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It's time to polish our region's jewels

So often we read about what is wrong with Buffalo and Western New York and so infrequently we read about what is right. We are fortunate to have several entities that are clearly major jewels. Consider Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, Kleinhans Music Hall, the many colleges and universities, the Statler, the Liberty Bank building and City Hall.

When I really want to impress someone about Buffalo's cultural past, I take them to the beautiful Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Historical Museum next door, and finally to the Science Museum at the other end of what used to be a beautiful, tree-lined boulevard called Humboldt Parkway, now the Scajaquada.

This expressway efficiently carries many cars to their destination, however, I really miss having that parkway, with giant elms and riders of horses plying their way in the center. It was gorgeous. The Scajaquada is a testament to the sacrifice of beauty to efficiency.

My spirits soared last December while attending musical events in the OLV Basilica, and the Montante Cultural Center. I wished I could equally soar when looking at the Buffalo waterfront all the way from Fuhrmann Boulevard to Ontario Street. The Canadians across the river have already seen and implemented the obvious. Their waterfront is beautiful. Is Western New York any less deserving of that beauty?

At present, there is a huge building being brought to the ground at the foot of Lafayette Avenue and Niagara Street. Until recently all you could see was ugly brick when looking toward the river. Now, if you look past the rubble, you will see Bird Island and even a swatch of the Niagara River from that vantage point. If I were a CEO of a hugely profitable enterprise, I would want that view for myself as well as for those I provided a livelihood. Will a new structure of steel or brick cut off that beautiful view again in the shortsighted name of modernity, taxability, profitability and efficiency?

The Buffalo waterfront is the major Western New York jewel. Though it is now an eyesore in many places, with the possible exception of the marina and Front Park, our majestic waterfront could become our most beautiful jewel. I beseech our elected and appointed officials to make sure our precious waterfront is not once more turned over to commercial enterprises, but rather becomes a common park that will make our spirits soar for generations to come.

The basic tenet of architecture is that function precedes form. What is too often left by the wayside is the construct of beauty. Consider that beauty needs to be a part of form if there is to be quality present. In this paradigm, beauty actually precedes form because it precedes desirability, and desirability precedes profitability.

If we desire more investment in Buffalo, then make the entire waterfront a desirable place to be near or at least to enjoy visually. People, including investors, don't want to be around ugly.

Unfortunately, in the past, beauty gave way to narrow-minded emphasis upon function, profitability and taxability, which is now a deficit. Our waterfront has a disproportionate share of ugly, with some exceptions. I am convinced the future of Buffalo rests with our respect for our waterfront, our God-given major resource, which could become our major jewel.

Tom Caulfield, a retired professor from Canisius College, has lived in Western New York all his life, except for four years active duty with the Navy.

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