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Letter: So-called obstructionists helped Buffalo immensely

So-called obstructionists helped Buffalo immensely

It was heartening to read in the Jan. 18 News Donn Esmonde’s column honoring those many civic-minded citizens of the past decades who have been labeled “obstructionists” and ridiculed as out of touch with reality. To the struggles mentioned, he could have added:

• Blocking construction of a high-speed highway through the heart of Allentown.

• Preserving several mansions on Delaware Avenue above North Street. (Sadly, the most important of them all, the Metcalfe House, was lost. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York now exhibits rooms from it as one of the foremost examples of 19th century American architecture.)

• Warnings not to close Main Street in downtown to automobile traffic because it would create the Desert of Main. (It was pointed out at the time that such “pedestrian malls” had already been tried and failed in other American cities.

• Capitalizing on the city’s architectural heritage, especially Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House, to promote tourism.

• Restoring the Olmsted Park and Parkway System, once honored as one of America’s outstanding urban plans.

• Adaptively reusing historical buildings, especially to repopulate downtown.

Esmonde is correct to point out that the people making decisions about the physical city have demonstrated little knowledge of, or love for, the life of cities. It has not been in the blood, in the way it was in the veins of the progressive civic leaders of 150 years ago who built this remarkable place. Indeed, it is well-overdue for Buffalo to turn to the new generation of urbanists to guide the future.

Francis R. Kowsky

SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus