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Buffalo is pretty vacant, and we should care

by on October 27, 2009

The best thing Albany and Washington can do for the economy is nothing.  The worst is basically everything they’ve attempted over the past few decades.  Guess which approach they’re planning to use as they inflict their newest scheme upon Buffalo?  The city’s paper happily reports that our elected overlords have concocted yet one more plan to counteract their earlier plans:

Buffalo, a city with a vacant-housing crisis rivaling New Orleans and Detroit, is catching the eye of state and federal officials interested in making it a model of how to right-size and rebound.

Our politicians, The Buffalo News, and everyone else should wonder why this area is slumming with cities ravaged by a literal and virtual urban hurricane, respectively.  Perhaps a government that siphoned money out of our paychecks less ravenously might be presiding over wealthier people.  Instead, our politicians are unwittingly pursuing the same course which sunk the city in the first place, only more so:

Paterson, who will officially announce the strategy in his State of the State address in January, said Buffalo would serve as a pilot project for an initiative that will emphasize the rehabilitation of abandoned housing.

There’s good news for the same sorts who think a health care public option won’t drive private insurers out of business, as well as for anyone who thinks growing crops and flowers should be mandatory:

State officials say Paterson’s initiative is complementary, not competitive, and pointed to his proposal for a “Green Development Zone,” a strategy for rebuilding a 16-block neighborhood on Buffalo’s lower West Side.


The goal behind the zone, which would be located west of Richmond Avenue and south of West Ferry Street, is to create a national model for green-designed neighborhood revitalization.


The emphasis would be on housing rehabilitation and other green-friendly reuses of abandoned property, including community gardens and urban farming.

Can’t we garden and farm without Albany making us do so?  Some of us aren’t that outdoorsy.  To be fair, there are private groups involved with the new ploy.  It’s just that they happen to not trust the private sector at all:

“We’re excited that the governor is committed to working with us to create quality housing and jobs,” said Aaron Bartley of PUSH Buffalo, a West Side group partnering with the state.

Bartley said the project – a collaboration between the state and community groups such as PUSH, Homefront and the Massachusetts Avenue Project – will include an emphasis on creating good-quality jobs as part of its investment in the neighborhood.

Who could oppose creating jobs?  Don’t you know that they give people a place to work and make money?

Even better, there’s no chance this plan could be empty talk that wastes money and actually harms the economy.  That’s not the government’s style.  Um, right?

Regardless, the governor’s solution is to enact more programs that by chance he would ultimately run:

While Paterson’s primary focus is on housing rehabilitation, his strategy also includes a newly created state fund to pay for the acquisition and demolition of vacant buildings that stand in the way of positive development.

Unfortunately, he’s oblivious to how he himself is an inadvertent foe of said positive development.  Like most politicians at every level in New York, he has been messing with the economy for as long as he’s held power.  Now, he and the others wonder what could have gone wrong.


But don’t worry: they think this time will be different.  It’s not that they’ve deviously steered the area into incessant poverty for hegemony’s sake, as that would imply they knew what they were doing.  In reality, they don’t even realize they caused the initial problem.


Government is not suddenly about to turn good when it interferes with the economy.  This particular initiative stands as the perfect alliance between extravagantly officious politicians, self-appointed community leaders, and a local rag that has once again proved how unwilling it is to criticize bureaucratic intervention.  They’re uniting to form a Bizarro Voltron that will stomp on the areas they intend to help.


Those involved in the plot don’t want us to consider that their efforts led to the city’s current desolation.  We should know better.  Letting them attempt to fix what they keep breaking would be like staying with an abusive spouse.  They want us to think they’re capable of change at a time when we should be bailing out, changing our names, and canceling our credit cards.


Most importantly, this should be the empowering moment when we realize our capacity for independence.  We don’t need them, and never did.

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