Great, if depressing, article from The Guardian exploring the east side of Buffalo, NY. I had the pleasure of visiting the city a year ago and in fact did visit this area, which as described looks like a bomb went off a couple decades ago. I took the bus over and would’ve taken pictures beyond the station, but I didn’t feel safe whipping out a camera while walking around on my own. (Not easily creeped out by anything but yeah, not a good idea.) There is still a lot of great architecture hanging in there. (And a ton in other, wealthier areas.) -Wendy
The city of Buffalo has an identity problem. One half has been reborn like a phoenix from a graveyard of industrial ash – experiencing an economic and cultural resurgence that has transformed many previously barren areas into bustling centres of commerce and entertainment. Yet the other half sits in a state of utter disrepair – its streets manifest a palpable level of poverty, blind to the recovery and optimism growing across town.
“It’s a true tale of two cities,” said blogger and photographer David Torke, who created the Tour de Neglect. “You have the more prosperous and emerging West Side contrasted with the East Side, which has been neglected on all sorts of levels for decades.”
Torke uses his fixBuffalo blog to catalogue the structural devastation which plagues Buffalo’s East Side. Eight years ago, Torke decided that his blog was too detached from readers stuck in front of a computer screen – and the Tour de Neglect was born. It is now an annual event…
…As the tour cycled on, the magnificence of the Buffalo Central Terminal’s 17-storey clock tower loomed over Memorial Drive. The bravura of the art deco architecture has landed the terminal the unofficial title of “Buffalo’s best-loved building”.
Opened in 1929, the train station handled crowds of passengers during the height of Buffalo’s prosperity as part of New York Central Railroad’s mainline to Penn Station. The terminal was envisioned as the centre of a new downtown area, but the proposal went wayward when the 1929 stock market crash hit the New York Central Railroad. Passenger rail travel fell steadily with the arrival of the car and planes, and the last passenger train rolled out of the Buffalo Central Terminal in 1979. It has now been vacant for almost as long as it was in use.
From the terminal’s front entrance you can make out the top of the Key Centre’s pyramidal rooftop, located in the heart of downtown Buffalo. There is perhaps no better spot in the city to see the disparity between the East Side and the rest of town.
After a series of ill-conceived schemes by private owners, the 18-acre site was acquired in 1997 by the non-profit Central Terminal Restoration Corporation for a nominal $1. The Buffalo Central Terminal is undoubtedly a marvel, but it’s also the closest thing imaginable to a time warp for Buffalonians: the ticket booths remain vacant; the refurbished information clock kiosk casts a faint pale light on the marble floor; the passenger concourse is now nothing more than the rusted remains of a railroad track that has been waiting decades for the sound of a train whistle. It’s eerie to think of the vibrancy of the terminal’s grand foyer in the 1920s, compared with the silence and emptiness of today.
While Buffalo’s Dyngus Day celebrations and other small fundraising events take place within the complex, the building is still very much underused. Recent progress has stalled with the Restoration Corporation’s split on whether to retain it as a DIY, project-based space, or whether to develop and expand the site into a true gateway to the city. Plans in the pipeline include an expansion of a commuter light rail system (connecting the Buffalo International Airport, Walden Galleria, Buffalo Central Terminal and the downtown business core), and incorporation of a potential high-speed rail link to New York City.