geter of the Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC) talked of the fortitude that has brought this group to this point in time, where something greater is finally within grasp.
“The expressway’s negative influence has assured decades of population decline and regional disinvestment in central city neighborhoods, manifesting into an equally dissonant narrative where the misguided convenience of Amherst, Cheektowaga, and Tonawanda determines the fate of Parkside, Hamlin Park, and Black Rock-Riverside,” maintained Bradley J. Bethel, Jr. of ROCC. “Today, using Scajaquada Creek as the base point, a new breadth of opportunities and incentives are available for Parkside, Hamlin Park, and Black-Rock-Riverside to advocate for their own interests, and like many great American cities, build into a cohesive whole.”
NYS Senator Sean Ryan pointed out that the community rejected the DOT’s original plan, and this unveiling of the concept is now a signal chance to fix a series of historic mistakes. The grandest parkway was once Humboldt Parkway, which not many people are aware. These long lasting divisions are all fixable, and now is the time to get it done.
Congressman Brian Higgins is also onboard. Higgins stated that the design decisions should not be made by some person at the DOT that is sitting in a cubicle in Albany. The design and planning decisions should be made by members of the Buffalo community – people that live here and utilize the parks on a daily basis.
“This July,” said Higgins. “The House will take action – it will take a vote, to approve a $2 trillion infrastructure bill – the largest infrastructure bill in the history of the nation. The last time that this country did an infrastructure bill was when George W. Bush was president in 2005 (to a tune of $350 billion). This far-exceeds that. There is also a recognition in this bill, to commit $20 billion – we’re trying to increase it to $50 billion – to restore neighborhoods that were destroyed by highway building throughout the decade of the 1950’s. We are going to determine what this project is going to look like (one encompassing plan, instead of 3 plans), while working together to get the funding for this project… this will be a national model for bringing back the Olmsted Parks in its entirety. We lost 90 acres because of expressway building. How can a community allow that to happen to itself? Those days are over. This is not your project NYSDOT – this is our project. If you want to facilitate it, fine… if you don’t, get out of the way! Because those days are over…”
“I’d like to congratulate the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition on sharing their vision and offer them my support towards reconnecting communities, recreational spaces, and improving access to waterways. The time is now to transform our roadways and improve our quality of life,” commented Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes.
Currently, there are a lot of factors already in play, such as the removal of the auto impound on Dart Street, the new Vision Niagara infrastructure that is underway, talks of returning the The Stone Arch Bridge to bike-ped access, expansion plans at the Albright-Knox – all of these plans and visions are integral components that could all come together very nicely if we continue to think big, instead of continuing to place bandages on old wounds that are never able to heal.
For more information about the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition, visit www.sccoalition.net.
Vision graphics by CannonDesign