Long Story Short: When fountains attack
illustration by JP Thimot
Fix that, part II: street stuff
Following last week’s reports on things around town that require repairs or maintenance, here are some more annoying cracks in Buffalo’s infrastructure that make us wonder: why don’t they fix that?
The drunk-driver magnet
On July 13, 2015, a car driven at high speed by an intoxicated woman hit a Delaware Avenue median and became airborne, crash landing between a bench and tree at Buffalo’s magnificent Gates Circle fountain. This occurred as repairs were already in progress from an earlier car crash at the landmark, which had just been beautifully restored (after years of neglect). Two months later, there was another crash on the spot, this one thanks to a drunken male driver. Then, the following spring, two women and a man in a stolen car collided into the unlucky fountain.
This iconic landmark is part of the Olmsted Parkway System and is listed on the National Register of Historic Properties. The Gates Circle intersection brings together several neighborhoods, including Chapin Parkway, Delaware Park, Elmwood Village and downtown Buffalo. It’s on all the tourist websites and city guides. Yet it was never fully repaired after the 2015 incident—over three years ago—which qualifies this situation as an official public disgrace.
There are really two things to fix here, and one depends on the other. The city has already spent $212,082 dollars (presumably from one of several insurance claims) to do partial repairs. The remainder—especially repairing the broken brass lamp standards—will cost, well, a lot. Before the city spends that money, it wants to alter how traffic flows around the circle. To do that, they plan to conduct a traffic study … in 2019! This study will involve neighborhood input, always an unfailingly sluggish process. Then, presumably, the city will implement some sort of traffic changes that will make the circle safer from drunks. And then they will fix the fountain. Meanwhile, the public gets to look at the damaged landmark year after year.
The Olmsted Conservancy had a recent community meeting (they plan more) to discuss park project priorities for the next five years. You would expect that Gates Circle would be at the head of the line, since it involves a repair of an existing restoration that’s covered by insurance.
A rhetorical question: how long did it take to lower the speed limit and install guide rails on the 198 after a child was killed when a car went off the road? Within four months, crews added new stop signs at many of the on-ramps and began working on new pavement markings with various visual cues to calm the traffic. The city can move fast when it wants to.
So, why is it taking four years just to get a traffic study for Gates Circle, and who knows how long after that to repair the fountain? Have you no civic pride, Buffalo leaders?
We’re on the road to everywhere
Say you’re traveling on Goodell, a four-lane one-way street branching off the 33, heading west toward Main. The far-right lane is marked for right turns only onto Main Street. The far-left lane is marked for left turns only onto Main Street. You don’t want to get caught in either of those lanes, so you move to one of two poorly marked middle lanes. These two center lanes bend ever so slightly to the left as they enter Main, but not enough. If you were to drive straight ahead in either lane you would hit the curb on the other side of Main Street. So, drivers in both center lanes must jog to the left to enter the two-lane “streets” across Main. Wait, did you say two-lane “streets?” Yes, the sign on the left curb says Pearl; the sign on the right curb says Edward.
Immediately after drivers enter the two-lane “streets” of Pearl/Edward, Edward splits off to the right with two lanes of its own, and Pearl bends to the left with its own two lanes. Those in the left center lane on Goodell who drive through Main to the closest lane straight ahead technically cross into another lane of traffic, because that’s the right lane of Pearl/Edward. There are no street markings saying where to go, and everyone is traveling thirty miles-per-hour, so there's no stopping to think.
Those in the right center lane of Goodell are forced to bear left to enter Pearl/Edward, potentially driving into cars that just crossed into their paths. Those who follow Pearl from the right center Goodell lane—because after Main, that becomes Goodell’s right lane—must cut across the two-lane branch-off of Edward. If the car in the left lane is going straight on Edward, it may intersect with another car’s left door panel—or maybe that car’s passenger side, because two vehicles can’t occupy the same space.
More often, everyone slams on the brakes and horns and gives each other the finger. Sound confusing? It is! The lanes are inadequately marked, and there’s no protocol in the New York State driving laws to tell anyone what to do in the 1.5 seconds there is to decide. So we say…
Readers, do you have items you’d like to see repaired somewhere in the Buffalo region? Let us hear from you.
Long Story Shorter
In case you haven’t heard, the new name of the former Coca-Cola Field, former Dunn Tire Park, former North AmeriCare Park, former The Downtown Ballpark, former Pilot Field, will soon be… Sahlen Field!
If the Bisons must keep selling this beloved baseball park’s name to the highest bidder, they couldn’t do better than Sahlen. Peanuts and crackerjacks aren’t as popular as they once were at the ballgame, but Sahlen’s is frankly the taste of Buffalo Baseball. (See what I did there?) Sahlens and the Buffalo Bisons announced the ten-year naming rights agreement last Tuesday.
Sahlen’s, which became the “official hot dog” of the Buffalo Bisons in 2012, should get a marketing boost through its association with the park, and with Bisons affiliate, the Toronto Blue Jays. The five-generation family-owned meat packing company is celebrating 150 years in business. It’s to be hoped that the hot dog company renews the naming rights for the next 150 years, so fans can finally get used to calling the park by one name.
The only thing left now is for the Bisons’ popular Wing, Cheese & Carrot Race to become the Wing, Cheese, Carrot & Weiner Race.
Buffalo’s housing shortage
Anyone who’s tried to buy a house in Buffalo in the past few years knows that there’s a housing shortage. Bidding wars are getting bloody, and open houses are attended by a dozen or more potential buyers. Homes often sell the moment they go on the market. Cash offers are not uncommon, often at more than the asking price.
According to a recent study by the National Association of Realtors, Buffalo has experienced the fourth biggest decline in available homes across the country over the past three years. In certain neighborhoods, such as the Elmwood Village, Allentown, and the Delaware District, prices have shot up beyond many people’s economic reach.
It could be at least partly due to all the great national press Buffalo’s been getting lately. Our quality of life and low cost of living used to be a well-kept secret. Snow was all we were known for. But millennial “boomerangs” are coming back to spawn families, and newcomers are realizing Buffalo has more to offer than chicken wings. Despite the drastic bump in prices, Buffalo housing is still far cheaper than most other cities in the study. However, some realtors think the market is about to turn. They say more new houses are coming online, and buyers are beginning to tire of overinflated prices. People are willing to wait. Maybe the good times for sellers are almost over, and buyers can finally catch a break.
City parents catch a break
North Buffalo is getting its very own indoor multipurpose sports facility and a new splash pad. It’s going to happen at Shoshone Park, near the intersection of Hertel and Main. Officials say they are about half way to their goal of raising between $4.3 million to $4.8 million for the project and State Senator Chris Jacobs will kick in another million, while the city redirects $1.2 million in swimming pool improvement money. The facility will accommodate baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and other sports. Constriction is slated for 2020.
The great part of this is that Buffalo teams will no longer have to travel to the suburbs to practice and play (the Bills should have thought of this), a costly and time-consuming practice that prevented some children from participating. The Hertel/North Park Youth Baseball League alone had 994 children and young adults on baseball teams this year, all of whom had to play and practice in the burbs.
In addition, South Buffalo Development is preparing a proposal for a $1.6 million Downtown Sports Center at 427 Elk Street. And the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion on the East Side is in consideration for another potential sports center, partly funded by the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.
The feeling is that Buffalo can easily accommodate three or more sports centers—the need is that great. Now that these plans are at various stages of planning, the question is what took so long?
Hoax alert, hoax alert, hoax alert
A week ago, I woke up to find three Facebook messages on my phone, each with a similar dire warning. The first advised me that almost everyone’s Facebook account has been “cloned,” and the person sending the message has no plans to open a new account (which as non-news goes, is right up there). “So please,” the message went on, “DO NOT accept a friend request from me.” And then the telling request: “Please forward to all your contacts.”
The second message was identical to the first.
The third message advised me that the message sender “actually got another friend request from me yesterday.” And I may want to check my account” (whatever that means). Then, like the others, it suggested that I forward the message to all my contacts.
Later that day I got a message warning me that I should not accept anything from Fabrizio Brambilla, a dangerous hacker who can be identified by the picture of a dog on his Facebook page (as if the name alone is not an adequate clue). If even one of my Facebook friends accepts anything from Mr. Brambilla, the story goes, I will also be hacked. So, of course, I should forward the message to all my friends. And then it teaches me how to do that.
Why do people fall for what, upon reflection, are obvious hoaxes? Plenty do, because the example above—that claims the sender got another friend request the previous day—went viral. Tens of thousands of people forwarded it to friends from whom they DID NOT get a friend request the day before (which rarely happens). Why? Because the message told them to.
Question before forwarding!
How can you spot such hoaxes? The first hint is the appeal to forward it to all your friends. Think; who would do that except someone trying to create a viral chain message? Such scams play on people’s need to feel important, by warning others to avoid a scam. The ultimate goal is to deceive thousands on a global scale. Hoaxers live to see their message take on a life of its own. And often they do.
If you think something might be important enough to forward to others, do this first: copy a key phrase from the message, and paste it as a search term in Google. For instance, I pasted “Hi…I actually got another friend request for you yesterday…,” and what came up was “Facebook scam message,” and “Scam Alert,” and many other sites warning anyone who bothered to check that this message is a fake. It took ten seconds!
Take a moment and think about the message you got. If your account had really been cloned, all you would need to do is search your name and then report the imposter to Facebook. Why bother all your friends? The message that warns people to avoid Fabrizio Brambilla is one of many variations on the same theme that have circulated for years. They’re based on the phony premise that a Facebook friend can somehow hack your computer. This (and just about any other hoax) can easily be checked on Snopes. Unfortunately, online paranoia has people primed to believe any nefarious claim, no matter how ridiculous. Think again; if almost everyone’s Facebook account had been cloned, do you think social media would be where you would hear about it? It would be international news. Was it a Facebook friend who warned you about Cambridge Analytica, or did you hear about it on the news?
Be skeptical of online warnings. Check before you forward.
The basic form of many hoax warnings is typically drawn from the following template:
• Do not (read / open / respond to / join)
• an (e-mail / text message / friend request)
• sent by (real name / e-mail address / screen name)
• If you do, (you / your computer / your Facebook account / everyone on your contact list / your children) will be in danger of falling victim to a (serial killer / computer virus / hacker / predator).
• Then the kicker; forward to everyone.
Finally, don’t open Long Story Short. If you do, your computer will be locked, and you will have to pay a ransom to have it unlocked. Just kidding. Sign up here to have it sent every Monday.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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