I’ve lived in Buffalo off and on for seventeen years. The first three were full time, when a was a Dean here. The next four, I was a Dean in New York, while Phil continued to work in BLO, and we took turns doing the weekend commute to be together. For the next five years, I was in Canada, and made it back for one weekend a month. Then back to New York for two years of weekend turnabouts again. Finally, three years ago, I moved to Buffalo “full” time, with weekends in Brooklyn twice a month. Whew!
Yet I have never really felt a part of this place, and that is odd, because with all the other places I have lived, including a small town in Nova Scotia, I tended to dive right in and adopt the new surroundings as my own. Even in Canada, when people would ask “Where’s home?” I would say, ” Right here,” and explain that I was like a turtle, carrying my home on my back. That never really satisfied them, because “home” to them was the place you were born, and always wanted to return to. Since I never wanted to return to where I was born, this didn’t resonate with me, so we reached an impasse.
But I am still bemused by my alienation from Buffalo. The city has lots of positive features, like some of the most beautiful housing stock I have ever seen. The summers are ten degrees cooler than in Brooklyn, there is an Olmsted-designed park five minutes from our house, I have made some wonderful friends here, and winter is no longer the snow-bound hassle it once was. A nod to climate change.
Our house is not one of the architectural wonders, but it is cozy, with a front and back yard, three bedrooms, eat-in kitchen and dining room. And we bought it for under $50,000, about 13 years ago. We joked at the time that we could put it on our credit cards.
But then there are the negatives. The media delights in that snow-bound reputation, and exults at every flake, the civic attitude is not one of “can do,” but rather, of complaint and finger-pointing. When I left in 1999 there was discussion of building an improved Peace Bridge, to compete with the crossing from Canada near Detroit. In 2012, the Detroit crossing had doubled its span and traffic, and nothing but talk having developed in Buffalo, the issue was finally laid to rest and defeat.
Despite the financial reality that a lot more money comes into this region from the State than ever goes out in taxes, there is the iron-clad conviction that somehow Western New York and Buffalo are supporting New York City. And when young people see no future here and leave, that is somehow someone else’s fault too.
The major enthusiasm the residents seem to have is for the losing sports teams, the Bills and the Sabres. The University even spent untold sums to bring its football team from Class III to Class I, though to what end remains unclear. A new Medical Campus is being built downtown, but meanwhile the Pharmacy building was given a major renovation before the Department’s imminent relocation to the new campus.
I have met many good people here, and wish the city well, if it could only stop stepping on its own feet!