Starr Gazing

Dr. Dan Starr
Retired Director of Athletics and Professor Emeritus of American History at Canisius College.


Big Costs on the Horizon

Time for an update on important happenings in our fair city. Our politicians are willing to spend some large sums of money on “needs,” i.e., things deemed vital to our existence. Some expenditures may be necessary. I consulted a group of knowledgeable friends, seeking their views on these important matters. They are impressed by the great strides that our surging midsize Queen City has made over the past decade.

The list of possible “needs,” in no particular order (and there are more):

1. A new stadium for the Bills (in the city?)

2. A new convention center (downtown)

3. An extension of the Metro rail system to Tonawanda/Amherst/UB

4. A new route/road/passageway to replace the Skyway

Here are some suggestions and commentary by fellow citizens.

Zuke, a staunch union official, recognizes that Buffalo needs a new stadium to satisfy the greedy NFL owners. The Bills are good, even essential, for Buffalo; a majority of the citizenry agree. We are the smallest city (other than Green Bay – special case) to be blessed (or cursed?) with an NFL team. Spend the billion and put it downtown (possibly between Canalside and the Larkin complex).

My pal, Nathan Detroit, thinks a new convention center MAY be important. However, he, like most, believe that much more discussion is needed before we sink money into this project. Will a new convention center really attract more and bigger conventions? As downtowner Frank Zimmer notes, “we are not Dallas or Charlotte!”

Regarding a Metro rail extension, the cognoscenti from the Pub, the Rib, Aroma, JJs, Family Tree, Glen Park, McPartlands, Dash’s Spot, and on and on, seem overwhelmingly opposed. It is simply not necessary. There was one clever caveat; it was offered by Big Frank and his brother George. They offered that if the rail passes by the new “Sinatra City,” replacing the Boulevard Mall, then perhaps the Sinatra group might finance the rail extension to Tonawanda/Amherst/UB.

The Skyway is a keeper, despite what any wild-haired Congressman might say. I have written before and will do again on the merits of our Skyway. Save Our Skyway (SOS) and save the money that would have been spent on demolishing the Skyway and put it and the money saved by not extending the Metro rail toward a new stadium and convention center. Even Governor Cuomo would listen to that.

Colonel Bob D., a Vietnam vet, and card-carrying member of the Wellington Pub Chowder and Marching Society has a provocative suggestion for facilitating traffic over the Buffalo Harbor. It would be an alternative to tearing down the Skyway. He suggested following the example of what the North Vietnamese did in the 1960s to counter the U.S. Air Force bombing of the bridge over the river at Hanoi. Once the bridge was destroyed, the North Vietnamese countered with a pontoon bridge. Pontoon barges were hidden along the shoreline in daytime, then at night they would be pulled into the river to form a bridge. Supplies and troops would then pass over unmolested all night long. In the morning, the pontoons were stowed away out of sight of U.S. B-52s. It worked. A “portable” pontoon bridge in the Buffalo Harbor, say from the DL&W terminal across to Furman Blvd., would be a “bridge” that could easily be assembled and disassembled. It could be a partial solution!

Sometimes our tax money is not used wisely. Here’s a classic example: there is a new, elaborate welcome center alongside the NY State Thruway in the middle of Grand Island. It is rather posh, with paintings, murals, etched bricks, spacious sitting areas, and a very large parking lot. A fine building, indeed! But it is empty of customers. A white elephant. As Grand Island Joe says, “It’s like putting a coffee shop in the middle of Forest Lawn cemetery. Same attendance!” The Robert Moses-type builders who were responsible should have first looked at the welcome center in Fort Erie to avoid a similar mistake. About 30-40 years ago, as soon as cars passed through toll booths into Canada, there was a type of kiosk on the immediate left. There, you could get travel information, exchange money, and buy refreshments. It was busy and convenient. You then could immediately pull back on to the QEW and be on your way to Toronto and other points north.

Alas, my Canadian friends say it was too good to be true. Some bureaucrats arranged for a welcome center to be built a mile up the QEW near the racetrack. The large lavish building is now a ghost facility; a welcome center that has no one to welcome.

A few addendums:

April’s column on the Cold Springs neighborhood neglected to mention Mike McGuire (father of Buffalo Bison color man, Duke McGuire). Mike was a recognized sports figure and politician in Amherst, and founding member of the Amherst Gaelic league. A few years ago, Mike gave me a tour of the Cold Springs area where he grew up. I saw the homes of the famous and the “digs” of the average characters that Mike knew as a youngster. It was a first class tour. I also failed to mention the legendary Paul’s Pies bakery, just down Main Street from Freddie’s donuts. More on that next time.

New words, new language:

Grab- It seems as though this has replaced “get,” as in “Let’s grab some lunch.”

Culture- This word used to refer to those things that were rather high-brow, typically associated with the fine arts, and intellectual endeavors, did it not? The word would be used by people who said “eye-ther” not “ee-ther” or “to-MAH-to” not “to-MAY-to.” These days, the word culture is tossed about indiscriminately by coaches, athletic types, and anyone who wants to make a broad statement about how we live. As in, “you must change the culture.”

Engagement- Businesses, colleges, and every new appointment seem to have “engagement” attached to it. Alumni engagement is a popular phrase. Podunk University no longer has an Alumni Office; they now have an Office of Alumni Engagement. It no longer refers only to people tying the knot.


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