******** BUFFALO UPDATE ********
as reported in today’s paper; Keanu Reeves and Company will be in Buffalo next month to begin filming “Henry’s Crime” and there will be a casting call for ‘extras’.
A City In Decline: Buffalo, New York
©2009 Robert C Burnham
I was back in downtown Buffalo the other morning. The first time I was in that particular downtown in twenty-two years. I was there for an interview which went rather well but not perfect. Perfect would have been given a job and not just offered one. What’s thew difference between ‘given’ and ‘offered’ you ask? Well, actually, you may have not asked but I will explain nonetheless. ‘Given’ to me, means I would have walked out as an employed person. I didn’t. However, I was told that the position would indeed be filled in early spring and if I was still available they would most certainly love having me come onboard. That’s the difference.
But this little tale is not about my employment search and – ready for this – it’s not even about me. It’s about the Western New York city of Buffalo. Buffalo was founded around 1789 as a small trading community along Buffalo Creek. Buffalo bloomed rapidly with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, serving as the canal’s western terminus. By 1900, Buffalo had a population of 352,300 souls which was quite a few folks for back then. Enough folks, in fact, to make it America’s eight largest city at the time. Soon after which Buffalo became a major railroad hub, the largest grain-processing center in the country and the home of the largest steel-making operation in the world.
After my interview, I deposited a buck’s worth of change in an on-street parking meter, grabbed my little camera and took an hour long stroll across downtown. And it felt different to me. It felt so good to be back in a northern city with just a tinge of coolness on the breeze that, to my delight, confirmed autumn up north has arrived. Irrespective of how sweet that feeling was to me, the weather and promises of a real winter is not the difference I am speaking of. Walking between the shops and crossing over into the court district, I knew there was a difference but the realization of the difference remained beyond my grasp.
Crossing in front of the City Hall Plaza, I spied a hotdog vendor selling his wares of a quick lunch. I was enticed and went over and got me a dog with a little mustard and a lot of ketchup. And then, the difference dawned on me; this was the only hotdog vendor within sight. Although from my vantage point I could see six other intersections, this was the only vendor around. The city had gotten smaller. I couldn’t tell by looking at the buildings, I couldn’t tell by the level of noise and I couldn’t tell from the lack of a construction presence because there was in fact a whole new building going up. I also couldn’t tell through the viewfinder of my camera but at that moment, staring at intersections which should have had vendors and panhandlers on everyone of them, there were none – save for the corner where I had just purchased my yummy dog, I knew the city was shrinking. Somehow, I sensed, Buffalo was a city in decline.
Not dwelling on this inner discovery but tabling it for later analysis, I continue my walk, enjoyably shooting the scenes you see below. With five minutes left on the meter, I arrived back at my truck, fired it up and headed back to my new stomping ground of Le Roy, NY a mere thirty minutes away. Driving away, I gave no more thought of my premonition of a shrinking city until tonight when I sat down to write a few words for this photo essay. My first stop on the PC was Wikipedia and the crunched numbers I found there confirmed my hunch. Buffalo had shrunk and quite possibly was still shrinking.
In 1950, the population of Buffalo peaked at 580,100. The latter part of the 20th century saw a reversal for the city: by the year 1988 (the last year I visited) the city had fallen back below the 1900 population levels with a population of 342,000. The re-routing of Great Lakes shipping by the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway was a factor in the decline of the city. The closing or relocating of many of the steel mills and grain processing industries accompanied by all their associated service industries in the area has also contributed to the decline.
Today, as I got the feeling that Buffalo was indeed a little smaller, the population of Buffalo has dropped to approximately 276,000. Still, it is a wonderful city, an American city and a northern city and if it wasn’t for my beloved New England Patriots, it is a city of whose mascot I could embrace. Please, come along….
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