Following are a few thoughts from Buffalo Rising authors, who were asked to share their reflections for 2021, as well as their hopes for the new year.
Reflections on 2021
The Buffalo that my generation inherited is not the Buffalo that our parents knew. In the absence of proactive political leadership and with institutions ill-equipped to deal with rapid deindustrialization, Buffalo has become a crucible of new ideas. It has been the frontline organizations that have helped rewrite the narrative of our city from one of decline and rejection by those with money and power to one of love, gratitude, and reciprocity from communities of people without either. Never has this been more apparent than in the movements and initiatives that have arisen or found a new relevance in the context of a global pandemic.
Mutual Aid, a concept and theory I was first introduced to through PUSH Buffalo’s Mutual Aid Hub at former BPS Public School 77, continues in various forms across the city with the rallying cry of “solidarity, not charity” and the belief that everyone can participate and each person has something to offer.
From community fridges responding to food insecurity and food apartheid to neighborhood-specific Buy Nothing groups that have blossomed on Facebook (check out the new app for those looking to unplug from social media). Both of these examples remind us that we live in a world of abundance, rather than the scarcity-based model we learned in our High School economics class, and that all we have to do to access that abundance is to share more of what we have. Sharing provides a basis for two other movements that have given me hope in 2021 that another world is possible – especially right here in Buffalo.
The first being Reddy Bikeshare’s E-Bike Pilot Project, which seeks to build a more equitable and sustainable transportation system through a sharing model of e-bike access. Through partnerships with the East Side Bike Club and Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative, E-Bike Library programming has also been given life on Buffalo’s East Side and in Niagara Falls, where community members can gain access to e-bikes free of charge.
Similarly, The Tool Library, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, has grown from a small grassroots organization helping neighbors fix up their homes with borrowed tools, to a region-wide resource center transforming the way we approach community development, public space stewardship, and affordable housing.
Hopes for 2022
Sharing not only help us reconnect with our neighbors, it helps us reconnect with the deep democracy and participation possible only at the hyper local level – a concept which is so profoundly relevant to transforming the national discourse of our time. My hope for 2022 is a simple one – for more people to participate in the process – so that we may break the bonds of a grinding market economy and build an economy of abundance together. Say hello to a neighbor, share a favorite meal with a friend, list a well-loved item on Buy Nothing, borrow an e-bike, join a community garden, tackle a home improvement project with borrowed tools. We never know how the small actions we take where we live can have a profound impact on the world around us.
– Darren Cotton
Working for three years on banning foam containers, I obviously have to be happy over the start of the NYS Expanded Polystyrene Foam Food Container ban that goes into effect on January 1st. But there are two issues that the state recently took action on that will have huge impacts for the City of Buffalo.
First, the NYS DEC announced the adoption of a transition to Zero-Emission Trucks sales in NY starting with model year 2025. Combined with the commitment by the NFTA to electrify their bus fleet (including the start of upgrades to the Cold Springs station for charging stations), it will quickly take diesel and other high emissions vehicles off of our streets and highways and improve the air quality of high traffic neighborhoods.
Second, two water quality bills were signed last week by Governor Kathy Hochul. One deals with municipal testing for a wider list of contaminants, the other deals with lead in school drinking water. Lead is almost guaranteed in school buildings older than 1980 and is an issue as it is linked to growth, emotional and learning issues.
– John S Szalasny
Happy: Some normalcy to our lives, getting a chance to teach in person again.
Hopeful: That eventually normalcy will prevail, and we can put covid behind us.
Angry: Bills planning another stadium mistake in Orchard Park.
I am hopeful that we might finally put Covid behind us, that the Bills will choose downtown as their new home, and that the Buffalo rebirth continues to get stronger.
– Peace, Steven Appler
What made us happy in 2021— Continuing our Buffalo Walks, from which we recommend:
East Side eating and coffee: The Golden Cup (coffee and roastery), at Jefferson and Utica; Undergrounds Coffee (ditto), at South Park and Hamburg; and Ike and BG’s Restaurant (ribs takeout), on Genesee near Doat.
And, for a fine collection of Buffalo’s minimarts, with a touch of “folk art” décor outside, just cruise Hampshire Street from Ferry to Niagara: Bill’s Corner Market, Manakamana Grocery, Hampshire Save More, Hampshire Express, and City Candy Grocery.
– Bill Graebner and Dianne Bennett
This year, I am grateful to have learned more about what it means to be present. In-between the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I learned that it is imperative to stop and look around with gratitude at all that I have been given. I spent a large portion of my time this year at Delaware Park, specifically meandering around Hoyt Lake with a hula hoop, barefeet, and a Lexington co-op sandwich stored in my bag for lunch. I have a strong fascination with the beauty of Buffalo’s parks system and more specifically about the impending future of the Scajaquada Corridor. One of my deepest hopes for 2022 is that we continue to see progress and support of work done with this project in order to preserve and maintain the beauty that was intended in its creation.
– Liberty Darr
The main thing that comes to mind for the year is that it seems like everyone, both in and outside if Buffalo, are working together to rebuild after 2020. I hope that’s something that continues into 2022.
– David Theriault
The last two years in Buffalo have gone by quickly, most of us have struggled relationships and with loss; I have had my share. That pain brings hope. I wish everyone a peaceful, hopeful future and an awesome 2022.
– Mark Lazzara
In 2021, I was thankful that so many small businesses opened, despite the presence of the pandemic. I believe that shows that people have faith in the ongoing renaissance of the city and the region. It was great to see growth on Chippewa Street, with new infrastructure and new businesses. Same with Niagara Street. Now, on to the East Side. I really enjoyed posting all of the East Side Avenues videos over the past few weeks – the videos demonstrate that the (re)building blocks are in place, if we can put together a more comprehensive plan that includes reuniting the city via the removal/downgrade of the expressways that have torn this city apart. Along with the expressways that prevent the East Side from flourishing, we must also take a look at a future plan for downgrade/removal/relocation of the I-190 along the Niagara River. It’s a conversation that should go hand-in-hand with the removal/downgrade of the Scajaquada and Kensington Expressways.
In 2022, I am hopeful that we start addressing the micro level issues that plague the city. We have seen a lot of illegal graffiti taggings emerge during the pandemic, in all parts of the city. Tagging, unlike legitimate graffiti, is a scourge that makes our commercial districts look unkempt. Grant Street is a mess, but the problem also extends to places like the Elmwood Village. Similar to the litter problem that is readily apparent in our neighborhoods, the rogue spray paint tagging is out of control. We need to look at better ways of curbing and cleaning up this blight – there are some prolific taggers out on the streets that need to be stopped. This should be considered the low hanging fruit. Obviously the 311 hotline is not working as well as it should. Maybe it’s time for the City to implement an app such as GraffitiTagr or Anti Graffiti to help combat the rampant taggings. Or offer substantial rewards that would help to identify the culprits and thwart the illegal activities. For those that are caught – there are plenty of tags to keep them busy cleaning for the foreseeable future, not to mention the other steep punishments that are already in place.