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If I were Infallible Dictator… I Mean, uh, Mayor

If I were Infallible Dictator… I Mean, uh, Mayor

What say, for a minute, that Buffalo’s Mayor was suddenly and tragically killed in a snow, football, and chicken wing-related incident and, through a series of wacky mishaps, I fell into position as Mayor of Buffalo. I can tell you now the first thing I would do: Assuming that everyone on the City Council died “mysterious” deaths, I would use the ensuing power void to tighten my grip and expand my authority, thus making myself from the mere Mayor into the Infallible Dictator of Buffalo. Maybe that comes off as a little harsh, but considering what I have in store for the city, I can’t take the chance of anyone there standing in the way of my grand plans. Yes, a giant laser would be involved. Actually, now that I think of it, two of them would be involved: One pointed at Albany and the other aimed straight at New York City. Before I started going all Bond villain on the state’s ass, though, I would first try to spruce up the quality of life in Buffalo in the following ways:

NFTA
It’s not a public secret that Buffalo’s public transit system is neither. What I would want to do is introduce the NFTA to the free market, so that when it died its inevitable death, it would go out knowing exactly how much it sucks. Buffalo’s public transit issues would ideally be solved when I brought a few enterprising transportation visionaries to Buffalo and gave them a few incentives to set up shop as the local people movers. Hopefully, the competition would drive the NFTA to get its act together, quit dropping routes to the city’s poorest neighborhoods, start providing something that resembles weekend and holiday services, and send its buses around on inner ‘burb routes more than once every two hours. If it acted the way it acts now in the face of real competition, I would watch and laugh as it died its slow death and their leaders kept begging for more funding. It had its chance. It blew it. And as a bonus, the city could finally liberate that undeveloped waterfront property the NFTA owns and refuses to do anything with.

Main Place Mall and Tower
A free market solution won’t do much more to the building that got me into The Buffalo News – the free market already killed this place, but its owners are too dumb to know it. One could liken Main Place Mall to a movie villain that just doesn’t go down, no matter how much the good guy keeps shooting at it. At any rate, the place gets demolished, and we get replica replacements of the Erie County Savings Bank and every other building that was wiped out to make room for Buffalo Place, except with updated, modern amenities. (Actually, I would hope the architect for this project would try to reproduce the interior of Main Place Tower’s lobby; to the little credit that can be given to it, the lobby is gorgeous.) Maybe we could also convince the Liberty Building owners to demolish that enormous nook on the mall side that ruins its symmetry in order to connect the two. For now, though, well, you do realize Seneca Mall was razed when people stopped going and businesses weren’t renting space there anymore, right?

Skyway
This is my infrastructure archenemy. While I’ve seen numerous proposals to turn it into a long, floating park, all those proposals have the same problem: They’re impractical. Don’t get me wrong; I love the idea, but there’s no way it’s getting done. Think about it; we’re barely able to maintain the skyway the way it is now, and one of the popular ideas involves year-round maintenance of lawn, glass-enclosed walkways, safety devices, asphalt pathways, and god only knows what else on top of the current structure. Meanwhile, tearing the whole thing down would be $10 million. The city spent more than that on Pilot Field! Therefore, I’m doing the easy thing here and ripping down the skyway. It would remove an eyesore, open up the waterfront to the Old First Ward, and make Tifft Street and Fuhrmann Boulevard more accessible. We could also get more green space in the city without it sitting there by giving the ruins a light landscaping makeover.

The Whole Stadium Issue
When Ralph Wilson died last year, I was impressed as I watched The Buffalo News raise the question of whether or not it would be right for Buffalo to keep the Bills. Then Terry Pegula bought the team, and The News dropped all pretense of economic and logistic issues and started debating about where to put the new stadium. It’s offensive that the idea of placing a stadium anywhere downtown is even being considered – a new downtown stadium would mean devastating property blows to Larkin, or the Cobblestone District, or both. The Larkin and Cobblestone Districts are both being held up as shining examples of the New Buffalo. Both are new neighborhoods which were built up around stagnant, abandoned property thought to offer nothing but potential parking lots. A downtown stadium would be a classic example of Buffalo shooting itself in the foot, 60’s urban renewal style. A good alternate site would be the old Central Terminal – we could give the classic piece a shining and buffing, and build the stadium right around it, perhaps turning the train platforms themselves into the entryway and the building into a fan zone and souvenir shop. Oh, and one more thing: I won’t be taking any shit from the NFL. It makes $9 billion a year. It’s footing the bill for this thing. Otherwise, the Bills are playing at Southside Elementary until I’m formally able to throw them out of the area.

One HSBC Tower
No, I don’t care what name they’re slopping all over it at the moment. Hell, the only reason I’m calling it One HSBC Tower is so it has a proper reference that everyone knows. To me, it will always be the oversized refrigerator box ruining the skyline that even cockroaches think is below their standards. The place is almost completely vacant, and knocking down the tower would immediately improve the skyline. We can hang on to the base, though – it would make a fine new convention center. Not because it’s any prettier than the tower (or the current Convention Center, in fact), but because it wouldn’t destroy the skyline, and it doesn’t choke off any streets.

Buffalo Convention Center
Speak of the devil. This is an ugly disparagement to the city’s radial pattern which also chokes off traffic. It just gets destroyed.

Delaware Park
I don’t think Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect of Delaware Park, would have approved of the huge landscaping blunder which guts it: The Scajaquada Expressway, which some idiot city planner thought would be a good idea to place in the middle of the park, bisecting it. Let’s face it; placing a high-speed road in the middle of a park doesn’t exactly scream “Welcome to our fun, friendly place of relaxation, meditation, and escape;” instead, it says “Nobody in this city gives a shit about physical exercise and fresh air, parks are just another span to drive across when you’re late for a football game.” This just isn’t going to do. Therefore, I’m going to make it into a large bicycle and walking trail, planting a few trees along the sides and through the middle, basically turning this chunk of the Scajaquada into a nice, tree-lined boulevard without the cars.

I guess I can amend this to say that all brutalist and modernist architecture built during the revitalization era from the ’60’s to the ’90’s should be removed and replaced with more of the Victorian and Gothic buildings that stood the test of time. We’re not trying to win any height contests here; we’re trying to bring some beauty to the area and get rid of the empty monuments that remain of the people who jumped ship. I can almost certainly think of more things to do than this – off the top of me head, the Buffalo Museum of Science could use an expansion, and why the hell does the city have so many parking lots? – but this should be enough to get the community’s creative juices pumping again. Maybe some of you think these ideas are a little farfetched, but if so, just remember two things: First, our (ongoing?) fiasco with the Peace Bridge involved a suspension bridge twin span which looked nothing like the current bridge; second, the city was once dangerously close to hinging its entire economic development plan on a fishing store.

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The Long-Lost Pilot Episode of CSI: Buffalo

The Long-Lost Pilot Episode of CSI: Buffalo

I once caught a want ad in the local newspaper saying that if I wanted a CSI franchise in my city, I had to call 1-800-CSI-5555. Wanting some decent publicity for my hometown, I made the phone call and was immediately made the executive producer. They sent a screenwriter to help me bang out a pilot that was supposed to be sent in in a week. Everything was all set – we managed to draw the attention of a crew of acting and music A-listers to star! Unfortunately, due to New York State and City of Buffalo government regulations, the pilot episode failed to ever get off the ground. Regulations and moral questions prevented us from, you know, doing much of anything without first giving the Mayor’s office and Common Council all our money for film taxes and bribes. So here’s the long-lost script for CSI: Buffalo. You’ll just have to use your imaginations. Enjoy!

Setting: Ralph Wilson Stadium
A group of crime scene investigators is walking down the stairs in the 100 level of Ralph Wilson Stadium. They include McCoy, the well-worn Captain; Beukelski, the person who does the autopsies; Rammenhuigul, a decorated by-the-book officer; and Bonnelli, an eager rookie. They are being led down the stairs by one of the stadium cleaners.

McCoy: What seems to have happened here?

Cleaner:There’s a dead body right at row 26. You can’t miss him. You’re standing on him!

McCoy: (Quickly steps off body) Oh! I thought that platform felt suspiciously soft and squishy!

Beukelski leans down and removes the body’s jacket. It’s wearing a New England Patriots jersey with Tom Brady’s number.

Beukelski: The man is wearing a Patriots jersey. A Tom Brady jersey, no less. (Leans down to take a closer look again) Well, I can tell you he didn’t accidentally fall down the stairs.

Bonnelli: At least he had good seats.

Rammenhuigul: Don’t make fun. I’ll put it in the paperwork.

Bonnelli: You and your paperwork.

Beukelski: Yeah, looks like he took a hell of a beating. There is no consistent pattern which would indicate a fall down the stairs, and he appears to have a lot of splotchy bruises on his torso. He has shoulder pads on for some reason, which nullified some of the damage. What I find odd, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of blood around for someone who got beat up and died that way.

Rammenhuigul: There goes my faith in humanity. Who the hell would ever do a thing like this?

McCoy: You say that so much its lost all meaning. It’s Buffalo. It’s a Bills game! People get hurt! They die! Anyone who gets caught just gets fined $50 these days.

Rammenhuigul: Yeah, but it’s usually not so brutal. You! Person with the broom! Did you happen to get any sight of just what happened to this poor guy?

Cleaner: Yes, but there was no sign of him being seriously hurt. We just cleaned up the little bit of blood and all the teeth that spilled and figured he would get up and walk it off. You know Boston people. They keep telling everyone how tough they are, so I figured he’d be fine.

Bonnelli: Dude, I went to the academy in Boston. The guys there talk tough, but they’re all a buncha worthless mouth breathers. Punch me!

Cleaner punches Bonnelli several times in the face and stomach.

Cleaner: Okay, what’s your point?

Bonnelli: Boston guys can’t stand up to that kinda punishment. They’ll fall over if you flick their ears. Tough in big cities ain’t like TOUGH.

The body begins stirring

Bonnelli: (Shocked) Maybe I spoke too soon.

Beukelski: Don’t look now, but our corpse decided it’s not a corpse after all.

The body slowly gets up as the crew watches in amazement.

“Dead” Body: Oh, the cops! Boy, am I glad you guys showed up! A bunch of hooligans beat me up after the game! Luckily I was wearing shoulder pads, but I think I hit my head on as I fell.

Beukelski: Oh! Well, that explains everything!

Rammenhuigul: Not everything. Why are you wearing a Tom Brady jersey?!

“Dead” Body: Because. I’m Tom Brady.

McCoy: Oh. You look so different without your teeth!

Tom Brady: Yeah, I know. Lucky me, right? Except without my teeth, I won’t be able to blind opposing defenses anymore.

McCoy: Yeah, uh, good – lucky you, I think.

Rammenhuigul: Well, I guess I’m saved a little paperwork, but not much….

Bonnelli: Anyone else thinking what I’m thinking?

McCoy: Way ahead of ya!

As Tom Brady pulls out a mirror to check his boyish mop-top head, the four officers all take a step back at the same time, pull out their guns, and shoot him until they’re out of ammunition.

Beukelski: Well, I can say without any reservation now that Tom Brady is dead.

McCoy: To South Buffalo! To the bars!

Rammenhuigul: Drink to a good day’s work, well done!

The four officers turn to walk out of the stadium as the cleaner leaves to get the mop. Bonnelli lags a little in back to talk with the cleaner.

Bonnelli: You sure you got this mess, dude?

Cleaner: You should see some of the things I’m forced to clean up on gameday! This is no problem!

Bonnelli suddenly turns and quickly moves back down to Tom Brady’s body. He gives it a kick.

Bonnelli: And that’s for the hotel comment!