Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Livery Stable Collapse Part III

A possible buyer?
City plans legal action against owner

A growing number of community members have been able to stave off the destruction of Livery Stable on Jersey Street, and may actually get it preserved. This is a big turnaround from just a week ago, when the city was knocking (more) holes in the roof. There was a third court date this morning but there the only ruling was that there will be no ruling for two weeks. This afternoon there was a staged press conference/protest in front of the building.

Just to recap: Bob Freudenheim bought the 100-year old livery stable for $40,000 about twenty years ago. He never kept up the building. He tried to sell it for $400,000 and got offers, but for some reason never sold it. Neighbors and the city complained about Freudenheim's housing violations for years. Now that the building's instability has left five families homeless, the courts must act now. In two weeks or so. Maybe. As bad as this is, it has taken years to get to this point with other properties.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Motor City

There are plenty of cars in the Detroit. Last week I took pictures of some of them. Sorry for the poor lighting. Remember, "car" is another word for "carriage." And the first pictures are of a bus, but it's the bus Rosa Parks was on so it's cool. Music: Radiohead, "Bangers & Mash."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Town, A Team, A Dream

put these on your blog, no one reads mine. --Joe

Monday, June 16, 2008

Detroit Barack City

Today was my first day in Detroit. My schedule was packed but I knew there had to be something to check out before I left. Who knew it meant being in the eighth row to see Al Gore endorsing Barack Obama? Video later.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Livery Stable Collapse Part II


The city began demolition of the Livery Stable today, stopping several hours later due to a court injunction from nearby residents. That means everything is up in the air again. While saving the building is far from likely--it's missing a good chunk of its roof now--activists are also concentrating efforts against the slumlord who let this happen. A meeting/press conference is scheduled for Sunday afternoon. This is something I'd like to follow up on.

Neighbors have been using a twisted sense of humor against Freudenheim's poor property management.

What do you do with a unique, irreplaceable, historic building?

Meanwhile, here's a generic photo of today's Allentown Art Festival.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Livery Stable Collapse

By the time you read this article, this building will probably be gone.

Buffalo Rising article
Buffalo Rising article 2
Buffalo News article

I could go into the finer points of the building: it is a rare, 1890s structure and one of only three liveries remaining, for example. It was built by Richard Waite, a man from Buffalo best known as the architect for Ontario's House of Parliament. I could also rant about the owner, Robert Freudenheim, who will most definitely skirt the $300,000 cost of demolition that the city will have to foot.

Note the rotted, broken roof and gutters, and how it nearly hangs over the next house

More importantly we should remember the impact of building neglect on communities. Freudenheim owned a building in Allentown up until January, when police found a homeless man had frozen to death inside. It was demolished soon after. The livery stable could have easily been converted into apartments, condos, or a small business. Instead of fixing the roof, Freudenheim tried flipping it for $400K with no repairs.

The owner bought this property almost twenty years ago and says he's done extensive repairs. So why has the building been exposed to the outdoors since I moved in a year ago?

Who wants to pay $400K for a structure missing parts of its roof and whose gutters leak onto the floors? One neighbor said that from their vantage point they could see two trees growing inside.

The back of the building is covered in vines, greening several backyards

To days ago the wall began to collapse, right where roof holes have been viewed from the street. The wooden supports inside rotted. Within hours community members organized a task force to A) save the building or B) string up the owner so this never happens again. Nearby houses have been evacuated. The neighborhood, consisting of one-way side streets and homes dating back to at least 1829, will suffer plummeting real estate values. Hopefully values will drop because of a vacant lot, not because a wall fell on someone's home. Freudenheim lives in a $615,000 home near the Albright-Knox, so why are we paying his bills?

Tim Russert RIP

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Crystalline Entity


I finally made my way to Toronto and saw the new entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum up close. You know what? I don't know. Is there something I'm not getting? The outside is okay . . . I guess. It does look tacked-on. The inside is lousy as far as I'm concerned: white everywhere, and it appears more constricting than spacious. Not that I really know anything about architecture, but the ceilings seem lower than they actually are. Maybe I expected more glass from Mr. Liebskind, or maybe it looks better at night. Tell me what you think.*

*not that you care

The Slip

Buffalo's Commercial Slip opened during Memorial Day weekend. Though it's far from complete (whatever that means) it's shaping up to be an interesting spot getting a lot of visitors. Revitalization efforts began about ten years ago when the original terminus of the Erie Canal was uncovered and the city had the foresight to capitalize on the find. Expect some commercial/recreational/historical-themed construction in the next few years. The old Memorial Auditorium will be demolished within the next year to make way for a Bass Pro store, so expect to see more fishing on the pier.

I also visited the new "beach" near the Buffalo Marina. It looks about fifty feet wide and swimming is illegal. The point? Buffalo needs a beach, I guess. The newspaper and all three news channels did pieces on it. At least the fixed-up naval park looks good.

Music is from the Nine Inch Nails album The Slip. Get it? Ha ha. I picked the song 1,000,000 because of the millions Buffalo's spending to put this all together. The Slip is on sale for zero dollars on the artist's official site. Thanks for the album, Trent! Now please stop mentioning "getting on your knees" in every record.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Rally for the Peace Bridge Neighborhood, Part II

Several posts ago I mentioned a press conference by the National Trust for Historic Preservation declaring the Peace Bridge neighborhood one of the "11 most endangered" historic areas in the US. I biked to Front Park and attended the conference. Despite the cold rain and winds about eighty people showed up, as well as every media outlet in the city.

For more information, visit the Trust's dedicated page. Basically, in order to prevent terrorists from coming into our country and destroying more buildings, we have to increase our presence at the border by destroying more buildings first. There are better alternatives, but why use public input?

It should be noted that while the Peace Bridge Authority has worked on bridge plans since the early '90s without anything to show for it, it took them 24 hours to find my post. What they're looking for I have no idea.

If you were lucky enough to watch the Channel 4 News at 5 that day you would have seen a full body shot of me for about three seconds, staring off into space. The fame has really gone to my head.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fillmore's Kids

On Tuesday morning I helped give a tour of Buffalo City Hall to about 100 second graders. They had a blast. Here's a few of them posing with the thirteenth President. (Click to enlarge.)

Monday, June 02, 2008