Let’s reclaim parkway to create One Buffalo
The “I Remember” campaign by the Restore Our Community Coalition is more than a nostalgic nod to a Frederick Law Olmsted masterpiece landscape connecting Delaware Park and what was then called Parade Park (now Martin Luther King Park). Even as we create a community memory album at roccbuffalo.org, the “I Remember” campaign is a call to action for reclamation of Humboldt Parkway to create One Buffalo. We must reconnect a community left out of Buffalo’s economic renaissance. To restore the parkway would bring almost 1,000 construction jobs and create a fitting gateway to downtown Buffalo and the medical corridor.
This part of Buffalo’s African-American history is painful. As the 1950s turned into the ’60s, the tree-lined parkway was gutted to build the Kensington Expressway, just as the neighborhood was becoming home to some of the city’s most prominent African-American families, such as Robert Coles, an architect who defiantly designed his home with its rear to the expressway, or the Waltons, who both worked at the Chevrolet plant, where Mrs. Walton was the plant nurse, or the Singletons, whose father was a union leader at the Bethlehem Steel plant and a real estate agent. Those residents fought, but lost, the battle when public officials presented a plan to expedite access to downtown for suburbanites.
Powerless to prevent their property values from plummeting, and defenseless against the property damage caused by the blasting and highway construction, a remnant of those residents remain today as owner occupants amongst absentee landlords meeting the demand for student housing. Construction of the Kensington is a shameful part of Buffalo’s history, environmentally, economically and socially; but to rewrite that history, we must first acknowledge the wrong, and then prioritize funding for the restoration. A restored and reconnected community is important to the growth of the One Buffalo, the New Buffalo, which should include vibrant and healthy communities for all.
Stephanie Barber Geter
Restore Our Community Coalition