By Kyle Patterson with Ryan Kozey, PhD
There are a number of neighborhoods in the city of Buffalo that warrant an almost nostalgic look back….South Buffalo is definitely one of those areas. Specifically, the neighborhoods South Buffalo, Kaisertown, East Lovejoy, The Old First Ward, The Valley, Clinton-Bailey, Seneca-Babcock likely call forth stories that make many a native Buffalonian proud.
The reality is that there is much to like about this part of Buffalo. As I spent time in these neighborhoods, I couldn’t help but to be endeared to the community in a number of ways. Food is a love language of mine. I would strongly encourage people to venture into this part of Buffalo, as places like The Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub, Top Hill Grill, and Conlon’s Bar & Grill await (there are many more places to consider as well, but if I’ve peaked your curiosity at this point, I’ve succeeded in getting you to invest back into this community). In addition to food and fare, the history buff would be richly drawn into this neighborhood. There are amazing stories to be told in these neighborhoods, and if the mood should strike you, I’d encourage you to begin your investigation into these places by checking out the South Buffalo Chamber of Commerce web site (www.southchamber.org) as well as South Buffalo Home (www.southbuffalohome.com.) South Buffalonian Brendan Cunningham agrees, “If there is a jewel in the crown of the 32 neighborhoods that Buffalo has to offer, it must be an emerald pointing the way to the Irish of South Buffalo. It's a solid, super safe, family neighborhood with great housing stock at extremely under inflated prices. An easy 8 minutes to down town, it is easily the best investment in the city. It also has one of nicest Frederick Law Olmsted Parks anywhere...Cazenovia Park." Resident Pat Curry calls what South Buffalo is experiencing a renaissance. “The neighborhood is enjoying a renaissance, with record public and private investment that is bringing a new look and new life to this ‘city within a city.’”
Cazenovia Park, affectionately referred to as “Caz Park” by locals truly is a community meeting place with its impressive amenities including a 9-Hole Golf Course, four Baseball/Softball Diamonds, three Soccer Fields multiple Tennis Courts and Basketball Courts and a playground. Last summer the BPO even performed a free outdoor concert followed by fireworks at the park. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention one of the other communities prizes within the park namely the ice hockey rink that played a role in the likes of Tim Kennedy and Pat Kane becoming the players they are today. Interestingly in research for this article, I discovered Buffalo was not only considered by many at the turn of the century to be the City of Lights but also the City of Trees thanks to Caz Park and others designed by Olmstead. The park is one of the more mature stands of trees in the city and has been one of the focus parks in the Olmstead Park Conservancy’s tree planting program. With more than 2,500 new trees and shrubs planted since 1999, the Conservancy is committed to maintaining a healthy canopy of trees in all the parks.
Other mainstays in the community include Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, part of Catholic Health, one of the largest hospitals in Western New York with the region’s busiest emergency room; their new $32 million ER is triple the size of the previous facility. The hospital is also accredited by the Joint Commission, illustrating that they meet the highest quality and safety standards in the field. South Buffalo has also become a hotbed of organized labor, with the Asbestos Worker’s Local #4 and American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local #264 opening headquarters on Seneca Street, in addition to the Communication Workers of America Local #1133’s new facility on Elk Street.
Other features include a western border to the Lake Erie waterfront with over 200 million public dollars invested in its beautification over the last 10 years. Waterfront access includes destinations like Gallagher Beach, which features a boardwalk, pier, boat launch and pebble beach. The district also features a Bike Path up to the Small Boat Harbor, Doug’s Dive Restaurant, the Outer Harbor and the newly reopened 1833 Buffalo Lighthouse Park. The Bike Path can also lead you Downtown and continues along the Erie Canal.
More than anything, I’m drawn to shed light on this collective of neighborhoods, as they reflect a blue collar, give you the shirt off my back ethic that seems pervasive in this part of town. Much of what I see in South Buffalo is a historical, blue collar story that people should not miss out on. I would point out that affordability is a great upside to this part of town. The median home cost for this area is $67,820 (compared to the US average of $158,934), and the median rent in this community is $372 (compared to the US average of $657). If people are interested in an urban environment, with great proximity to downtown, the waterfront, and desire to live in a truly historic part of this city, I recommend it highly.
In terms of improvement for the community, when taking a look at the demography in those areas today, there are definitely points of concern. Since 1990, the population in this area has declined by 24.3%, all the while the population of the United States during that time has grown by 23.3%. The education of the area is labeled as extremely low, as only 62.1% of the population above the age of 25 have graduated from high school (comparatively, the US average of high school graduation is 80.4%). Further, college graduates account for 8.2% of those over the age of 25 in this area (the US average of college graduates in an average community is holding at 24.4%). Household concerns center on things like, finding adequate food, affordable housing, employment, companionship, day-to-day financial living, and abusive relationships (all of which are statistically higher than the average neighborhood in the US). While these realities generate pause, the unfortunate reality is that these findings are altogether not dissimilar for other rustbelt towns in the United States. What ultimately could happen in neighborhoods like this? Time will tell. One thing that I would strongly encourage is that, while it is important to examine the difficulties that neighborhoods face currently, it is also important to look at the potential of what a community possesses. I believe that South Buffalo has some beautiful things to show off to our region. I hope that people will be willing to take time out to go and see them.!