Hearing Explores Restoring Olmsted's Park's Vision

Buffalo, NY – In 1876, Frederick Law Olmsted bragged about Buffalo, calling it "the best planned city as to its streets, public places and grounds in the United States - if not the world." But he might have withrawn that praise if he'd been around to witness the "urban renewal" that took place here in the mid 1950s. In recent years, the debate has resurfaced about how - or if - to restore Olmsted's vision. Wednesday night, the first of three public hearings was held on a proposed redesign of the Scajaquada Expressway.

The post war boom gave birth to phenomenal growth in the suburbs. And then came the expressways to take people there. Multi-lane highways like the Niagara Thruway, the Scajaquada and Kensington Expressways, cut through some of Buffalo's most pristine areas, with speed and access replacing ambience and aesthetic. In fact, some argue that the rush to convenience left Olmsted's showcase park and parkway system compromised.

Laura Fulton represents the Olmsted Parks Conservancy on an advisory group that has been studying a possible redesign of the Scajaquada Expressway. Fulton says the goal is to find out what people want to do, specifically, about the two mile stretch between Grant Steet and Agassiz Circle.

"I think everyone feels strongly about that section of the Scajaquada. And I think most people would say is that they feel that it's unsafe and they want a change. What those changes should be is really up to everyone," Fulton said. "What we're really trying to do is find out what the community really wants for this area. We're hoping that with this input we can all work together toward really making a huge difference for the future of the city."

The public hearing was led by city and state officials, as well as members of the Corridor Study Advisory group, which includes various community representatives. The public was asked for its input on how best to create a more unified and safe corridor.

Previous suggestions have included redesigning the roadway, possibly with stop signs, and also lowering the speed limit. Fulton says they will also incorporate discussions on other parkway issues, such as a proposed tunnel for the Humboldt, between East Ferry and Best Streets. Over the next year, the group will determine the four best options for redesigning - or keeping the corridor - as is.