Click on the photo if you’d like to enlarge it.
With All Due Respect,
Mayor Byron W. Brown issued a July 16, 2020 press release in which His Honor cautions City of Buffalo residents of the continued dangers we face regarding the coronavirus:
COVID-19 remains a threat to our community and we cannot afford to let our guard down at this time. We must remain vigilant and continue to take the necessary precautions to maintain public health and safety. Please continue to practice physical distancing and wear face coverings when going out.
The Mayor followed that plea with a press conference July 24th announcing “an innovative and safe dining experience initiative that will enable restaurants to offer outdoor dining services to patrons” on a stretch of Chippewa Avenue. We were told that each of the 10 or so participating eating-and-drinking establishments “will safely operate while practicing New York State social distance guidelines and requirements.” Not only have their plans been reviewed by Mayor Brown’s Small Business Social Distancing Advisory Committee (SBDAC), but, as reported by WBFO, Mayor Brown said it’s important for patrons and proprietors to understand – this is not meant to be a block party: “This isn’t to allow mass gatherings on Chippewa. This is to allow more room to socially distance.”
No, the block party – where, it appears, you can get away with not wearing a face covering and adhering to social distancing and other health guidelines intended to slow the virus spread – was occurring on July 24th and 25th several miles away in South Buffalo’s Cazenovia Park.
While bicycling through my neighborhood park at 8 PM on the Friday the 24th I observed at least 60 or 70 Pints-In-The-Park attendees, many of whom were not following the posted (and, by now, well known) Covid-19 protocols. I saw a similar scene at 6 PM on Saturday. Here’s a sampling:
I have since confirmed that the City of Buffalo had issued a permit to (a rather aptly-named) Resurgence Brewing Company to host pop-up beer gardens – with the cutesy moniker, Pints-In-The-Park. Here’s how the events are described at Resurgence’s facebook page:
All Pints in the Park events will be held in Olmsted Parks with a portion of proceeds going toward the Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
Bring your own blankets and chairs and your mask for when you are up and walking around. We’ll provide the beer. Feel free to bring your own food as well. Bring the family, bring the dog and have a Pint, with us, in beautiful Cazenovia Park. We’ll be located next to the casino.
I found the city’s willingness to use our city park’s for this sort of commercial endeavor distasteful last year when I first became aware of it occurring in Caz Park. And, frankly, I was even more offended at that time when I realized Buffalo Olmsted Park Conservancy’s involvement – tacitly, or otherwise – in the endeavor.
But I find the concept of a pop-up beer garden in our public park’s even more problematic in the summer of 2020. It is hypocritical, at best, for Mayor Brown’s administration to issue public statements urging the public, on the one hand, ”not to let our guard down” and to “remain vigilant” to the threat of Covid-19, while it allows residents to gather in Cazenovia Park in large numbers and hold a pint of beer, in the other hand, without ensuring enforcement of our state’s social distancing guidelines and requirements.
I know that my sentiment will not be universally popular. But, nonetheless, I want to provide this shoutout to my friends and colleagues in North Buffalo:
THE RESURGENCE BREWING COMPANY’S PINTS-IN-THE-PARK SUMMER TOUR IS SCHEDULED TO POP-UP IN DELAWARE PARK ON AUGUST 7 & 8.
With All Due Respect,
P.S. Concerns have been raised for months that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in skyrocketing alcohol sales, and has raised concerns regarding substance abuse. See, for example, this.]
Here we are. Mid-May, longing to spend time outdoors, and dealing with snowflakes and overnight temperatures at or below freezing.
Perhaps our situation wouldn’t feel quite so uninspiring if we had experienced a more interesting winter. But WINTER – the season that helped put Buffalo on the national map back in 1977 with the infamous Blizzard of ’77 and record annual snowfall of 199.4 inches – has been overwhelmingly dull this past season (with a few exceptions along the Queen City’s waterfront). So I thought I would dig down (shovel?) into my photographic archives and share to two rather extreme and eerily beautiful winter experiences in our not too distant past.
January 2018 Cazenovia Creek ice floes
The casually serene elements of Cazenovia Park – reflected, I hope, in last week’s posting and photos – were transformed into a wintry moonscape in late January 2018. A prolonged period of frigid temperatures and snow falls created thick, extensive sheets of ice on Cazenovia Creek (and, elsewhere). The ice floes eventually were pushed over the creek’s banks, leaving behind an intense scene (which fascinated the winter walkers, such as myself, and must have confounded the park’s leashed canines). Here’s a sampling:
Snovember 2014 – East Aurora endures 90″ of snow in three days
Between the late evening of November 17th and the early morning of November 20, 2014, life for the Giacalone/Clarke family on Knox Road in the Village of East Aurora revolved around one activity: shoveling and moving approximately seven-and-a-half feet of snow from our 80-foot long driveway. Although there were Western New York naysayers who refused to believe the figures, a Syracuse-area publication, supported (I hope) by the pictures that follow, reported that the village of 6,000 people southeast of Buffalo indeed received 90.5 inches of snow (that’s 7.5 feet!) that week. Not that we could venture off our property. Traveling was banned. Even huge snow-removal trucks had difficulty driving down Knox Road. But we knew that failure to keep up with the snowy onslaught would make vehicular liberation nearly impossible once life started to return to normal.
The entire family joined in the task. I was not quite 65 at the time, youthful enough to handle the hard work, yet old enough to understand the wisdom of pacing myself. My slender-but-game 14-year-old son James, my seventeen-year-old daughter Lissa (who sat out the first two days of snow removal after suffering a mild concussion in gym class on November 17), and their long-suffering mother, all did their part.
Here are images from my former residence that memorable week of self-isolation, physical exertion, and wonder:
OK. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I’m ready for a refreshing spring and mild summer.
Be well. Be safe. Be productive.
With All Due Respect,
I hope my various photo “tours” the past 4 or 5 weeks have brought some distraction and enjoyment into the lives of those of you who may be spending more time at home than you’re used to. [To exercise my brain and test my memory, I’m going to try to list my posts (in no particular order): Buffalo-Erie County’s botanical gardens (I was scolded for originally referring to this wonderful place as “South Buffalo’s”); the Seneca-Iroquois national museum in Salamanca; WNY clouds; Rochester’s Lilac Festival 2019; Beaver Meadow nature preserve; and, the one I, frankly, didn’t initially remember, Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.]
This time, I’ve decided to look for the lovely, serene, or just interesting (at least, to me) right in my own neighborhood (which, fortunately, includes Cazenovia Park, one of Buffalo’s Olmsted jewels). My home, built in 1910, is on Oschawa Avenue, a one-block long street that awkwardly straddles the Buffalo-West Seneca border. I’m just two doors down from Indian Church Road.
I headed out for a walk early on Sunday morning, May 3rd, with my smart phone in my pocket (it usually remains behind on my desk). I was pleased that this lovely sight greeted me when I reached Indian Church Road:
As I headed the four blocks down Indian Church toward Seneca Street, a number of spring time images caught my eye:
But, as always, it was Cazenovia Park that captured my imagination.
And, in case you’d like to hear the rushing waters of Cazenovia Creek, here’s a short video:
It was time for me to head home. Hopefully, you enjoyed these images from my Sunday morning stroll (prior to the arrival of restless Buffalonians, donned with masks and exhibiting various efforts to maintain social distancing). Please let me know if you’re inspired to head out your front door in search of what’s inspiring in your neck-of-the-woods.
With All Due Respect,
The lawyering side of my multi-fractured personality has spent much too much time of late howling at the moon and tilting at windmills. So, having dispatched my latest professional task via USPS late Saturday morning, I walked to my neighborhood Olmsted Park – South Buffalo’s Cazenovia Park – on a sunny and brisk March afternoon with my aging iPhone inconspicuously resting in my front pocket. I tried for a few minutes, but I couldn’t resist the urge to engage in a photo shoot that has been on my mind the past couple of weeks, something I considered calling “Barking up the RIGHT tree in Caz Park.”
I realize that this collection of images may not be for everyone, but I’m taking the risk of sharing it nonetheless in hopes that some of you might enjoy it. Here it is:
With All Due Respect,
P.S. Here’s a bonus photo, taken in 2005, of a tree that caught my eye in a fairly well-known Olmsted Park in NYC:
The winds were bitter, but the skies were impressive on my Sunday morning stroll through South Buffalo’s Cazenovia Park. Hope you agree.
With All Due Respect,
[Note: An abbreviated version of this posting was published as a letter-to-the-editor in the Buffalo News “Everybody’s Column” on October 31, 2019. You can read it here.]
Jonathan D. Epstein, the business reporter at the Buffalo News, must have experienced a really slow news day in mid-October. Or, perhaps, Jonathan decided to do a favor and float a trial balloon for the three local firefighters – John Otto, Peter Scarcello, and Gino Gatti – who comprise the Hook & Ladder development company.
On October 15, Mr. Epstein and our region’s largest newspaper treated the following as newsworthy: (1) Hook & Ladder is “exploring the possibility of putting a brewery in the former St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church” on Seneca Street. (2) An existing deed restriction mandated by the Catholic Diocese whenever it sells a former church building bars a brewery in a former house of worship. (3) A brewery would be possible only if the diocese “gives its blessing.”
Former St. John’s church, 2317 Seneca St.
Detail from St. John’s Façade.
This story might have been worth the ink and paper used to produce the Buffalo News print version on October 16, 2019 had the Hook & Ladder boys already reached out to the diocese to discuss the concept of a brewery in the vacant church building. But, according to the article, that critical step had not occurred: “Diocese spokeswoman Kathy Spangler said they have not been contacted yet by Hook & Ladder about future development of the church.”
Whether or not the article was a premature, I found it both surprising and disappointing that Hook & Ladder would be giving any thought to installing a brewery at the corner of Seneca Street and Saint John’s Parkside.
After all, when Epstein initially reported Hook & Ladder’s purchase of the St. John’s property in January 2017 for $175,000 – under the too-cute headline, “Firefighters answer call to revive Seneca Street” – the firefighting team made no mention of a brewery. Rather, they expressed plans for 12 loft-style residential apartments on the second floor (which, I assume, is still part of the development company’s vision), and a deli, coffee shop or similar business in the front of the building, with office or other retail in back.
And, the company’s motto is: “We are committed to improving our community one property at a time.” In my humble opinion as a South Buffalo homeowner and resident, a brewery is not the way to attain that worthy goal.
Here are the primary reasons that I urge the diocese – when and if they are approached by Hook & Ladder – to quickly douse any spark or flame that could intensify into a full-blown brewery in old St. John’s:
– The former church has three sensitive neighbors. On one side is Grace House, a non-profit healthcare hospitality house, which promises patients and their families “overnight stays and day respite in a secure and peaceful guest house.”
Grace House, 2315 Seneca St.
Side yard between St. John’s and Grace House.
To the church’s rear is Baker Victory Service’s St. John’s Parkside Early Childhood Program, which offers “child care in a nurturing environment” on a “safe and accessible campus.”
Baker Victory Service’s Early Childhood facility, 51 St. Park’s Parkside.
View down St. John’s Parkside from Seneca St.
Steps away from the former St. John’s is the entrance to the busy and family-centric Cazenovia Park.
Entrance to Cazenovia Park at Seneca St./Warren Spahn Way with St. John’s in background.
– The zoning status of the property bars a brewery. The former house of worship is zoned “N-3R Residential” under Buffalo’s zoning and development ordinance, the “Green Code” (as are the neighboring hospitality house and early childhood program facilities). Neither a brewery, nor a restaurant, is permitted in a N-3R district.
While I don’t know whether Hook & Ladder’s principals took care to consider zoning constraints prior to purchasing the property, they may want to check out two potential uses for the former church under the Green Code: a cultural facility, or a bed-and-breakfast, would be allowed in the structure if a “special use permit” is approved by the City’s Common Council.
– There are plenty of places to get a drink on Seneca Street. The Seneca Street neighborhood doesn’t need another place to drink beer or other alcoholic beverages. Within four-tenths of a mile of the former church building there are six establishments where you can buy a drink, including the recently renovated Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub, the trendy Rocker Bottle Beer Reserve, and the old-time Daly’s Bar. There are also two liquor stores.
My suggestion: Let’s encourage Hook & Ladder to find a meaningful use for this historic structure, activities that will truly enhance the Seneca Street/Cazenovia Park neighborhood.
With All Due Respect,
After nearly a ten-week hiatus, I’m gently easing back into my postings with a pictorial presentation. On Sunday, July 19th, South Buffalo ALIVE, a “non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in the South Buffalo area,” held its 15th annual “Garden Tour” (note: given its scale, only the hardiest would choose to actually “walk” it).
From my perspective, the event could not have been more perfectly timed. Less than three weeks have slipped by since I began the transition into the “next chapter” of my life, moving from East Aurora to my new residence in South Buffalo’s Cazenovia Park neighborhood. Most of my boxes are unpacked, and the furniture has settled into their more-or-less permanent positions. And I was restless to hop on my bike, explore the community, and meet some of my neighbors. Starting in the busy, beautiful, Olmsted-designed Cazenovia Park, here’s some of what I experienced:
A pleasant Famer’s Market:
A perfect day to participate in a baseball tournament:
Or to just relax in the shade and watch our “national past-time”:
It also was a perfect day to appreciate the natural beauty of a meandering Cazenovia Creek:
And, more solemnly, to honor the memory of five brave men, Michael Austin (39), Michael Catanzaro (37), Matthew Colpoys (47), James Lickfeld (43), and Anthony Wazkielewicz (37), who lost their lives on December 27, 1983:
While waiting for the light to change at the busy intersection of Abbott Road and Warren Spahn Way (a parkway with an appropriate maximum speed of 15 M.P.H.), I couldn’t help but appreciate the difference between the urban setting one experiences when departing South Buffalo’s Olmsted Park and the sights and sounds one is subjected to alongside North Buffalo’s Scajaquada-split Delaware Park:
The official start of South Buffalo ALIVE’s Garden Tour is at the Tim Russert’s Children’s Garden at 2002 South Park (between Choate and Whitfield avenues and next to the Dudley Library):
My bicycle tour lasted a bit more than two hours, cut short by hunger and some obligations back home. To my chagrin, I only saw a fraction of the gardens available for viewing. But I have little doubt that the 16th Annual Garden Tour will take place next July, and I’m already looking forward to it. Here are photos of a few of the personal gardens graciously shared by South Buffalo residents with the public:
As well as an institutional garden:
And two community gardens that I regularly enjoy on my morning walks around my new neighborhood: At the end of Teresa Place (off Seneca Street near Indian Church Road):
And at 2195 Seneca Street, the Seneca/Cazenovia Community Garden, conscientiously attended to by South Buffalo CREW and neighborhood residents:
With All Due Respect (and Appreciation)