A “Festival of Ideas for Buffalo”

Festival aims to inspire change

Have you ever thought to yourself that something should happen in Buffalo – some sort of idea should take root – that would benefit the city? If so, you’re not alone. Countless people have countless ideas and concepts that could lead to great things occuring in Buffalo. Coming up with ideas is one thing… rallying around them is another.

Aug. 30, Sept. 6, 13 – Festival aims to inspire change

At Buffalo Rising, we are constantly fielding unique concepts from readers, who have traveled to other cities. Why should we reinvent the wheel, when others have already paved the way for success? That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be inventive, it’s just that there are plenty of best case scenarios out there that we can glean from.

As a way to learn more about what other people, and other cities are doing, The Campaign for Greater Buffalo is hosting a series of three presentations called Urban Revival Buffalo that aim to create a more equitable, sustainable, and attractive Buffalo. The events are free and open to the public, with donations appreciated.

The series kicks off on Tuesday August 30 at 6:00pm at Eugene Debs Hall, Peckham and Clark streets, Buffalo, with “Bikeopolis,” a look at European bicycle cultures in Dutch, Belgian, and German cities by Campaign Executive Director Tim Tielman. Tielman rode his bike to school and on urban explorations while a child in the Netherlands. A bike rider ever since and fresh off a working holiday in Holland and Germany, Tielman will show what it takes to embed “bikethinking” in everyday life and how that creates an ever-improving local bikeway standards and networks, 11,000-space underground bike garages, an international network of intercity bikeways, vital cities and happy citizens. 

It wasn’t always that way, even in The Netherlands. It took riots and bike “die-ins” by citizens to turn the tide of car culture and restore lost freedom of movement for those on bikes and to protect the historic architecture and land uses of Dutch cities that made walking and biking possible. Buffalo bicyclists once had the freedom to safely roam, too. The local bike network stretched to Lake Ontario and included a 23-mile path around Grand Island, built by the Erie County Sidepath Commission. How can Buffalo start rebuilding the ecosystem that makes a bike-city possible?

Bernice Radle, executive director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara and bike enthusiast, will provide an introductory talk relating her experience biking in The Netherlands. The event is a “Jane’s Talk,” a series of lectures held at Debs Hall.

The Urban Revival then moves downtown for its second installment at the Lafayette Brewing Company in the Hotel Lafayette on Wednesday September 6 at 5:30pm and a look at the radical reconstruction of the lost cores of Berlin, Dresden, and Frankfurt. In “Back by Popular Demand,” Tielman explains that the cities were first bombed flat in WWII, then rebuilt in Modernist and Brutalist styles. Residents found them soul-crushing and unsupportive of a rich urban life. 

That is, until the 1990s, when German reunification gave impetus to citizens’ movements to demolish the oppressive post-war constructions and empty spaces and fill them with outwardly exacting reconstructions of what existed before the war: medieval and baroque streets lined with everything from modest shophouses to imperial palaces. complete with streets and squares where cars are tightly controlled and humans given free-range,  the reconstructed precincts are much-loved vessels of memory and vitality. 

In the third and final installment in the series, “New Amsterdam,” again at the Lafayette Brewing Company, on Wednesday September 13 at 5:30pm, Tielman looks at the new neighborhoods built since 1990 that tourists, absorbed by charming and ingenious 17th century canals and canal houses, don’t see. Whether in old office parks, lumber docks, or on new man-made islands, the new neighborhoods employ techniques that emulate the comfortable domesticity of the 17th century within 21st century systems. You could call it paleo-urbanism. Buffalo, originally named New Amsterdam, could learn a lot from Old Amsterdam!

The largest Dutch cities were actually losing population due in no small part to post-war government policies favoring decentralization and road construction, combined with Modernist planning theories and architecture. With a lot of encouragement from an informed and demonstrative public, the city did an about-face and built new districts of thousands of apartments and houses according to principals, emphasizing materials, scale, and locomotion that supported human nature. It also refurbished existing streets and neighborhoods to increase quality of life by de-emphasize speed and cars. 

The result? Amsterdam is better and more popular than ever, with steady growth, world-class historic areas, beautiful new architecture that compliments the old, and a superb mobility system that ties it all together.

To learn more, visit The Campaign for Greater Buffalo.

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